In Bad Faith, Part 4: The Evil Media

A few months ago I saw this comment on my Twitter feed: “RT @vavroom: Sometimes, small minded Christianity really saddens me. (via @kubke @snowded @annemcx @euan )” – Christine Morris (@CMoz). And attached was a link to a story from the Telegraph in the UK about how a film about Charles Darwin was having difficulty finding a distributor in the US because the film’s subject, Evolution, is too controversial. The Telegraph story was written in September (2009) when the film opened at the Toronto Film Festival. What the story failed to mention was that this was one of those years when a large number of films were having difficulty finding distributors. The theory of distribution presented in the story came from the film’s producer. So, perhaps, it was economics and not the small mindedness of US Christians that was making finding a distributor difficult. As someone with a degree in Journalism and Biblical Studies I tire from hearing the Christians complain how Godless (liberal) the Press is and from the Atheists and Secularists how Christian (provincial/conservative) the Press is.

In Bad Faith, Part 4: The Evil Media

What both the Left and Right seem to forget is that the Media, especially in the form of the movie industry, is a form of banking, and it will do whatever it thinks will make money for it’s investors. Period. It rarely leads and often plays both sides of the issues because it needs to draw attention to itself, not to change things but to make money. The Media is not a perfect reflection of our culture, remember it’s first responsibility is not to reflect Reality, but to make money. And this “bottom line” mentality is not limited to the movie industry but, sadly, has become a big part of the News Industry too. Journalism has felt the pressure to sell it’s wares. We may think of Journalism as a service, but it’s a business. This is not to say that Journalism has abandoned the principles of Objectivity, but it’s more of an ideal, like how Americans try to live up to our Constitution, Bill of Rights and Pledge of Allegiance. Journalism believes in Objectivity, in part, because it’s business model requires a certain level of trust. No trust, no sales. So, at it’s core the News & Media industries are neither Left or Right. They can’t afford to be. They will follow the interests of their audiences, Left or Right, but the commitment isn’t to the politics but to the business of making money. The Media decision-makers are not pushing any position except the one that keeps them viable and better yet, more than viable.

Add to all of this, one of the dangers of our Internet era is that, just as much as we have the possibility to get our news and information from world-wide and culturally diverse sources, it’s just as likely that we will choose only sources that we agree with, creating a kind of echo chamber of information. This is the unintended result of the combination user-selected news/media feeds with user-created journalism. What does this have to do with God and Faith? Well, today it is possible to completely blanket oneself 24/7 with whatever message one wants to hear and completely blank out anything that one doesn’t agree with. For many there’s no problem with this picture except for the part where one might want or need to interact with someone not from ones own media bubble. For Christians we call that the Great Commission. For the Secularist, there is a curiosity to understand our fellow-person (especially if they don’t agree or understand us). So, how do you do that if the other person is not from your media bubble? Is there even a common media language left that you can use to reach this other person?

So, the Media is neither Left or Right. It’s a business that wants to stay in business so it’s going to be careful not to offend what it perceives to be its audience. You don’t like what’s on the air you now have at least three choices: change the channel/stream, turn the thing off, or make your own news/media organization. By the way, according to the film’s official website the film opened in limited release this past Friday, January 22, 2010. At the bottom of this entry I’ve embedded the film’s trailer and an NPR/Fresh Air interview of the Randal Keynes, the author of the book  the film is based on.

NPR Fresh Air Interview: Randal Keynes: When Darwin Is In Your Family Tree

Sources:

4 comments

  • While I agree with the majority of the article, one cannot help but notice the slant placed by the media today. Look no further than Fox News and their “unbiased” reporting and it’s easy to see why much of the public is confused on which side the media comes down on. While it is a business, it is also a responsibility to present both sides of the story to allow the viewer to come to their own conclusion. That is responsible journalism.

    Interesting post, thanks.

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    • In the case of Fox News, the phrase “Unbiased” reporting is a marketing/branding term. Like I wrote, Journalism believes in Objectivity as an ideal but what appears in print or onscreen cannot be called completely objective or unbiased. There has always been a slant to the news, beginning with the Town Criers from two centuries ago, and the smart ones slant things in the direction that they believe their audience wants to hear. Fox News is just playing the same word-game that politicians have been playing since the beginning of politics. It’s up to us, news consumers, to hold them to a higher standard.

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  • I think maybe the bigger picture isn’t religion at all. The media do have power to present things in certain ways and typically we will ‘believe’ what they write when we read it. This is the whole reason we go to certain sources that we believe are trusted. With new the social media scene being so strong now, we are getting mixed messages, and sources are also maybe shifting. I guess this is something journalists will adapt to.

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    • You’re right, It is much bigger than a question about religion. I remember fears expressed as the US relaxed media monopoly rules, that TV, radio & newspapers would all be owned by a small group of corporations and news particularly needed to show a profit. What it really calls for is that consumers of News who are actually interested in objectivity can’t take any source for granted and we need to double-check everything. No difference there.

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