WORLD’s 2018 Books of the Year
CNN’s Jim Acosta gave a dramatic performance this week when he demanded that White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders disavow President Donald Trump’s declaration that certain media outlets are the “enemy of the people.”
Acosta nearly ordered Sanders: You should say otherwise, right here, right now.
Sanders demurred on the demand, and Acosta walked out. Apparently, even some of his colleagues considered Acosta’s behavior over the top, with one liberal commentator saying the move seemed “silly and self-righteous.”
Still, as a journalist, I can testify it’s unsettling when the president points to the press section you’ve been corralled into by security guards, and tells a crowd of thousands of fired-up supporters to look at the group of terrible people who are the “fake, fake disgusting news.”
The news that civility is at a low point isn’t fake or recent, but all the talk of the press-as-enemy has led me to ponder: How might a good reporter be a friend of the people?
Perhaps friend isn’t the best word, so I’ll rephrase: How could a journalist promote the good of her readers, no matter who or what she’s covering?
A few thoughts come to mind, and I think they might extend to good citizenship as well—particularly for Christians trying to navigate a coarsening and cynical climate, while maintaining a Biblical worldview:
Be truthful. Whatever your broader worldview or opinion about a story or trend, do your best to get the facts right. Lots of people may disagree about what the facts mean when considered as a whole, but the truth of the details matter. It weakens your argument when you mishandle facts, no matter how big or small.
Be cleareyed about both sides. Neither side is completely right all the time. Recognizing only the errors or faults of those with whom you disagree is disingenuous and unwise.
Be civil. We should speak the truth with boldness, but the book of Proverbs reminds us to use persuasive words—not perverse or demeaning ones. The Scriptures don’t commend matching insult for insult, even when making an important point.
Be humble. No one gets everything right, and when you’re wrong, you should say so. That doesn’t mean you have to back down from a worldview or opinion that others might disagree with, but if you get facts wrong, acknowledge it. On questions that don’t have clear Biblical commands, don’t presume you know all the right answers.
Be proactive. If you’re convinced you’re right, show why your argument is better through words and deeds. “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom” (James 3:13).
Be hopeful: This especially applies to the Christian journalist or citizen. Be bold when needed, but don’t stake your hope on winning every political argument or every cultural battle. Politics are important, but they’re not ultimate, and they don’t produce the spiritual change that matters most in any man or woman.
Remember: “God’s truth abideth still—His kingdom is forever.”