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by Jacob Ninan
Journalism, which is the profession of reporting, photographing or editing news stories for the public media, has evolved over the years, going on from print to broadcasting and now to the Internet media. During this evolution, journalists have adopted among themselves a code of honour or ethics to which they bind themselves. Journalists who have been exposed to any level of training are expected to value truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness and public accountability in all their creative activities. In simple terms, they are expected to report things ‘as they are’, not colouring their stories or adding masala in a way that twists their meaning. By avoiding exposing unnecessary details in the stories which they publish, journalists seek to limit the harm that can result for their subjects including tarnishing their reputation. They try to avoid discriminatory references in terms of race, religion, physical and mental disabilities, etc. Good journalism is expected to present a presumption of innocence with reference to individuals or institutions, particularly in cases that are still sub judice (i.e., before a court of law).
But when we look around at the world of journalism now, we wonder if the above description refers to some other planet! Now, the simple fact of the matter is that when we read something in a newspaper or see something on the TV or the Internet, we are generally not in a position to know for sure whether what we get is true or not!
Sometime ago, when copywriters (those who are paid to write up material to advertise or to promote something) wrote something in a newspaper, they used to be identified as advertisements with borders and the caption, ‘Advertisement’. But now, these write-ups cannot be distinguished from general reporting of news anymore! The reader is encouraged to think that what he reads is true and accurate, not realising that it is a paid advertisement in disguise.
Now, it looks as if many media houses are openly flaunting their political, religious and other biases and one wonders if some of them have been bought over by political parties. News is not just ‘news’ anymore as it used to be recognised earlier, because events are now distorted, given slants in interpretation, certain facts are totally ignored and certain other points are added without any factual basis. Experienced readers begin to detect these biases and slants over a period of time, but the average readers get misled (which was the intention of the writers anyway). Things have come to such a state that one finds it really difficult to glean out the truth from among the garbage!
The coming of the internet has hastened the speed of this development drastically. As the cost of writing and publication has come down and opportunities have multiplied tremendously, a lot of spurious writing has come up. People can ‘create’ news stories, give whatever slant they want and make them look authentic with all the usual embellishments such us references or quotations from experts. These stories may be pure hoaxes and the references and quotations may be figments of imagination. But the way the stories are presented with an air of authority, many people get taken in. These stories also get widely circulated through the social networks such as Facebook and WhatsApp, and readers find it difficult to know what to believe.
The art and science of photo and video editing have become so sophisticated that it requires great expertise to detect the manipulation. Innocent images taken from anywhere can be placed in entirely different contexts to incriminate or malign people. Totally artificial videos can be presented as if they are depictions of real events. Computer animated movies blend in with human actors to produce fantastic results where it becomes difficult to see which is real and which is not. We are no longer in a position to say, “I saw it with my own eyes,” as a proof of authenticity.
The media is rewriting morality like never before. Those who support immoral behaviour are lauded by giving them limelight, and immorality is promoted through humorous talk shows and sitcoms. On the other hand, those who stand for uprightness and moral values are ridiculed and ostracised.
It seems obvious to those who know their Bible that the prince of this world is behind all this, masterminding moves by individuals and groups in order to create propaganda, political support and media coverage. He wants to turn people against God and His ways, and he wants to get back at God through His creation. On the surface it looks as if Satan is succeeding to a large extent, and the condition of this world is turning out to be like in the days of Noah just before the Flood came (Gen.6:12,13;Matt.24:37,37). But it also shows us that the coming of the Son of God is near. The days of Satan are numbered (Rev.12:12).
In the midst of all these hoaxes and falsehood stands one book that tells us the truth. The Bible tells us about God, who He is and what He is like, and about our fallen condition and how we can get back into a right relationship with Him. These are not man made ideas that people sitting under trees or on top of mountains thought up but they have been revealed for us by Truth Himself. These have been received, trusted and tried out by countless number of people over time and found to be true. These have transformed the lives of everyone who humbly believed and followed them. In the Bible is what can ensure our future, give us courage and boldness, and navigate us through all the confusing and dangerous paths of this life.
The sad thing is that even among Christians, leaders and others with responsibilities are allowing themselves to be influenced more by the media than by God’s word. That makes them feel more ‘in with the times’, and also admired by their followers for the breadth of their knowledge. Many are unable to discern that for all the impressive presentation by these leaders they lack depth in the knowledge of God. They talk little about the character of God and His ways with people, but instead their focus is on sensational stuff and thrilling (but transitory) experiences. For the apostle Paul, the goal of all his instruction was to create in his audience and his readers was to create “love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” in their hearts (1Tim.1:5). What is the point walking up to the platform merely to fall down backwards, lie around for a few moments and then get up to go back to ‘business as usual’? What do we ultimately gain by listening to ‘soul stirring music’ if we don’t learn even a little bit to deny ourselves and keep His commandments? The time is here where preachers are there to tickle people’s ears and make them feel good about themselves even when there are things in life they should be ashamed of and which should be set right as a matter of priority! Shall we entertain our listeners or shall we preach God’s word (2Tim.4:2)? “Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever” (Dan.12:3). It is time for such to stand up and become active.
-- Editorial in the Light of Life magazine, January 2017
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