by Jared Musgrove
Recent events have tuned the eyes and ears of Americans toward news sources in ways we have not seen for quite some time. As ceaseless reports of disease outbreak, brutal violence, and political fights plaster our screens, believers must be mindful of how we receive our news and what we choose to do with it.
How Do You Get Your News?
As a journalism student, I was told repeatedly that there is no such thing as objective reporting—an accurate assessment. Every person approaches events from a certain perspective—an existing worldview or set of assumptions that shape how they perceive and share those events. A reporter’s approach is no different. Because this is true, Christians must practice discernment when filtering through news updates.
Ask yourself: Am I reading that something happened (an event) or what someone thinks about something that happened (a commentary)? Most of the news we receive today is a mixture of both, if not heavier on the commentary side, with the expectation that you take a side. This kind of reporting often buries whatever truth it contains in conjecture and opinion.
Just as very human reporters craft news stories, very human editors make value judgments about which stories to feature and promote. The decision of what goes on the front page and what leads the evening newscast is a worldview decision.
Understand this when you consume news reports and ask yourself:
- Why is this story the lead or on repeat?
- Is this report concerned with facts?
- Is there good research that solidly supports this report?
- Am I being shown what is happening or being told what to think about it?
A journalist’s job is to ask questions, but that’s also our job as thinking Christians reading, hearing, or watching a report. Ask questions of the report, the reporter, yourself, your neighbor, and your worldview, and then make a decision about what to do.
What Do You Do With Your News?
Christians hear news reports through the filter of an objective standard of truth. Having answered the biggest question of all, “Whose world is it anyway?” we’re able to apply the lesser questions that sift fact from commentary—all with an eye toward discerning truth, or at least wisdom and kindness—as we navigate information.
While the bottom line for Christians is truth, the bottom line for networks and newspapers may not be. Journalism is a business, meaning the dollar is often a media corporation’s bottom line. This reality heavily influences reporting. Chasing scandals and political gaffes buffers the bottom line, sometimes at the cost of the truth. So, what should we do to ensure we’re well-informed?
Steer clear of entertainment news traps and go to the sources most likely to bring you the bottom line of truth. These may feel few and far between and they probably aren’t trending on your Facebook feed. Begin to identify trusted sources by humbly engaging in several. Consult news sources across the liberal-conservative spectrum to better understand how stories are being shaped. How is one network, newspaper, podcast, or magazine reporting this story differently than another? Before reflexively sharing with others something that looks and sounds like a news story, check its source. If the source or the article itself is sensational, treat it with healthy suspicion.
We must also bear in love with compassion (and patience) those in our groups who may be sharing or posting news or “news.” Lead out in asking open-ended questions: What have you heard? What do you know? Where have you found good information on this? How does this align with what the Bible teaches? How will we honor the ‘one another’ commands as we discuss this piece of news?
Even more, we must pray as events scroll across the screen. Develop this discipline. Let your news intake lead you out of yourself and toward prayer, and then act as you are able. Let the news be a catalyst to get you involved in all that God is doing in this world that belongs—without hype, sensationalism, or slant—to Him.
Dr. Jared Steven Musgrove is Groups Pastor at The Village Church in Flower Mound, TX and co-founder and Executive Director of communityleadership.org. He is married to Jenny and father to Jordan and Joshua.