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Commentary: Graham casts ‘mainstream media’ as primary evil; not true really — but all have sinned

By Al Cross
Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues

“The Lies of Mainstream Media” is the headline over the cover story in the February edition of Decision magazine, which touts itself as “the evangelical voice for today.” Its editor-in-chief is Franklin Graham, head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and son of its namesake and founder.

The story by Editor Bob Paulson begins:

   It’s a normal day in the life of a typical man or woman in any Western nation: Wake up and, while getting ready for the day, watch a morning news program that — by the stories it covers, the sources it cites and the language it uses — promotes a leftist-progressive bias.

   Drive to work, listening to hit songs filled with sexual immorality, greed and violence. Throughout the day, keep an eye on social media, where memes and discussions polarize neighbors, distort conflicting views and breed bitterness and cynicism.

   Back at home that evening, watch television programs that — if LGBTQ activists have their way — will within the next five years have 20 percent of series regular characters portrayed as gay or lesbian. Or skip TV altogether and play a video game that glamorizes violence and crime.

Paulson’s emphasis is on popular culture, but he represents the news media as the main transmission device for evil. As the sub-headline says, “We are inundated with messages that contradict God’s Word.”

Many of those messages come through social media, not news media, but the article does not make that distinction (one that is important for journalists to explain)

(Photo illustration from Decision magazine)

Perhaps because it’s easier to attack the news media, a narrow and relatively popular segment of society, than popular culture (which is, after all, popular) the article’s presentation emphasizes the news media. The headline on the magazine’s cover describes it as “CONFRONTING THE LIES THAT DECEIVE A NATION” and the story is illustrated with a photo of a young woman watching a television screen announcing the presentation of “LIVE FAKE NEWS.” The magazine’s internal label for the photo is “Media indoctrination feature,” indicating that the article was written to make the case that the media — especially the news media — have an agenda of telling people how to think and believe.

As a Christian and a journalist, I take offense. The use of the term “mainstream media” is, in effect, a promotion of ideological or partisan sites that don’t practice journalism so much as they advocate. People need to know the difference, and that includes the millions of people for whom Billy Graham meant the truth, and words to live by.

At the same time, journalists and their paymasters must realize that their own presentation practices make it too easy for their audiences to confuse news with entertainment and fact with opinion. We need to do a better job of explaining and upholding our standards. All have sinned and come short.

Kentucky journalist and educator Al Cross is director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky and a regular columnist for the NKyTribune and KyForward. He was a long-time and distinguished reporter for the Courier Journal. This commentary first appeared in The Rural Blog.

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