There are several obvious things that need to be said about the rather brave opinion piece that Sarah Pulliam Bailey -- yes a former GetReligionista -- has published at The Washington Post, where she works as a full-time religion-beat professional.
First, things first: About that headline, which proclaims, "Evangelicals, your attacks on ‘the media’ are getting dangerous." Why address this open letter to evangelicals?
During my years in the Washington, D.C., area I had to look like crazy to find traditional religious believers of any stripe who still subscribed to the major newspapers in Beltway-land. For those who did, talking about the tone-deaf or biased coverage of moral and social issues produced in those newsrooms was something they let me hear about on a regular basis. Hearing D.C.-area people talk about media bias (on moral and social issues more than on politics alone) helped inspire the creation of the weblog.
So why focus on evangelical anger at mainstream news, in a year in which Gallup numbers show that distrust of the journalism establishment is at an all-time high among Americans, period?
Yes, the anger and even hate is real. I know that because of my quarter of a century of work in Christian higher education, primarily teaching journalism and mass-media studies to young evangelicals. Way too many conservative evangelicals have written off journalism -- period. That's really bad theology if one believes that all of God's creation (even journalism) is both glorious and fallen. Meanwhile, many progressive evangelicals (often in higher education) view journalism as a shallow, anti-intellectual, merely "professional" trade that is not worthy of serious attention. Both stances are deadly, if the goal is educating young people to work in the mainstream press, perhaps providing some intellectual diversity there in the process.
Still, Bailey addresses her letter to people in her own culture, which is mainstream evangelicalism. Let's look at this a bit, and then open the comments pages for dialogue. Here is the overture:
You tease about the mainstream media being “Satan’s newspaper.” When I tell you I’m a journalist, I hear your cynicism.
Listen, I was raised in an evangelical home. I know the media is supposed to be the butt of many jokes and the source of many of our problems.