We live in a divided world fueled by divided (divisive?) media. Are the print, broadcast and digital media to blame for these divisions, or do they merely reflect existing divisions in society?
I probably should use “I” instead of “they” because I’ve been a part of print and digital media for two decades. I’ve worked as a newspaper reporter, which a recent Gallup poll listed as one of the least-trusted professions (25 percent high approval —a couple of percentage points better than TV reporters received). In comparison, clergy received 42 percent high approval, and nurses topped the list at 82 percent. Now I know why my dad, a high school counselor,recommended I become a nurse.
I’ve often defended my friends in the mainstream news media from my fellow Christians who say the media is out to get them. I know quite a few print and broadcast journalists, and most try to be accurate and fair. Sure, some of them try to live up to the old description that “the job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” (fmchr.ch/newspjob). That may be a better job description for a church, but I digress.
Some of my media brothers and sisters, however, haven’t been helping my defense lately. Take a New Yorker article that criticized “Chick-fil-A’s creepy infiltration of New York City” because of “proselytism” such as a “corporate purpose [that] still begins with the words ‘to glorify God.’” Last month’s issue of GQ included a list of “21 Books You Don’t Have to Read,” and the Bible came in at No. 12! I cringed while reading the description of the Bible as “repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish, and even at times ill-intentioned.”
You may be upset that I included links to the online versions of these articles — at least one of which could be considered blasphemy. Why give website hits to these publications? I provide the links for accurate citation and because I don’t want to be accused of exaggerating what is written.
While I’m saddened to read these magazine articles, I’m also saddened to see the social media response from people like a Twitter user who wrote about the GQ article, “I hope all these leftists burn in hell.” God thankfully has a different hope and is “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
As I read Christians responding to hate (or at least mocking) with hatred (or at least rudeness) of their own, I think of the theme for this month’s issue: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7).
Instead of attacking journalists, what if you tried to befriend them and extend mercy to them? You may not be able to reach the folks at the New Yorker or GQ, but try starting with the reporters and editors at your local newspaper. After all, newspaper reporter is rated as the ninth worst job in America (fmchr.ch/12worstj).
Thankfully, Christian magazine editor didn’t make the list. In fact, editing Light + Life is my dream job. Sure, my day seems ruined when I discover a typo in a printed magazine, and, yes, it happens from time to time. I ask for your mercy even as I encourage you to let me know if you spot an error or are otherwise concerned about something in Light + Life.
One of my recent job highlights was when several of my colleagues and I trained and networked alongside our counterparts from similar (but different) magazines during the Evangelical Press Association’s annual convention. We even received two awards from the association, which represents 206 print and digital publications. This is the fourth straight year in which this group of Christian journalists has honored Light + Life.
Light + Life received a 2018 Award of Merit in the “Denominational — Digital” category. As the magazine published by the Free Methodist Church – USA, Light + Life competed against the publication websites of larger denominations such as the Southern Baptist Convention, the Evangelical Free Church of America, the Church of the Nazarene, and the Salvation Army.
Light + Life also earned a Higher Goals Award for website design. The judges rated Light + Life fourth among its publications’ websites.
Of course, “correction” is sometimes listed with “mercy” (Job 37:13 KJV), and the judges’ detailed feedback provided areas for this magazine to improve. As we continue to seek new ways to serve our readers and to expand our audience, my colleagues and I appreciate your mercy over the last few years as we’ve made print and online changes to help us spread the good news of the One described by early 1800s hymn writer Reginald Heber as “Lord of mercy and of might, of mankind, the life and light.”
Jeff Finley serves as the executive editor of Light + Life, which he joined in 2011 after working as a reporter and an editor for Sun-Times Media.