Thursday, January 13, 2011

Journalism and Religion

Mollie at GetReligion starts an interesting post about journalism and religion. I say starts because she flips to journalism and politics in the middle. Also an interesting subject but much more widely talked about and I think more different from religion than she seems to realize. Anyway a quote from the good part of the post.
In the post where we discussed how the media invented quotes and angles (to push the narrative that the Pope didn’t like the way the Beckhams named their children), one reader said the behavior of the media surprised him. To that, reader Michael responded that it happens all the time when it comes to the Pope’s speeches and homilies. He said that if you’re actually interested in understanding what the Pope has to say, you have to find the remarks and read them on your own. He adds:
The really interesting question is, ‘why?’ Is it simply a matter of ‘bad will’? Is it a failure of journalistic standards? Or is it something built-in to the nature of journalism itself as a form of reason, such that even ‘good journalism’ is constitutionally incapable, qua journalism, of ‘getting religion’ (and many other things besides)?
I do think there are a few things going on here. Journalism tries to write objectively. There is an assumption that this can be done. It is the same assumption that allows people to embrace Sola Scriptura.  That is that the human mind can push aside all bias and subconscious influences and be objective when it really wants to. Most people believe they are capable of doing that. On the other hand most people can think of others who just can't do that. That is when people come from a different school of thought we can see that it influences their judgment. Their thinking is subtly but significantly warped by their ideology and they come to wrong conclusions because of it. We see it in others but we don't see it in ourselves. We think we can be and often are completely impartial and rational and free from the influence of any underlying philosophy.

In reality we think of our own mind as being objectively more reliable than the minds of others who have a different background. There is no reason to believe that. We are not smarter. We don't have better source of information. The reason we believe that is because accepting that we cannot trust our own mind has huge implications that we do not like. So it is basically wishful thinking. We want to believe out reasoning is more trustworthy than the next man's so we do.

Journalism is basically a vow to do exactly that. To be neutral and objective in the way you describe a story and the way you choose which details are important and which angle to take. It can only be done at a most superficial level. Giving equal time to parties and such. But when you get into the details. With whose ideas you report in a compelling way then you personal biases are going to be impossible to keep out.That goes for politics and religion and any other topic being reported on.

But religion and the Catholic church have a deep reason why journalism can't get them right. It is impossible to be objective about Jesus. By extension it is impossible to be objective about the Catholic church. The claims of Jesus and the claims of the church are so personal and so profound that nobody can just ignore them. They either are drawn to them and soon begin to love them dearly or they are disgusted by them and soon cannot say a kind word about them. There are periods when we can shut out God from our life and not feel anything about the church but they don't last. The supernatural always creeps back in. Then you are back there again. Confronting a God who loves you and wants to change you for the better. You can run to Him or run away from Him. But you can't write an objective story about the pope.

No comments:

Post a Comment