A crisis of truth in media
K. Allan Blume, BR Editor
September 24, 2012

A crisis of truth in media

A crisis of truth in media
K. Allan Blume, BR Editor
September 24, 2012

If you attended church as a child, you will likely remember the song, “Be careful little feet where you go… be careful little hands what you do … be careful little ears what you hear …” Does that strike a familiar chord? It’s time to pull that song out of the past, dust if off and sing it again, especially the verse, “be careful little ears what you hear.”

We are bombarded with so many messages from a multitude of voices every day. We are deceived if we assume that all of those messages are true. We are wise if we apply serious discernment, examining the source and questioning the accuracy of everything we read or hear.

Scripture frequently addresses the importance of listening to the right voices. The first word of the first Psalm promises blessings to those who do not follow the advice of wicked, ungodly voices. It says, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked…” (Psalm 1:1).

Conversely, “not blessed” is the person who believes everything he hears. He or she will certainly suffer the consequences of the lie.

Recently, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid repeatedly stated that an unnamed person said presidential candidate Mitt Romney has not paid taxes in years. With total lack of integrity many media outlets reported the unsubstantiated accusation as truth. At bare minimum, it was gossip, slander at worst.

This is only one example of the avalanche of material dishonestly reported by media sources.

Joseph Goebbels was the propaganda minister in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. He is credited with this statement: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

Has truth become the enemy of the media? Most media outlets have degenerated from a place of respect and integrity, to a source of raw gossip. Where it was a neutral, trusted source of facts, the profession has fallen to a propaganda machine for the liberal worldview. Apparently, not everyone is buying it.

According to a Gallup poll conducted September 6-9, only 8 percent of Americans say they have a “great deal” of trust in the news media, down from 11 percent the previous year. The poll reported that 60 percent trust the media “none at all” or “not very much,” with only 32 percent saying they trust the media a “fair amount.” That is a record low for the 40 years that Gallup has been polling on the question. The media is suffering an unprecedented crisis of integrity.

My personal experience with secular media confirms the results of the Gallup poll.

A controversy over Chick-fil-A’s Christian principles erupted in July over distortions promoted by the liberal media. It began when I interviewed the company’s president, Dan Cathy, on June 20. The story was published in the July 7 printed edition of the Biblical Recorder and posted on our website July 2. Baptist Press picked up our story and ran it on July 16.

Because Cathy stated his support for traditional marriage, The Huffington Post and other liberal media outlets saw an opportunity to advance the gay agenda. They changed the headline and re-wrote Dan Cathy’s quote, giving the appearance that Cathy addressed gay marriage in that interview.

Mark Hemmingway writes for the Weekly Standard. In a web post on July 24 titled “Media Invents Story That Chick-fil-A President Condemned Gay Marriage” he wrote, “Last week, reports emerged that Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy had condemned gay marriage. It’s no secret that the company is run by devout Christians, but this still caused an uproar. Boston’s mayor threatened to deny the company business permits, celebrities condemned the company, and the Muppets announced the fast food chain wouldn’t be able to license any new toys for their kids meals. One small problem: The president of Chick-fil-A never actually said anything condemning gay marriage.”

Hemmingway was one of few in the media who got it right. Sadly, some religious media reported the “gay agenda” distortion.

Others took the high road, accurately reporting the facts. Writers for the Charlotte Observer and Greensboro News & Record reported the truth about Cathy’s comments. Respected journalist Terry Mattingly of GetReligion.org also wrote clear, accurate accounts of the Chick-fil-A controversy.

I received calls from journalists around the country and participated in radio shows in Boston, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and other cities. A few reporters called for clarification on Cathy’s comments. Most ignored the facts and regurgitated the liberal line.

The public spoke loudly on August 1, a day Mike Huckabee launched and dubbed as “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.” The restaurant was overrun with loyal patrons and many of their stores ran out of food.

The day had nothing to do with “gay marriage.” It had everything to do with Americans’ desire to support the voice of freedom. No one was engaged in “hate speech” as they enjoyed their chicken that day. Most had reached the point of the proverbial “last straw.” Tired of media distortions, they politely spoke with the deafening sounds of the cash register. Chick-fil-A, truth and freedom won.

Apparently someone in the “gay agenda” camp wanted to turn Chick-fil-A’s loyal customers against the company. On Sept. 19, The Huffington Post ran a story titled, “Chick-Fil-A Agrees To Cease Funding To Anti-Gay Organizations, Chicago LGBT Group Claims.” The story was not true.

The next day Cathy released a statement which said in part, “There continues to be erroneous implications in the media that Chick-fil-A changed our practices and priorities in order to obtain permission for a new restaurant in Chicago. That is incorrect. Chick-fil-A made no such concessions, and we remain true to who we are and who we have been.”

I encourage caution and skepticism when you receive media reports. On a scale of one to 10, my confidence in the liberal media has gone from zero to minus one.

Truth is the foundation of civilization. If it is removed, business suffers, government fails and relationships disintegrate. Nothing works in the absence of truth.

The crisis of credibility in media means those of us who serve as Christians in journalism have an opportunity to define responsibility in media. It also means there is increased necessity for believers to examine everything we read or hear. Gullibility is not acceptable.

Paul warned Timothy, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things …” (2 Timothy 4:3-5, NKJ).

May we be found faithful to truth and credible in communicating it.