Friday, March 23, 2012

Labeling the Senator (John Kerry) from Mass: Really?

Senator John Kerry (D-MA) came to speak this past week at the college where I work. It was a nice thing for him to do and a nice invitation for our small Christian college to extend. Everyone should have been happy for the opportunity to hear from one of our country's most senior representatives.

Never mind. As much as it might have enhanced the educational process for students, allowing young people to hear the personal story and religious journey of a long standing public servant, some folks weren't so sure what to make of Kerry At Said-Evangelical College.  Instead of trying to understand it, they resorted to labels.

One media outlet claimed Kerry questioned if "Jesus was a Liberal?" Another headlined his promotion of "Universal Health Care," when neither the article nor Kerry's talk gave it barely a mention. A local reporter lead his page one story with, "The words politics and religion don't normally conjure an image of a left leaning senator from Massachusetts." And don't even get me started about the Facebook page of "evangelicals" commenting on—what else?—the "far left socialist baby killer" who spoke at the college.


Labels are simply easy categories for lazy thinkers. Follow their thread and they lead to the evil of 'isms'—racism, sexism, classism, etc. I mean, who of us is only a Republican? Or a Democrat? Or a Catholic or Christian or Whatever? Aren't we also immigrants and wives, sisters and business execs, athletes and husbands, honest and in debt and artistic? You get the idea. Humans are complicated and complex beings and to report on them only in terms of their labels is short sided, narrow minded and—did I say this already?—lazy. Digging deeper into the mix of stories, or people, is hard work. Those unwilling to do so ought to keep their mouths shut and their computers off.

In fact, I vote we put these labels to rest forever. Kill 'em—as a southern friend once said—'grave-yard dead.' And now's as good a time as any. It's spring, after all, when even trees in New England cemeteries remind us that new things are possible, including how we talk of senators and religion and public life. And each other.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

When Journalism Becomes the News

Yes, it's been an entire month since my last post. Shame on me. All the 'experts' say blogs lose their oomph if you don't write a zillion times every day. I don't even have a good excuse. It's not that there haven't been stories to write about, or that I've been too busy. Neither is true. Maybe that's the problem.

Should I have written about the depressing layoffs of reporters at local newspapers? Or the tragic loss of Marie Colvin, an enormously courageous reporter killed recently while doing her job in Syria? Or the despicable practices at Murdoch's News Corp monster? Even the arrogance of a radio host who thought he could say anything he wanted on the air about women (and is happily now learning he can't as advertisers cancel their contracts)? Or how about the rise in video departments at traditional print papers?

I could have commented on each story, on how each reveals another change in the news landscape. Sigh. Or that each shows just how complex and dynamic this business is. Not really news either; after all, media moguls and economic challenges have always made it tough for the good folks committed to truth-telling, even if it's costly.

So I think I'll just settle for this: journalism is too often mistaken for either profits or entertainment, when it's neither. And truth keeps getting harder to find in the mess of basic hubris and constant information. With so many fancy gadgets in our reporting bag, you'd think it'd be clear as light. But these days, it takes a long time to get past the blur of news about news to get at the news we need. 

All that to say, it might be a while again before I post something. I'll try to do better, though, in hopes that others might as well.