Journalists, and particularly Christian journalists, must tell the truth. If one does not tell the truth, one loses credibility. No credibility, no readers. No readers, out of business.
However, telling the truth is not enough. Twelve times, the Bible reminds us to not only tell the truth, but to guard the truth and it does so many times and in many ways (Ex. 23:1, Lev. 19:11-16, Lev. 19:35-36; Ps. 82:2-3, Prov. 23:10, Prov. 31:8-9, Rom. 12:9-10, 2 Cor. 12:20, Eph. 4:25, 2 Tim. 3:3, Jas. 3:17, 1 John 4:20).
I raise the issue of truth-telling in light of a shocking September Gallup poll. It reveals Americans’ trust in the mass media “to report the news fully, accurately and fairly” has dropped to its lowest level in Gallup’s history. Only 32 percent said they have a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust that the media will tell the truth. That is down eight percent from last year and down a whopping 40 percent since 1976. Gallup began polling the public’s trust in the media in 1972, and on a yearly basis since 1997.
Many media analysts point to coverage of the recent presidential election as the culprit behind the continuing decline. Consider:
• The 2016 State of the First Amendment Survey released in June found that just 10 percent of Americans felt the presidential race was being covered accurately.
• A more recent Quinnipiac University poll released in October found that 55 percent of likely voters believe the media was biased against Donald Trump.
• A recent USA Today poll revealed that people believe – by an astounding 10-1 margin – that the media wanted Hillary Clinton to win the election.
• A Suffolk University Boston poll asking 1,000 people what they thought was the primary threat to election integrity, 46 percent named the media.
• A Pew Research survey on the media found that 59% of Americans wanted the media to just give them the facts without any interpretation.
None of this is surprising. Journalists at prestigious newspapers and other media have been plagued by scandals involving plagiarism and outright lying, including a Washington Post story that won – then in shame returned – a Pulitzer Prize. In recent weeks Facebook has been rocked by phony media websites getting rich off advertising revenue despite publishing false news stories for a gullible public. The scandal has sent news browsers into a tizzy and damaged Facebook’s credibility.
This is what happens when a culture embraces the myth that truth is relative. It is a recipe for destruction. I am reminded of Jesus’ words in John 8:44: “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from this own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
I thank God that He uses The Pathway to stand in stark contrast to such a destructive worldview. We tell the truth, guard the truth and prove things to be true. We also edify, fulfilling our call to redeem all of creation for the glory of our Savior. We will always strive to be responsible, respectful and fair. Are we objective? No, we are biased because we have an opportunity to bring faith to all of life by reporting what is demonstrably true, thus advancing kingdom priorities.
Earlier this year The Pathway conducted the most in-depth readership survey in its 14-year history. I am pleased to report that Pathway readers trust us. A full 70 percent strongly agreed that The Pathway is trustworthy. Another 25 percent somewhat agreed.
Perhaps just as important, 91 percent said they strongly agreed or somewhat agreed that they would recommend The Pathway to a friend or to their church. Why not do that today?