“All scandals are scandals, but some scandals are more scandalous than others” – self quote from Media Farm (allusion to George Orwell’s Animal Farm).
We were taught in school that the basic functions of the media are to inform, educate and entertain. And that even though the ideal is for the press to be free to carry out its duties and functions, it must be socially responsible in exercising that freedom.
However, at what point should the media draw the line when religion and faith is involved?
Should a line be drawn at all?
Do the ethics of journalism apply when reporting religion?
Are there any special ethics of journalism in reporting religion? (I doubt)
I will start by saying I don’t have the answers to the questions in this post. I speak here as an academic so I won’t take sides (to the best of my ability). I will only spread the map as it is and leave you to your interpretation.
On CNN Belief Blog today, I read a Bishop Eddie Long story. The Bishop has been accused of using his position as a church leader to coerce young men into sexual relationships. Whether true or false is not the concern of this post.
This story has been the toast of mainstream media because of its controversial nature – both on the secular front and the Christian front, although on different levels.
The secular world has no issues with homosexual relationships as long is it is not coerced, while the Church is yet to totally embrace it (that is a battle on its own) and of course frowns on forced-sex.
Just as Mainstream Media was having a field-day reporting him, the internet was abuzz with loads of comments on the issue. Some were derogatory, others sympathizing and the rest absolutely indifferent.
Gospel Today, a popular Christian magazine however decided to carry his story on the cover page and present him in a somewhat different light. This sparked up rage among the readers who felt Gospel Today was not being OBJECTIVE, DOWNPLAYING HIS ALLEGATIONS, and of course they raised dust on the fact that Bishop Eddie Long is the Chair on the magazine’s Board of Trustees. An editor with the Pastor’s Bureau of Investigation mentioned that if Gospel Today was not taking a position, it would have featured the victims’ stories as well.
The Editor of the magazine, Teresa Hairston defended herself by first decrying the way mainstream media has covered the event so far, and said the church community should treat the allegations levelled against him according to the word of God. According to Hairston, the media has painted a hideous picture of the Bishop.
Hairston told readers that her magazine did not explore the legalities of the Long scandal, and chose instead to present a “biblical perspective.”
*DRUMROLL* – The Junkie Stand:
I have always had issues with OBJECTIVITY in journalism. To me it’s just utopian for one to think any story can be void of bias.
If complaints are being levelled against Gospel Today on being subjective, it is my take that the same can be said of other media that have covered the story thus far.
To me, the media has become a sphere where you have to have your own voice, because no one will speak on your behalf. That is why even in reporting Africa, you can only scream and rant when a ‘derogatory’ documentary is aired about your country – you cannot do jack about it, except owning your own media and raising your own voice for all who care to listen. This is exactly what Gospel Today has done. They have tried to give another face and side to the story.
However, with the Bishop on the magazine’s board, it is not exactly covert that the magazine is supporting its leader. And for it to be done so openly, I wondered what the EDITORIAL POLICY of the magazine is. If they have by no means made any claims to be objective hard-news stories carriers, then I believe they have the right to carry whatever they want on their magazine. It will then be up to you to gauge their credibility for yourself as a reader.
Journalism is to be objective – so says the ideal. But like Jeff Jarvis said on Twitter, journalism has come to worrying about one’s make-up as the flood rises.I think we are too busy trying to check if our write-ups tick the boxes of objectivity, while we frame and mould stories according to our convictions.
Gospel Today has chosen to step out of the cosmetic box and take their stand openly by referring to their code of ethics ‘Biblical Perspectives’.
It may perhaps be better for everyone to step out and give their stand on issues, let the masses decide for themselves, rather than pretend to be an objective reporter while you manipulate the masses through framing to a specific line of thinking.
The Media Junkie has spoken!