We didn't record a "Crossroads" podcast this week for a simple reason. It appears that our colleagues at Lutheran Public Radio -- along with millions of other people in Western Church traditions -- were under the impression that this past week was Holy Week.
Thus, that would make today Easter. Dang modernists.
I jest, of course.
However, the Issues, Etc., folks did put a recording online that some GetReligion readers might enjoy hearing. It's a talk that I did this past summer at a national conference in Collinsville, Ill., which is just outside of St. Louis.
The assigned topic was "fake news," but I turned that around and talked about the forces that created today's toxic media culture, in which most Americans consume advocacy news products that are crafted to support the beliefs that they already have.
At the beginning of the talk I offered the following thesis statement, which I scribbled on a church bulletin seconds before I got up to talk, using a brand new speech outline (which is always a bit nerve wracking). Here is that thesis statement:
American public discourse is broken.
Right now, most American citizens are being totally hypocritical about the news.
We say that we want real news, yet all of the data indicate that we continue to consume more and more biased and advocacy news sources that tell us what we already believe. All of the stats show this.
Your choice tonight: Do you want to make an attempt to listen to the voices of other Americans, with whom you disagree? Are you even going to take a stab at doing that, in terms of being able to hear what is going on in our culture?
If you listen to the speech, please treat it as kind of a rough draft.
There are parts of it I would change -- a few wordings that I would make less blunt, a few remarks that need supporting footnotes. For example: That statement about the history of The New York Times? Dig into this.
That's how things go the first time that I work with a totally new outline. The mind can veer off onto tangents (like the "Blazing Saddles" riff).
But here is the key: This is a pro-journalism talk. I am facing an audience of Lutheran conservatives (in terms of doctrine, as opposed to politics, alone) and I am telling them to consume news, to pay for quality news and to give journalists positive and negative feedback about that news. I am telling them that journalism still matters. And yes, I am serious when I say that pastors need to form feedback committees that allow sharp laypeople to share what they are seeing and hearing in news and popular culture.
Enjoy the talk. I should also mention that the speaker -- me -- is not responsible for the views expressed in all of the advertisements that surround this recording.