Are We Getting the Facts?
In my quest for loving dialogue regarding the current race issues in our country, I hear often from people on both sides is that we should “listen to the facts,” or “make sure that we are looking at the facts!”
What exactly are the facts? Are we really getting all of the facts from our chosen media outlets? Some would argue that it is the job of the media to simply report the facts. This is not true. It has not been true since radio and television media became a multibillion-dollar industry. It is not been true since “not-for-profit organizations” (LOL) such as the GOP and the DNC began bankrolling them. Because of this, it is not the job of the media outlets to report facts. It is their job to shape the narrative. In shaping the narrative they will report the facts that support their narrative. They give you the information you need in order to sleep well at night thinking the way you already think! We should be aware that if we only watch one channel to receive our news, we are not getting “all the facts.”
As Christians, I would encourage us to consider our major media outlets in the same way that we academically consider the four New Testament Gospels. Each of the four Gospels writers are shaping a narrative to a specific audience and report the facts that support that narrative. For instance, Matthew is writing to a primarily Jewish audience and shaping the narrative of Jesus as Israel’s Messiah. This is why he begins with His genealogy and gives specific details of Jesus’ interaction with the Pharisees while leaving out details such as his interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well. In order to find that interaction you have to go to the Gospel of John. John is shaping a different narrative of Jesus Christ as the God-Man. This is why he begins at the Beginning and clearly records Jesus’ statements of himself as coequal with the Father.
Each gospel writer is forming a narrative. God knew this so instead of one gospel He gave us four, so that we could follow the narratives as well as get all the facts.
[Disclaimer: No, I am not equating news media to the infallible Word of God. Just drawing a comparison to how we intellectually engage both mediums.]
I would encourage us to do the same thing with FOXNews, MSNBC and CNN. We must understand that they each have a narrative to shape and their preference would be to think for you rather than to give you all the facts so that you can think for yourself.
One of the ways that I deal with this is by trying my best to listen equally to the different news outlets. If I find myself having watched one outlet for 30 minutes, I will try to discipline myself to watch another news outlet for an equal amount of time no matter how much I disagree with that news outlet. This allows me to consider the opposing view intellectually so that I can know why I disagree, not just that I disagree. This allows me to consider for myself all of the facts and the opposing narrative, facts that my preferred news outlet might have omitted or shaded. This allows me the opportunity to think for myself rather than allowing my news media to think for me. This equips me to have meaningful conversations with people who might disagree with without those conversations turning into arguments. This allows me to form my opinion rather than my opinion forming me. This allows me to be truly accurate when I tell someone with whom I disagree to “look at all the facts.”
Do you agree that our news media is fragmented? If not, why? How can we improve our communication? What are some other practical ideas that will help us get a rounded perspective of our news? Do you feel I went too far with the biblical illustration? Let’s talk.