Why secular journalism needs Christians

Katie Nelson emphasizes the need for Christians to work in media.


Olivia Blinn/THE CHIMES

Katie Nelson, Writer

When people ask my sister Aimee, a pre-nursing major here at Biola, what she is studying in school, her response is nearly always met with a chorus of, “That’s so great that you’re doing the Lord’s work!” or something to that effect. However, when I am asked the same question, my answer is usually met with an awkward silence followed by a half-hearted, “Oh, that’s a difficult industry right now. What are you going to do now that your field is dying?”

In choosing to be a journalist, I am entering into a career field with one of the worst professional reputations, slightly above lawyers and business executives. In order to get a clear picture of the public perception of journalists, I looked up its definition in the ever-honest Urban Dictionary. Here is a snippet of what it had to say:

“Journalist: a professional liar, a professional distorter, a professional hate-mongerer. They craftily use newspapers and television programs to create the illusion that the entire world believes like them. In reality, they are literally just a couple psychos with a really big megaphone. Like Satan, they only have any influence in your life if you choose to let them in.”

As a rule, people are distrustful of journalists. Christians are even more so. Few of the students within the journalism major at Biola actually want to pursue secular journalism: Most hope to enter into Christian-based publications like World Magazine, public relations for Christian organizations or even wedding planning.

Obviously, public relations specialists and others who work for such organizations have their necessary function in society: The purpose of writing this piece is not to discern others’ callings. However, it is disappointing to see Christians ignoring a field that has long been imperative for a free and democratic society.

As someone who wants to enter into secular media as a career, it seems to me that Christians put stipulations on what kinds of journalism other Christians should engage in, secular or not. We even see this in the kinds of media available here on campus: It is no accident that Fox News is the only network shown in the business building or in the fitness center.

It is nearly impossible to name one media figure claiming to know Christ who has made an impact on the world as much as secular journalists like Anderson Cooper or Martha Gellhorn have.

If journalists have been given a bad name, I would argue that Christians have been given a worse one. Our instances of bad press have far outnumbered the objective, truth-bearing news articles we’ve written. If we do not do journalism the way it ought to be done, we continue to allow ourselves to be lumped together in the public eye with the Pat Robertsons of the world.

So here is my challenge to Christian journalists: be the best. Recognize that you have a unique responsibility to people who often would rather plug their ears. Be honest, be compassionate and do not be afraid to dig deep. If we as Christians are supposed to love the truth, we should be setting the standard for telling the truth.

To Christians in the audience, I implore you to not give up on the media. While we may not be perfect, we are clearly not in this job for the money or the prestige. Tom Huang of the Dallas Morning News sums it up well:

“I’m pretty sure that you didn’t get into this business expecting it to be easy or to give you a great sense of security. If you are like me, you probably felt ‘called.’ You fell in love with journalism. You dreamt about it. You decided to follow that dream.”

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