Wednesday, August 9, 2017

How to do it

I’ve heard complaints since the 1980s that mainstream media are biased against ideological conservatives in general and conservative Christians in particular. Frankly, I don’t see that, especially given that I’ve made my living in secular media for two decades and in the process actually written articles pertinent to believers.

I was inspired to write this post by a Facebook memory that one person complained that he was no longer permitted to write a column for the campus newspaper because of his faith (I had once also served in that capacity). Why was he banned but I wasn’t?

One, you have to respect your audience. While it’s commendable to want to write about Christian topics in a secular publication, keep in mind that continually “preaching” to it will cause them to want to turn the page; continuing on with such a mentality might cause the outlet to lose revenue because advertising might not support it.

While I was open about my faith when writing for that campus newspaper, it wasn’t all I wrote about. Among other things, I also tackled race relations and Bill Clinton’s toying with the Republican Party during his first term as president (I graduated the year of his second inaugural); though it was never my goal, I eventually learned that I had become a hero to Christian students for speaking out. When the opinions editor, also graduating, paid tribute to the people who worked for her she wrote about me, “Your unique perspective [I was 36, considerably older] and versatile range added depth to the section.”

Two, and related to this, I never saw the media as an “enemy” to be defeated and understood that reporters and editors didn’t hate me or my faith. As such, I saw teaching moments and an opportunity, down the road, to put a plug in for the Gospel — if not by me, through someone else.

Three, I was able to sell my stories as legitimate. Nine years ago I wrote an enterprise story about the merger of my childhood church, which I never officially joined, with another church. The news hook was that my childhood church had caught fire — it was reported on all the TV stations — and I was curious as to what had happened with it. Since I knew that church’s history (and had lived through some of it myself), I was able to give detail that the average writer might not see. Moreover, I had known for years all but one person I had interviewed.

Bottom line, it’s about respect and the “do unto others” principle. Were more Christians to treat folks in the media with such we might have a better time of it.

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