In the age of fake news accusations, rampant click-bait headlines and the Head of State referring to journalists as “the enemy of the American people,” I believe it’s getting less and less popular to be a reporter these days.
How can the public truly know the difference between real news and fake news when there is no other filter than a catchy headline providing partly true facts?
Moreover, as a Christ follower who is also reporter, what is my personal responsibility in having the power of the press and handling information to convey to the public?
As a journalist breaking into the field of entertainment news, it almost seems like a contradiction to be a Christian. I’ve learned that it all depends on your own moral code. There are stories I know I wouldn’t write simply because they would unnecessarily infringe on someone’s privacy. This doesn’t mean I will restrict what I write to only incorporate stories about Christian artists or Christian movies.
It is a common misconception to equate our beliefs with our work. If Christian reporters only focused on Christian and non-secular things, are we really influencing anyone at all? Or are we just preaching to the choir?
Last fall, Sky News correspondent and Irish journalist David Blevins visited APU and shared with journalism and communication students. The thing he said that most resonated with me was: “It’s not my job to convert my audience.”
“Whatever your calling is, I believe you can be of use to God there…It’s important that you recognize that your role there is to do your job well. Your priority is not to evangelize—that just may be a bonus,” Blevins said.
For Jim Willis Ph.D., a veteran news reporter and journalism professor, the search for truth and helping people in need were the two main determining factors for choosing a post-college career. He felt it came down to either ministry or journalism.
“For me, journalism was the right choice because I felt I could devote more of my time to that search for truth and for producing stories that could help people,” Willis said.
“I never tried to use journalism to convert readers to my faith, although I sometimes would write about how an individual’s faith inspired them or helped them through rough times in their lives.”
Junior journalism major Brandon Rodriguez has a similar viewpoint.
“To me, a Christian journalist is someone who simply wants to help people by reporting the truth to them—reporting news that is important to their daily lives and showing God’s love through their actions,” Rodriguez said.
He said that as a Christian journalist, the main things to consider are: ethics, wisdom, asking tough questions, seeing through lies, avoiding bias and sometimes even facing danger.
“Remember who your loyalties go to…not corporations, money or any other human, only to God,” Rodriguez said.
As once said by late New York Times journalist John McCandlish Phillips in his 2001 “Faith in the Daily News Chase” speech, “God gave us the core ethic in the words, You shall not bear false witness…In journalistic usage, you shall be as accurate and balanced and fair, and faithful to facts as you possibly can be.”
McCandlish Phillips believed it true that sometimes we are called to work in mainstream or secular media to be an influence. Our job, he said, is as Scripture states: to humble ourselves in where God places us while remaining in faith.
“Be willing to go wherever God wants you to go and to do whatever He has for you to do, even if it is more than you can handle,” McCandlish Phillips said. “Give Him unfettered sovereignty over your future course. He may take you far higher than you expect.”