You hear a lot about diversity from the establishment press today. Every media conference has at least one workshop on the subject. There are journalist organizations to match every conceivable lifestyle — and, for that matter, some inconceivable.
That’s why it’s so interesting to watch people in the media ignorantly expose their own raw bigotry without so much as a self-conscious blush.
“Something unholy appears to be happening at the Daily Times in Farmington, N.M., where employee turnover is rampant, a lawsuit has been filed and there are charges the publisher strolls throughout the newsroom singing ‘praise Jesus.’”
So begins a prominent feature story in the Aug. 2 issue of the newspaper trade journal Editor & Publisher. The three-page article under the headline, “Mixing Religious Zeal and News,” contends that the owner-publisher of the southwestern paper is, God forbid, “Christianizing the newsroom.” It relies, of course, mostly on the horror stories of disgruntled ex-employees — including one self-proclaimed practicing witch.
The portrait of the paper is one of turmoil. Yet, there is not a word in the article about the financial status of the paper. I take that to indicate that the Daily Times is doing quite well, thank you. And the only reader who objected to the new perspective of the paper was bugged because management pulled the horoscopes — hardly a First Amendment travesty
The focus of the story is Eliot O’Brien, who took over control of the paper after his father died. He’s obviously a man who takes his faith seriously, and that bothers the folks over at E&P, who apparently believe in the separation of church and press.
But, you have to ask yourself, why? What’s so dangerous about a relatively obscure paper in New Mexico speaking with a different voice from the rest of the media wolf pack? If diversity is the goal when it comes to race, gender and lifestyle, doesn’t it stand to reason that philosophical and spiritual diversity within the media should likewise be encouraged? Why is one Christian publisher such a threat to the media order?
People fear what they don’t understand. And, let me tell you, after 20 years in the newspaper business, journalists don’t understand faith — especially conservative, Bible-based, Christian faith. It is anathema, an anachronism, a notch beneath voodoo on the scale of spiritual taboos.
Several times, I have seen a reporter use the term “fundamentalist” in a pejorative sense and called him or her on it. Not once has a journalist been able to define the term accurately. What is the point of all this “diversity training” if the press can’t get beyond name-calling with sincere, devout Christians?
Maybe it’s time for America’s journalists to read the whole First Amendment — not just the part about freedom of the press. There is still a right in this country to the free exercise of religion. And, as far as I know, there is no law against a newspaper owner ensuring that his product reflect his views.
It might surprise some of these professional heretics that many of the greatest newspapers in America were founded on Christian principles by men and women every bit as zealous as the publisher of the Daily Times. After the American Revolution, Christians dominated U.S. journalism and their worldview characterized many major American newspapers. What was the largest circulation weekly in 1830? The New York Christian Advocate.
What were newspapers like in those days? Three-quarters of all material in papers at that time was religious, theological, ethical and devotional. And, in the early 19th century, New York City alone boasted 52 magazines and newspapers that called themselves Christian. Between 1825 and 1845, more than 100 cities and towns in American had explicitly Christian newspapers.
It might also shock the guardians of agnosticism at E&P to learn that The New York Times, perhaps the most liberal, secular voice of the establishment, made a name for itself in the mid-1850s as a Christian newspaper that crusaded against abortion.
And guess what? The world did not end. Witches were not burned at the stake. And the rising tide of Christian thought and compassion helped spark the abolitionist movement and led to the creation of thousands of worthwhile charitable endeavors — from the YMCA to the Salvation Army.
So, what’s the beef? Why the inquisition? Why not just allow the marketplace to rule? Are the media watchdogs afraid Mr. O’Brien’s little journalistic experiment just might prove too successful? Are they afraid competition might force them to be more responsible, even-handed, fair and balanced? Or are they just plain uncomfortable dealing with the ultimate issues of life and death?