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Dr. James Emery White Christian Blog and Commentary

Dr. James Emery White

Dr. James Emery White's weblog

It was a fascinating project.

Two Danish researchers traveled to 54 newsrooms in nine countries in search of desperately needed innovation in journalism. Their motivation was clear: “When citizens of Western societies, to a deeply disturbing extent, turn their backs on original news journalism, spend less time on news on radio or television, buy fewer newspapers, and express a growing distrust of media institutions, we need to submit the core content of the news media – journalism itself – to a critical review.”

They found that the crisis of journalism and legacy news media “is structural, and not just a matter of technological challenges or broken business models.” As a result, they found that the “news media most successful at creating and maintaining ties with their readers, users, listeners and viewers will increasingly be media that dare challenge some of the journalist dogmas of the last century.”

They walked away with nine core ideas, nine different ways (or movements) by which news media in the Western world are currently trying to “forge closer ties and stronger relations to their communities and audiences.” Here are the nine: 

  1. From neutrality to identity. Let people know exactly what you stand for, who you are and from which perspective you view the world. 
     
  2. From omnibus to niche. Create strong bonds with a very targeted audience. You can’t reach everyone, so don’t try.
     
  3. From flock to club. You aren’t after users or readers, but members who register or pay to join into a community.
     
  4. From ink to sweat. Quit thinking of journalism as simply a story you write or tell; create physical journalism in the form of public meetings, festivals, events and stage plays. Think “live and engaging.” 
     
  5. From speaking to listening. Move from a “walled-up fortress” to an open and accessible house. Personal dialogue, physical presence… have the conversation be two-way.
     
  6. From arm’s length to cooperation. In the name of “independence” and “neutrality,” modern journalism has kept its distance from various citizens and interest groups, not to mention public institutions and private corporations. The move now is to involve citizens directly in everything from research to delivery. Even the subsequent debate of published stories.
     
  7. From own to other platforms. The old idea that it weakens business opportunities and journalistic control when content is released on social media is being replaced with the idea that at least cooperation with social media has the potential to enhance and deepen engagement and strengthen journalism itself.
     
  8. From problem to solution. Don’t just denounce or decry, or simply reveal and relay—add a solution-oriented dynamic to the work. “They read more, they are more likely to share content, and they express more interest in knowing more about the issue when the piece has a constructive angle.”
     
  9. From observers to activists. Taking a campaign-oriented approach to journalism, or advocacy mindset, creates relevance. 

The researchers find no reason “to preach one particular model… for the future. All the experiments and ideas unfolding in the current media landscape… indicate that there will be dozens, if not hundreds, of different models, all of which carry a hope for the church in the future.”

The bottom line is that the church of the future will exist because of a focus on innovation and experiment. It will be founded on the courage and ambition of radical innovation. There will have to be a new understanding of the need for dramatic change and open-ended experiments. The message and intent is timeless and not to be changed, but the methods must be ruthlessly reevaluated.

Oops. Did I just write “church?” I meant “journalism.”

Or did I.

James Emery White

 

Sources

Per Westergaard & Soren Schultz Jorgensen, “54 Newsrooms, 9 Countries, and 9 Core Ideas,” Nieman Lab, July 11, 2018, read online.

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter and Instagram @JamesEmeryWhite.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? If you were like most children, answers would have probably included such things as being a police officer, doctor or a teacher. 

Times have changed.

What if I told you that the top aspirations of present-day children between the ages of 6 and 17 didn’t even exist when you were a child? 

A survey of more than a thousand children by the travel company First Choice found that nearly 75% now want a career in online videos. Specifically, more than a third wanted to be a YouTuber, and nearly a fifth wanted to work as a vlogger. 

It’s not about the money. The top attractions were “creativity, fame and the opportunity for self-expression.” According to Internet Matters, more than four out of 10 children are uploading videos to the web by the time they reach 15 years old.

Understandably, they want their education experience to match their career plans. The study found that they “would rather learn media studies and how to use video editing software than traditional subjects.” Instagram is ready to serve by now offering an “academy” designed to “teach teenagers how to become social media stars.” As reported by the Telegraph: “… the photo sharing app is running three days of free workshops to train would-be influencers in how to become an online success. The curriculum covers everything from camera angles to how to make your content ‘relatable.’”

