This week, Buzzfeed published a full document of unsubstantiated claims against Trump.
This was, as the Times said, a “break from typical journalistic practice,” and it’s been widely condemned. But you wouldn’t necessarily know that scrolling through Facebook or Twitter, which would lead you to believe all of journalism is falling to pieces.
This election season in general was not great for “the media.” People hate “the media,” and I use quotation marks, because who is “the media”? As a reporter, I'm pretty sure I'M "the media." Yes -- I absolutely agree that click-baity news is literally the worst, and that articles like Buzzfeed’s are extremely worrisome. But let's take a moment to remember there is still a lot of genuine, quality reporting going on.
This is why this article, written by a Christian journalist for the Washington Post late last year, spoke to my soul:
Your quick dismissal of the entire “mainstream media” feels deeply inaccurate to me as a Christian and a journalist — at least the kind of Christianity I was raised on, where the newspaper informed how we understood the world. The act of doing journalism is a way to live out my faith, a way to search for and then reveal truth in the world around me.
Her article talks about how much of the danger with villainizing the mainstream media is that people then rely on opinion sites, and then people live in their self-selected silos of information. That IS dangerous.
But what’s also dangerous is that of the little kids growing up in church communities that are constantly bashing the media -- how many of them do you think will grow up wanting to be a reporter? And if you think the media is so bad, why on earth wouldn't you want more Christians in journalism?
I had a pretty negative experience earlier this year visiting churches with my friend Katelyn, who is also a reporter. We went to a “meet the pastor” event, and he engaged us in conversation afterward: Where are we from? What did we do?
This was all well and good for about 30 seconds, until he found out we are reporters at the CapTimes.
The CapTimes is one of Madison’s traditionally progressive newspapers, and there’s no question the editorials tend to lean to the liberal side. But news and editorials are two completely different things, which is why the pages, editors and offices for each are completely separate. Everyone I work with has incredible integrity. If we published unsubstantiated claims, we would (rightly) hear about it from readership. Believe me, I have heard from readers for a lot less. (For example, I forgot to include an address in an article this morning, and someone tweeted at me five minutes later to tell me I had missed a "journo basic.")
I think if this pastor had read the CapTimes, he would see that. Instead, he asked whether we take all the facts, and then write a story, or just go in with the story we want to tell and rearrange the facts around that. He said reporters need to take logic classes. He spent about 10 minutes talking at us, and at the end we didn’t feel valued or treasured or even just politely engaged -- we felt attacked.
We did not go back to that church. But Katelyn did write an email politely explaining how offensive the experience was, so he could learn or whatever, because she is a good person.
And supposing we were columnists who had written scathing articles condemning the church --- shouldn’t he have welcomed us anyway?
Because think about this: if I, as a white, privileged Christian who has grown up in the church felt in no way welcome-- could you imagine if I wasn’t white, or had a criminal record, or was on the brink of poverty, or knew nothing about theology or wasn’t sure how I felt about Christianity? If Katelyn and I were condemned that much for being reporters, I can’t imagine how much condemnation those people would feel.
Why are we, as a church, so quick to villainize everybody? Wasn’t Jesus about the opposite of that? (Hint: yes.)
Here’s a great, encouraging tweet I saw this week, right after I saw one that was from a popular evangelical ripping into “the media”
We could all do with a little more of that.