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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Texas Faith: What religion stories should the media focus on?

Texas Faith: What religion stories should the media focus on?
Sep 14, 2010 | Dallas Morning News
William McKenzie/ Editorial Columnist       

I'm pleased to announce the participation of two new panelists: Dr. James Denison and interfaith proponent and blogger Mike Ghouse. They will join our team as we move into our third year. Over the next few weeks, we will add a few more panelists, but today I want to welcome Jim and Mike.

Jim long served as pastor at Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas. He now is president of the Center for Informed Faith and is a distinguished adjunct professor of religion at Dallas Baptist University. He also is a theologian in residence for Texas Baptists.

 Mike presides over the Foundation for Pluralism, is active in the World Muslim Congress and blogs regularly at various sites. He also has been a city commissioner in Carrollton, Texas and serves on the board of the Dallas Peace Center.

You can read more about them on our website later this week. Meanwhile, I know Wayne Slater, Sam Hodges and I look forward to their participation.

Now, onto this week's question:

 There has plenty of criticism of the media for the amount of attention paid to Terry Jones, the pastor of the 50-member Florida church who had been planning a Quran-burning until he was talked out of it. Colin Powell typified the questioning of the media when he wondered on ABC's "The View" last week how a guy like Pastor Jones could end up commanding so much attention from the press.

That's a fair question, so let's turn the tables this week, which comes a few days after the anniversary of 9/11. Here's the question for discussion;

If you were a media baron, an editor or a television or radio producer, what religiously-based stories would you focus on?

Read on for numerous responses, many of which conclude that
"sensationalism sells."

MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism, Dallas
"The business of the journalist is to destroy the truth; to lie outright; to pervert; to vilify; to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell the country for his daily bread."

Ever since John Swinton, of the New York Times uttered those words in the last century, discussions among media barons have continued about the nature of their business.

Every aspect of a society continues to seek its own equilibrium; the once abusive capitalism is on the course of self-correction and blissfully moving towards responsible investments.

From a journalism point of view, unconscionably, we have accepted the inclusion of sensationalists and propagandists as journalists. They are generating ratings and revenues for the media barons. I believe this aspect of destructive propaganda journalism will also start correcting itself toward responsible journalism, which can restore the social cohesion of our society. This week's topic for the Texas Faith panel is an indication of such a movement.

The media in Dallas has acted responsibly this week, when Pastor Jeffress made incendiary remarks about Islam, whether one agrees or not. Steve Blow of the Dallas Morning News took on the responsibility to seek another opinion from some one like Pastor Bob Roberts. Blow offered an equally powerful, but peace making perspective, which the public has welcomed.

Whether it is Pastor Jones, Jeffress, Phelps or Robertson, the media has failed to nail down the exact words or phrases that cause them to make such divisive declarations, and the unfinished business is frustrating the public. The real issue is not the amount of coverage but the quality of coverage.

As a media baron, I would consider leading the torch of responsible journalism by addressing the moderate majority. It is untapped, but the biggest niche in the marketplace. Moderates are crying out loud for the media to be fair, just and responsible. On the other hand, they need to reward the change and move away from the idea of "No news is good news" and instead, read and watch the good news and not discount it as "no news."

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