However, there won't be a GetReligion podcast this week because Todd Wilken and our friends at Lutheran Public Radio are on the road. They over in German doing work linked to some anniversary in the life of that Martin Luther fellow. It sounds like a pretty big deal (although I haven't heard much about it at my Eastern Orthodox parish).
So, with this gap in the podcast schedule, allow me to flash back to a mid-summer interview that I did with the "Open House" program that is based in Sydney, Australia. I have been meaning to post this for some time, but it took a while for this material to make it to that organization's website.
However, click here to tune that in. The intro material posted by host Stephen O'Doherty looks like this:
Does the media give us an objective view on all issues? Is objectivity, once the hallmark of respected journalism, giving way to a zeitgeist or cultural norm in which moral issues are deemed to be settled and faith-based perspectives either ignored or ridiculed?
US Journalism Professor Terry Mattingly is deeply concerned that American media has reached a point where people turn only to news sources that confirm their own bias. He urges Christians and other faiths to speak up for conservative social and moral views.
From my perspective, that final sentence is just a bit off. The main thing I did was urge listeners to retain a bit of idealism and continue to interact with local, regional and even national media professionals -- praising the good and criticizing the bad.
But the heart of the interview focused on what happens to public discourse when news consumers focus 99.9 percent of their media lives on advocacy outlets that only tell them what they want to hear. This happens, of course, on the left as well as the right. Fake news is a problem on both ends of the political spectrum.
Some other crucial topics in this discussion include:
* I urged listeners to never, ever think of the mainstream press in America as "one thing," a monolith that simply echoes the views of elite media in the power zones along the U.S. Northeast and Pacific coasts.
* Moral libertarianism is not the same thing as classical, political liberalism. On religious, moral and cultural issues, many elite journalists seem to be driven by a kind of "American radical individualism on steroids."
* Of course, this leads to Kellerism 101. This is crucial, since -- in America -- The New York Times often shapes the overall media climate in a manner similar to the BBC in the rest of the world.
* Yes, the host asked about media coverage of the mythical 81 percent of white evangelicals in America who love. love, love that Donald Trump guy and joyfully voted for him in 2016. The reality is more complex than that.
* Is the return of a "European" or advocacy model of the press helping create the deep divisions in the United States? Is it having a negative effect, whenever American leaders attempt to find middle ground and make compromises?
* What does the word "objectivity" mean? How you answer that question is crucial in journalism. Are we talking about journalists trying to maintain some kind of "blank," neutral mental state? Or is it more realistic to talk about professional standards for accuracy and fairness?
* For decades, conservatives of all kinds have done little or nothing to contribute to intellectual and cultural diversity in American newsrooms. How has that helped shape the nation's current media landscape?
* What can religious believers do to address all of these issues?
Again: It never helps to think of the "news media" as a monolith. And it's crucial for news consumers to interact with the leaders of the local and regional newsrooms.
Along the way, there are shout-outs in this chat for the much-discussed Ed Stetzer essay at Christianity Today about "fake news." The headline: "Christians, Repent (Yes, Repent) of Spreading Conspiracy Theories and Fake News." I also urged listeners to pay attention to the views of media commentators David French, Rod Dreher, Kirsten Powers and, naturally, M.Z. Hemingway.
Enjoy this broadcast from Down Under.