Could the media have ignored Terry Jones and his Koran-burning plan?
The media have been criticized for giving Terry Jones and his Koran-burning scheme publicity. But the Web has changed the media landscape. Ignoring the event wasn't an option, media experts say.
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“This takes us back to the days before the mass media, when a village could talk its own news without the ‘mediation’ of a newspaper,” he says.Skip to next paragraph
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The difference in scale, however, places a new and evolving burden on journalism enterprises. “Their role is changing from one of strictly delivering the news to a waiting audience to one more of curation or helping to guide the discussion that is taking place across the vast digisphere,” Mr. Lerner says.
The real question should be not do we cover Pastor Jones but how, says Stephen Burgard, author of “Faith, Politics and Press in Our Perilous Times."
With religious issues at the heart of so many hot-button topics – particularly during an election cycle – media coverage of religious issues is critical, he says. The real question is: Are the editors who make these decisions about what to cover learning more about the context, perspective, and history that will lead to a better understanding of what is behind stories like Jones?
“Far from avoiding these stories, we should learn about how to be better about how we do cover them,” he adds.
Context and perspective are not new to journalism, points out Hank Klibanoff, a journalism professor at Emory University in Atlanta and a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. But given the speed and breadth of information today, the media in all its old and new forms must make concentrated efforts to achieve what he calls “proportionality.” Journalism by its nature focuses on the extreme, the unusual, and the interesting without necessarily painting in the background context.
Now, he adds, the burden is on all those in the news-gathering business to place a person like Jones in proper perspective. The vast resources of digital information actually enable the kind of contextualizing that used to be much more difficult in a print newspaper, he adds.
“The digital media can provide all sorts of extra information,” he says.
In this case, that would mean links to worldwide reaction from religious and political leaders so Jones's inflammatory behavior can immediately be seen in context.