The Death of Good Journalism
Back in the day, the iconic Walter Cronkite closed his nightly CBS newscast with the reassuring words, “And that’s the way it is.” And for a generation at least, Americans believed him.
Well, they don’t any more. Survey after survey has shown that few professions are held in lower regard by the public than journalism. Survey after survey has also revealed that many elite journalists hold to a narrow, secular worldview that sees religious belief as irrelevant to the “real” issues of the day—if not downright dangerous.
“Now the problem with this journalistic orthodoxy,” says Robert Case of the World Journalism Institute, “is that it is disingenuous. … The post-modern journalist subscribes to no external standard for her judgments. … With the post-modern loss of the quest for objective truth, journalistic judgment is subject to personal whim, and manipulation by the media elite who have their own perspective on truth.”
If you doubt this, just look at the venerable Indianapolis Star, which has just decided, in the name of what it calls “human rights,” not only to advocate on its editorial page for a new state law that “provides strong legal protections for LGBT citizens,” but to organize a massive public campaign.
Of course, despite a big push from the publisher, the Star assures us that its reporters will cover the issue accurately and fairly, with no bias, saying, “Our newsgathering remains independent from any editorial positions we take.” Sure—if the boss takes a huge public stand, that will have no effect in the newsroom. Right.
I’m guessing The Star will be about as unbiased as it was last spring when Indiana legislators passed a religious freedom bill, only to reverse course in the face of boycott threats. The Star published a front-page editorial, titled “Fix This Mess” in huge white letters on a black background. No bias to see here, folks.
Then there’s Gwen Ifill of the PBS “Newshour.” After it became apparent that President Obama’s controversial nuclear deal with Iran would have enough votes to survive a Senate challenge, the public broadcasting anchor snarkily tweeted out to Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu, a fierce critic of the agreement, “Take that Bibi.” She refused to apologize.
I could go on all day, but I’ll throw in just one more. Have you seen the mainstream media’s reporting of the secret videos exposing Planned Parenthood’s grisly trafficking in fetal body parts? You haven’t? If not, that’s because the networks decided to take a pass. Well, that is until Planned Parenthood hired an “independent” agency to review the videos. The media then dutifully parroted Planned Parenthood’s line that the videos were fakes.
Okay, cede the point that journalistic fairness is dead. What can we do about it? The obvious first step is to be aware. Don’t take what you hear at face value. Look for the other side of a story. As the old journalistic saw goes, “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”
Second, take a stand. Tell today’s faux journalists that you’re onto their game. And drop your subscription if necessary. The fourth estate is in economic free fall. Perhaps its lack of integrity is a big reason why.
Third, reach out. Befriend a journalist. Journalists need sources, so become one. And too few reporters these days “get” religion. So let’s help them understand it.
Fourth, if you’re so inclined and gifted, become a journalist. Remember what Abraham Kuyper said: “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”
It won’t be easy to raise good journalism from the dead, but it is necessary. As Walter Cronkite might say, “That’s the way it is.”
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
Publication date: September 14, 2015