Thinking Out Loud

September 4, 2017

The Degree to Which We Confer Celebrity

Filed under: Christianity, media — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:18 am

For several years while it was in its heyday, it was my custom to try to catch part of a slightly delayed broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show on WHAM-AM radio in Rochester. Some of it resonated; some did not. I am a fiscal conservative though I recognize its liabilities and pitfalls.

At the time, Limbaugh would often be away and leave the program in the hands of a guest host. That was the case on Friday, September 5th, 1997. I’m sorry I don’t know the name of the fill-in, but will add it here if someone can document it for me.

On the previous weekend, the world had woken to the news of the death of Princess Diana in the very early hours of Sunday, August 31st in Paris. Days later, the outpouring of public grief continued and the guest host was asking the provocative question — radio being an entertainment medium after all — “Would we be paying as much attention if, for example, Mother Teresa had died?” Calls poured in. The contrast was well-chosen; the Catholic nun was revered worldwide, but hardly had experienced the paparazzi chasing here each time she ventured out.

And then it happened.

Coming out of a commercial break, words to the effect, “I’ve just been informed that the thing we’ve been debating here has in fact happened. Mother Teresa had died.”

It was eerie.

You probably found out some other way, but that is how I learned of the death of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, founder of Missionaries of Charity. You know how they say you always know where you are when ______ died? Well that’s my story.

The similarities and differences between the two women were striking. That is probably better left to better writers than I. The criteria for celebrity is always intriguing. 20 years later, the death of Diana still overshadows the death of Mother Teresa, whose passing two decades ago might appear as a footnote on tomorrow evening’s network newscasts; though I expect greater mention in Europe than what we see in the US and Canada.

Which brings us to…

Tomorrow morning on the blog we have an exclusive, full-length article about the Dalit people of India. I have been in development with this with the author for about a month, and we’ve met twice to discuss it. For security reasons he cannot be named.

I could have run it anytime in the last 72 hours, but being the Labor Day Weekend in this part of the world, I told him that I would hold it until Tuesday, never realizing the coincidence of the tie-in to Mother Teresa’s death 20 years ago tomorrow.

Be sure to check back.


Image: The New Royalty World (click picture to link)

August 17, 2017

Skye Jethani on News Media; Then, and Later, and Now

Skye Jethani ran this as a series of 20 Twitter posts on Thursday morning. I thought he’d post it to his blog, but in the absence of that wanted to make sure more people got to see it.

by Skye Jethani

Here’s what’s on my mind: Cultural division, the media, and the Civil War. Does 19th century media explain what’s happening today?

Newspapers before and during the Civil War were hopelessly biased in both the North and South. Many twisted facts into “fake news.”  There’s no doubt a steady diet of biased news fueled the divide between North and South and contributed to the profits of a media industry fueled by the new technology of the telegraph allowing for much faster reporting then ever before. Part of the problem was that neither side engaged reporting from the other. Media was highly regional with the opposing point of view rarely presented fairly. It was a fragmented and siloed media landscape that made generative dialogue difficult if not impossible.

The media landscape changed dramatically in the 20th century again due to tech. Radio and then TV created for the first time a national media that could speak to the whole country instantly. It was also an age of external threats where the country rallied together to fight WWI and WWII. The focus on external enemies continued with the Cold War. For much of 20th century regional media differences were overshadowed by a united national media. A handful of outlets spoke to all of us. Remember when Cronkite was the most trusted man in America?

A new wave of tech, this time digital, has erased the unifying media landscape of the 20th century and my childhood. Instead, we’re returning to the pre-Civil War fragmentation where we only hear the voices that agree with us, and where opposition voices are silenced or mis-characterized. The divide is not geographic this time but socio-graphic as social media curates our ‘friends’ and ‘networks’ into like-minded bundled for marketing purposes.

Many look at what’s happening today and the divisions splintering the country as an abnormal, new development. I worry the relative media unity of the 20th century may have been the abnormality, and America is simply returning to the fractured existence that has plagued us since 1776. Without a serious external threat (King George III, Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, USSR), and without a common national and trusted media, we may be returning to the unsustainable conditions of the 19th century that ultimately led to civil war.

When we’ve faced such existential threats in the past it was the virtue of great leaders that has kept us united. Washington galvanized thirteen colonies into a single nation. Lincoln preserved the Union with deft leadership and uncommon wisdom. We need that kind of executive vision, virtue, and resolve no less in these times. God help us, we have none.