It’s hard to blame the children for making this their professional desire, eclipsing becoming a pop star or famous athlete. The internet is the world in which they live and the world that lives in them. And unlike the arduous amount of work and competition for careers in such areas as medicine or law, with these aspirations there are “no barriers to entry; no exams or auditions. All it appears to take is a smartphone and bucket-loads of youthful self-confidence.” And while self-confidence may vary from child to child, we all know they at least have a smartphone.

Parents are the ones who seem unclear on how to advise their child vocationally in such matters. Not only is it a world they do not understand, it is a job they do not understand.

But offer sound counsel, they should. The sobering reality of such career dreams is revealed in the research of Mathias Bartl, a professor at Germany’s Offenburg University of Applied Sciences, who has found that “96.5% of all those trying to become YouTube vloggers won’t make enough money out of advertising to live above the poverty line.”

So while it may seem that the choice is between going to school and studying hard or putting up videos on YouTube, the latter isn’t really the viable option many young people think it is. 

Yes, as one 14-year-old put it, “Vlogging seems like the best job ever.”

Unfortunately, it’s just not one that has a very likely chance of working out.

James Emery White

 

Sources

Jacob Dirnhuber, “Children Turn Backs on Traditional Careers in Favour of Internet Fame, Study Finds,” The Sun, May 22, 2017, read online.

Tanith Carey, “Can Social Media School Make Your 16-Year-Old a Star?” The Telegraph, October 25, 2018, read online.

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter and Instagram @JamesEmeryWhite.

The posthumous release of Stephen Hawking’s new book, Brief Answers to the Big Questions, playing off of the title of his bestselling A Brief History of Time, reminds us of much that endeared the physicist to our hearts and minds: his sweeping intellect, gift of explanation and simplification, self-deprecating humor, refusal to let physical challenges limit his life... and, of course, his insatiable curiosity. As Kip Thorne stated in his eulogy for Hawking at the interment of his ashes at Westminster Abbey: “Newton gave us answers. Hawking gave us questions.”

But I confess much disappointment in his “brief” answer to the biggest question of all, “Is there a God?” It’s not just that we disagree in our conclusions, but that his reasons for rejecting the existence of God are so… weak.

First, he only considers the existence of God in an impersonal sense, equating God with little more than the laws of nature. Hawking reasons that as a “law of nature,” this “god” could not exist outside of time. Taken together, this “time-bound law of nature” means that he is not even grappling with God at all. Which means he is not grappling with the “big” question at all—namely, is there a personal Being who exists outside of space and time? 

This severely curtails his attempt to answer the question at its most significant level and makes his rather glib response to whether God exists intellectually irrelevant. For example, in maintaining that whatever “god” there is must exist in time, Hawking concludes that “then there is no possibility of a creator, because there is no time for a creator to have existed in… Time didn’t exist before the big Bang so there is no time for God to make the universe in.” Yet the very definition of God, across almost the entire intellectual spectrum, is One who exists outside of space and time. 

(One more example of why scientists make bad philosophers and even worse theologians.)

Second, he states that the three ingredients needed in our “cosmic cookbook” for a universe are matter, energy and space. Yet none of them existed before the Big Bang, which means you have to explain how “something” came from “nothing.” Where did the energy come from? Where did the matter come from? Hawking wants to make a case that “space,” at least, was enabled through a simultaneous production of negative energy. But even if one buys into this explanation, it does not answer the questions surrounding the genesis of energy and matter. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the questions still remain: Where did the stuff that got “banged” come from and who “banged” it?

Third, when speaking of the laws of nature he holds to so reverently, he never bothers to ask what is arguably the most important question about those laws: How did they come into existence? This is particularly important when trying to explain how “something” could come from “nothing” through the Big Bang, which Hawking attempts to explain through the laws of physics (unconvincingly, I might add, and in a way that raises more questions than answers). As Alan Guth, one of the leading physicists of our day at M.I.T. has written, even if you could come up with a theory that would account for the creation of something from nothing through the laws of physics, you’d still have to account for the origin of the laws of physics!

In the end, Hawking admits that we now know the laws that govern what happens “in all but the most extreme conditions, like the origin of the universe, or black holes.”

Yes.

But it is precisely the questions – and mystery – surrounding those “extreme conditions” that consistently point to God. And why Hawking gives a very brief, but also very bad, answer to the biggest question of all.

And, sadly, now he knows it all too well.

James Emery White

 

Sources

Stephen Hawking, Brief Answers to the Big Questions.

Alan Guth, The Inflationary Universe.


About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter and Instagram @JamesEmeryWhite.

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