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News, Education and Views: Straight or Spin?

GEM 04:05:05a.3

http://www.angelfire.com/pro/kairosfocus/resources/straight_or_spin.htm

Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse, who leave the straight paths to walk in dark ways, who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil, whose paths are crooked and who are devious in their ways. [Prov. 2:12 - 15, NIV.]

. . . we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. . . . For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.[2 Cor 4:2 - 7.]

( . . . [Jesus] who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) It was he who gave some to be [leaders]. . . to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. [Eph. 4:10 - 16, cf. 17 - 24.]



INTRODUCTION: Over the past several years, it has become ever more evident in the Caribbean that -- especially on some "hot" news/media topics, such as: the Middle East situation, sustainability of development, politics, morality in the community, the role of the church in community transformation, the "fundamentalist" [NB: offensive term!]/modernist clash, the credibility of the Gospel accounts of Jesus, or the science of origins, the HIV/AIDS crisis, etc. -- the public is often (or even routinely) being manipulated through distorted news coverage and analysis,and also agenda-driven arts and entertainment and even education curricula. Usually, this deceptive manipulation is based on political power schemes, or anti-Christ ideologies and/or world-view agendas.

Many of these distortions and deceptions (i.e. so-called "spin") therefore fall under Paul's teaching on the need to overthrow demonic strongholds of deception:

The weapons we fight with are not the world's weapons but God's powerful weapons which we use to destroy strongholds. We destroy false arguments; we pull down every proud obstacle that is raised against the knowledge of God; we take every thought captive and make it obey Christ [who is the Truth Himself, cf. Jn 14:6 ff., in whom are hidden all the treasures of knowledge and wisdom, Col. 2:3]. [2 Cor 10:4 - 5, GNB]

Consequently, we need to become critical consumers of news, commentary, so-called educational TV or Radio programmes, and even academic courses, presentations, sermons and books or academic or professional papers or proposals. In particular, from 2 Cor 4:2 - 7 and Eph. 4:10 - 16, pastors and other church leaders need to equip the people of God in the Caribbean with the capacity to do so, as an integral part of their leadership ministry. We need effective, structured common-sense tools to do that, thus the below.


(I) The "Straight or Spin?" News, Education & Views Evaluation Grid:

We may begin by giving a description of what news at its best "should" be like if it is to be a "rough, first draft of History":

. . . a well-informed, easily readable report on a noticeable and significant current event; presented in an accurate, fair, balanced, factually based fashion; and, with enough background context to give the viewer a basis to make up his or her own mind.

In that light, I believe the following analytical "straight or spin" grid will be helpful in assessing the quality of news, commentary and education we are exposed to in our region:

STORY ELEMENTS:
(a) Headline & Lead
(b) Story &/or Views presented
(c) Characterisation of People &/or Institutions

(d) Context: underlying Issues, Alternatives and Historical Setting

(1) Factually Accurate?
Y/N
Y/N
Y/N
Y/N
(2) Fair, or Just?
Y/N
Y/N
Y/N
Y/N
(3) Kind or Gracious?
Y/N
Y/N
Y/N
Y/N
(4) Balanced, or provides a Counter - balance?
Y/N
Y/N
Y/N
Y/N

Fig. 1: News, Education and Views: "Straight or Spin?" [Key: Y, "yes" = 1; N, "no" = 0]


(II) Using the "Straight or Spin?" Grid:

As can be seen, the straight or spin grid gives four main facets of a typical item of news or commentary, or a lesson/lecture (or even a textbook chapter): (a) the head and lead, (b) the story proper, (c) characterisation, and (d) context. It then asks a basic question:

Is the presented information: (1) accurate, (2) fair, (3) kind and (4) balanced?