God help us.


Skye Jethani is an author, speaker, consultant and ordained pastor. He also serves as the co-host of the popular Phil Vischer Podcast and writes the With God daily devotional, emailed to subscribers worldwide. Skye is a former editor for Christianity Today and Leadership Journal magazines. skyejethani.com  @SkyeJethani

August 29, 2016

Pushed Off the News Cycle

Filed under: Christianity, current events, media — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:56 am

Eyewitness News

Growing up in Toronto, television consumption was often dominated by the three network stations from Buffalo, New York. On the half hour, programs were punctuated by bumpers for the local newscast, and stereotypically the lead item on Channel 7’s Eyewitness News involved a fire in Lackawanna, Cheektowaga, or West Seneca. This provided great fodder for standup comics on the Canadian side; with some of the humor having to do with the unique names of the city’s suburbs.

Lately, I’ve noticed that the U.S. network newscasts at 6:30 have also been adopting more of a local news approach. The “If it bleeds it leads” idea was not as common in earlier decades, with the networks taking more of a big picture view of the news. A remnant of that can be seen on PBS, which still steers away from fires or plane crashes.

Some of the reason for this has to do with the number of weather related stories which have been relentless over the past three years. I’ve written about that subject here and here, albeit more devotionally.

There can be no doubt however that the U.S. federal election is also pushing a large number of stories and reports off the news cycle. What business mergers, medical advances, environmental initiatives or social trends are we not hearing about because every significant quotation from Donald or Hillary needs to be included?

Someone once said if you want to know what happened the previous day, but if you want a broader perspective on what those happenings mean and why they matter you purchase a weekly news magazine. Unfortunately, both are falling victim to the need to use sensationalism to sell more copies. Occasionally, even the latter will be accused of tabloid journalism.

What are we to do? I would say look more deeply to find the stories that are getting pushed off. Blogs and Twitter help fill in the gaps, as do those one-paragraph state-by-state reports in USAToday.

And try to find the good news stories that we often don’t hear in a season of primaries, caucuses and campaigning.

 

May 31, 2010

CNN Increases Focus on Faith-Based Stories

I’ve really appreciated the Religion page at USAToday, not to mention The Christian Post and Christianity Today Online.   These sources have  provided me with access to stories that I felt were both (a) significant and newsworthy; and (b) under-reported in the Christian blogosphere.

But CNN has really taken the reporting of religious stories to the next level with their Belief Blog.    While some older stories have been backdated into the blog, you’ll find the official welcome on May 19th, where after considering several recent general-interest stories, the editors continue:

…Faith isn’t incidental to these stories; it’s the driving force behind them. Covering those faith angles is this blog’s mission. CNN’s Belief Blog will focus on the places where faith bumps up against the rest of the news and the rest of the world, from breaking news to entertainment, from business to politics, and from foreign affairs to sports.

We’ll also shine a light on religion as most people experience it in daily life. In a shrinking world, knowing what it’s like to undergo an adult baptism or to pray to Mecca five times a day is essential to understanding the world’s most powerful leaders – and, perhaps, the person in the next cubicle.

And as the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated grow, we’ll cover the rising voices of atheists, those who call themselves “spiritual but not religious” and others who are religiously conflicted or confused. Covering the faithful necessitates covering their critics and rivals.

To do the job, the CNN Belief Blog has enlisted CNN’s international newsgathering team, with correspondents, producers, and writers all contributing. We’ll also be posting the opinions of guest bloggers and will feature regular posts from religion scholar and author Stephen Prothero, an expert at revealing the hidden faith angles that explain so much about American life and world geopolitics.

You can read the full introduction here;  or better yet, visit the May 24th post containing a three-minuite video tour of the new site.   You’ll find the expected bias toward U.S. stories, but also a fairly wide worldview, presented in a clear, clean and straightforward manner.  (Many CNN-staffers attend Evangelical churches; as Atlanta is one of the most “churched” cities in the world.)

If you are a blogger who wants to stay current to breaking news, or are simply a reader who enjoys uncovering the spiritual significance behind some of the headlines, you will want to bookmark CNN Belief and check it daily.

On this blog, I’ll do the same, and I expect at least one CNN story to turn up in the Wednesday Link Lists here weekly.

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