Media Watcher

In the presidential campaign Barbara Bush was interviewed on television one night by reporter Judy Woodruff. Judy phrased all her questions negatively; all her comments were critical. Watching Mrs. Bush respond was like watching someone fend off a small but ferocious dog snapping at her heels. It was a clear example of a reporter using a news program for a preconceived agenda. It used to be that reporters tried to be objective. Today textbooks still pay lip service to the ideal of objectivity, but it is under severe attack. You see, as society becomes secular, it gives up any transcendent truth. All that's left is the purely human perspective. But human perspectives differ: You have yours and I have mine. No one can step outside his own skin, so to speak, and give us a completely objective, unbiased point of view. As a result, modern journalistic philosophy has rejected objectivity as an impossible ideal. The founder of Time magazine once said, "Show me a man who thinks he's objective, and I'll show you a man who's deceiving himself. " With this as their working philosophy, reporters today don't even feel bad about not being objective. And we as Christians need to be more discerning than ever. How can we spot a reporter's hidden agenda? Marvin Olasky, in his book Prodigal Press, offers several strategies. When you pick up a newspaper, Olasky says, the first thing to note is the slant of the titles. For example, one day two Detroit newspapers reported on a speech by the president of the United Auto Workers. One paper announced: "UAW Chief Threatens to Wage `War. ' " The other paper announced: "New UAW Group to Chart Future." Which paper do you suppose is pro-union? Another clue to bias is the all-important first paragraphs. A paper in Austin, Texas, recently reported on a new study suggesting homosexuality might be biologically based. The opening paragraphs identified the main researcher only as a neurologist at the Salk Institute. In fact he is also an outspoken gay activist. But that information was quietly tucked away at the end of the article. What about television news? There you can watch for things like camera angle. A television story once featured a science teacher who teaches creation alongside evolution. The story favored critics with close-up interviews, but the teacher himself was never interviewed. He was always spoken of in the third person and always shown from a distance—as though he were some strange biological specimen under observation. The reporter's disdain was obvious. In modern society, journalists wield awesome power. They are the gatekeepers of information, deciding what information to disseminate and how to present it. By shaping the information we receive about the world, they have the power to shape our thinking. But this is a power Christians must resist. Romans 12 says, Don't be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds. Only when our minds are renewed can God use us to renew our culture. Tomorrow I'll talk more about how we can do just that. [Part 4 in a series on Prodigal Press, by Marvin Olasky.]


Chuck Colson



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