This is not a post to slam media coverage. From different conversations with people, I think most see the shortcomings of media coverage. Media will cover what people will watch. Even if you don’t personally watch the gloom and doom stories, someone does. Plenty of someones must create the demand. Otherwise, media outlets wouldn’t highlight them. We all also know media is slanted. Honestly, I don’t know how it can’t be. There is no way we can completely portray reality without running it through a filter. The camera lens gives limited perspective. The captions give limited perspective. The news reporter gives limited perspective. Add the filters of the producers, time allotments, editing, and other factors, and it becomes clear why reality gets skewed. Of course, some media outlets seem to represent reality a bit better than others, or at least, we want to believe they do. Perhaps we’ve just chosen the perspective that most matches our own perspective. Perhaps we’ve just become accustomed to specific perspectives, so we’re more accepting and less shocked or disgruntled.
We complain about the filters the skew what the media presents, but we can’t do a lot about that…unless you decide to go on a personal mission to rework the entire media empire. (And spewing your opinions on Facebook doesn’t qualify.) But there’s something we can all do:
Pay attention to your own filters.
We need to filter what we’re taking in instead of just complaining about what others offer us. I was reminded of the importance of filters when in Israel. Family and friends of our group were watching news reports for any updates on happenings in Israel. With the violent fighting throughout the summer, many were concerned for our safety. I understood their concern, but when you travel much and see the chasm between what fits in the small frame of a television and what is happening around you, the concern lessens. Incidents were usually isolated enough that we weren’t aware of anything going on; in fact, most people in Israel probably weren’t. However, people watching the news back home might see an extended report of an isolated event. Which is exactly what happened.
Several women got texts asking how we were and if we were close to the fighting. Fighting? What fighting? Everything around us seemed calm. We heard and saw no commotion. We didn’t hear any more sirens than we’d expect on a normal day in any city–abroad or in the U.S. Several of us looked online to watch the news report to see what others were seeing. The video lasted several minutes. The first 20-30 seconds included the actual scuffle, which involved a few people yelling and pushing each other. No guns, no harmful violence. Yes, it could have escalated to that level, but it didn’t. The rest of the segment included two videos of more violent footage involving many more people. At the bottom of the screen, we noticed small words–“file footage”–with one date that was the height of the summer conflict and one that was an earlier date that originally escalated the conflict. File footage means just what it sounds: video footage (or photographs or an interview, whatever the format) that is pulled from a file. It is related to the current footage, but it’s not current.
Why would a media outlet include something that ignites emotion, conflict, and controversy? That’s not my focus of this post. Instead, let’s ask,
How carefully do I filter what I’m watching and listening?
What assumptions do I bring with me?
What snap judgments do I make?
What do I do, either with my internal reaction or as I share with others, to ignite emotion, conflict, and controversy?
Why should I blame others when I’m not willing to take responsibility for my own response?
Maybe you refuse to watch the news because you’re trying to avoid dealing with these kinds of issues, you’re not off the hook. You need to filter any information coming in. You have assumptions that you need to be aware of and make snap judgments at times. You let yourself respond in ways that aren’t truth-seeking, and you spread that to others. You share inflammatory things on social media, spew around your table, or pass along false or partial information. We all do from time to time, more than we want to admit.
It’s our responsibility, each one of us, to seek truth. Use God’s truth as your filter. Respond with truth. You can’t control all media, but you can be an example in your sphere of influence.