It is a reasonable expectation that, consistently, the answer should be YES, for all components of a news, educational or commentary item, or a presentation or even a sermon. However, to err is human, so there might be an occasional slip that requires minor correction. So, we can now grade the quality of our news, education and commentary services:

      • B to A: Consistent Score 13 - 16: a reasonably good to excellent service, but if errors keep on cropping up in any one square (e.g. cells 1a, 2c, 3b or 4d), there is a systematic problem (e.g.; 1a: inaccurate headings and leads, 2c: unfair or unjust characterisations of people or institutions, 3b: unkind (say, through sensationalism that exploits people's pain) presentation of stories, 4d: biased context), and corrective action is obviously needed. [The examples make the "structured common-sense" approach plain: do you wish to consume information from sources that are consistently inaccurate in how they headline and lead stories on issues and news? Or, from one that often slanders people or institutions it does not like? Or, tries to make money off sensationalising the suffering of others? Or, tells only half the story through suppressing materially relevant context? Etc.?]

      • D to C: Consistent Score 8 - 12: This source has a major, systematic problem with at least one of the four requirements of sound, straight information, and is probably pushing an agenda counter to the interests of the people of God and the wider community. The source and the editorial policy require major reformation.

      • F: Consistent Score 7 or less: Do not trust this source, period. Warn others about the evident distortion, bias, deception and agenda. If the source has significant institutional power and is unwilling to be corrected, make the creation of an alternative that will consistently correct and expose the errors and agenda a top priority.

Unfortunately, for far too many local, regional and international sources of news, entertainment, commentary and even education available in or to the Caribbean, the proper assessment in this post-modern relativistic age is: F.


ASSESSMENT AND ACTION: As you can imagine, given this alarming pattern: agenda-driven (and not truth-driven, nor fair-minded in assessing claimed facts, nor even truth-seeking) news, education and commentary, it is only with great caution that one should consume news, educational presentations and views in our deceived post-modern age: one that now largely dismisses truth as a mere perception, one to be manipulated to one's advantage as one sees fit.

For, to radical relativists and fellow travellers with axes to grind, who have often long since derided and dismissed objective truth and morality, "news" and "education" or "public information" are simply opportunities for effective propaganda. So, the question in their minds is not what is true, fair, gracious or balanced, but whose spin -- thus, whose agenda -- will prevail. The resulting ruthless deception and manipulation are all too apparent to those with even a modicum of the background context that allows us to sense when we are seeing propagandistic spin rather than straight news and commentary. If deception and distortion continue to prevail, the destructive consequences, too, will be all too apparent.

I therefore trust that being so fore-warned, we will be fore-armed to personally address the issues of interest to us with a critically aware eye that first seeks those things that are true, fair, just, virtuous, wise, praiseworthy and of good report (Cf. Prov. 1:1 - 9, 2:1 - 15, Phil 4:8). But, above all, it is high time that the church -- acting through its leadership --becomes the real alternative, leading the way to sound understanding of the times and the associated ethical issues and challenges; and, creating a coherent, relevant development strategy that builds a future for our region under God, and with his blessing.

-END-


NOTICES: This "straight or spin" assessment framework was created by Gordon Mullings,on May 5, 2004, for use as part of a reference resource for preparing God's people in the Caribbean to provide prophetic intellectual and cultural leadership, towards truly sustainable development of the region. It has been subsequently revised and developed, to date. (DISCLAIMER: While reasonable attempts have been made to provide accurate, fair and informative materials for use in training, no claim is made for absolute truth, and corrections based on factual errors and/or gaps or inconsistencies in reasoning are welcome.) FAIR USE: The contents of this web page and its linked pages are intended for use as a support for learning about responding to the typical intellectual challenges to the Christian Faith and gospel that are commonly encountered in the Caribbean, especially through news, education and commentary information services available in the regional and international media. Permission is therefore granted to link to this page for fair use under intellectual property law, and for reasonable citation of the linked content on this site for church- or parachurch- group related training and/or for personal or academic use; this specifically excludes reproduction, linking or citation for commercial, controversial or media purposes without the Author's written permission -- especially where matters relating to the validity and value of Faith/Religious/Atheological Commitments and Truth-Claims are being debated or disputed . COPYRIGHT:GEM 2004. All rights are reserved.