Seminary President Warns About Critical Media Discernment As NYT Blames Churches for Spread of Coronavirus
By Jessilyn Lancaster, Managing Editor
Albert Mohler, president Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, sounded the alarm over media discernment as the biased New York Times blamed churches for the spread of COVID-19.
Mohler addressed his concerns in his podcast, “The Briefing.”
“I am saying that The New York Times documented only 650 cases and used that as justification to run what was in the print edition, a half-page of the paper,” he continued.
“This tells us that there’s something behind the story other than the math. There’s indeed something behind the story other than the story.”
Mohler’s warning is not the first time during the pandemic that The New York Times has been accused of a bias against Christianity.
Bari Weiss, The New York Times opinion editor resigned from the media organization last month and posted his resignation letter to her website.
“Twitter is not on the masthead of The New York Times. But Twitter has become its ultimate editor,” Weiss wrote in her letter. “As the ethics and mores of that platform have become those of the paper, the paper itself has increasingly become a kind of performance space. Stories are chosen and told in a way to satisfy the narrowest of audiences, rather than to allow a curious public to read about the world and then draw their own conclusions. I was always taught that journalists were charged with writing the first rough draft of history. Now, history itself is one more ephemeral thing molded to fit the needs of a predetermined narrative.”
There are terms for all of this: unlawful discrimination, hostile work environment, and constructive discharge. I’m no legal expert. But I know that this is wrong.
I do not understand how you have allowed this kind of behavior to go on inside your company in full view of the paper’s entire staff and the public. And I certainly can’t square how you and other Times leaders have stood by while simultaneously praising me in private for my courage. Showing up for work as a centrist at an American newspaper should not require bravery.
Part of me wishes I could say that my experience was unique. But the truth is that intellectual curiosity—let alone risk-taking—is now a liability at The Times. Why edit something challenging to our readers, or write something bold only to go through the numbing process of making it ideologically kosher, when we can assure ourselves of job security (and clicks) by publishing our 4000th op-ed arguing that Donald Trump is a unique danger to the country and the world? And so self-censorship has become the norm.
What rules that remain at The Times are applied with extreme selectivity. If a person’s ideology is in keeping with the new orthodoxy, they and their work remain unscrutinized. Everyone else lives in fear of the digital thunderdome. Online venom is excused so long as it is directed at the proper targets.
But it’s not just The New York Times engaging in media bias. In an open letter posted to her website, former MSNBC producer Ariana Pekary decried TV media as a “cancer.”
As it is, this cancer stokes national division, even in the middle of a civil rights crisis. The model blocks diversity of thought and content because the networks have incentive to amplify fringe voices and events, at the expense of others… all because it pumps up the ratings.
This cancer risks human lives, even in the middle of a pandemic. The primary focus quickly became what Donald Trump was doing (poorly) to address the crisis, rather than the science itself. As new details have become available about antibodies, a vaccine, or how COVID actually spreads, producers still want to focus on the politics. Important facts or studies get buried.
This cancer risks our democracy, even in the middle of a presidential election. Any discussion about the election usually focuses on Donald Trump, not Joe Biden, a repeat offense from 2016 (Trump smothers out all other coverage). Also important is to ensure citizens can vote by mail this year, but I’ve watched that topic get ignored or “killed” numerous times.
These revealing letters in addition to Mohler’s concerns reveal just how much we need to practice media discernment in this day and age. Mainstream outlets are clearly promoting anti-Christian biases in their reports, hyperfocusing the blame on Christians and churches rather than considering the full picture of the news coverage.
To practice media discernment, viewers should first consider the Gospel of Jesus Christ and evaluate what they consume through that filter. If a news organization’s report clearly violates scriptures, viewers should do further research to evaluate the truth of what is being reported and the scope in which it is portrayed. Often, these mainstream media outlets leave out critical information in order to spin a story out of context to fit their agenda.
Prayerfully consider the kind of media you consume and how often, ensuring that you are focusing on what is true, honorable, right, and pure (Philippians 4:8).
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