Journalists' role in truth-telling

A Christian Science perspective.

Imagine if all the reporters in the world went on vacation for a month. What would you miss most? I’d miss their inquisitiveness, their intelligence, their capacity to tell a story in a few words. But most of all I would miss the love of the truth so many of them have.

I think of Jorge Ramos in the United States. He has been the anchor of the evening news program since 1986 on the huge Spanish channel Univision and has won eight Emmy Awards. He started working as a journalist in Mexico but left Mexico when a Mexican television channel censored one of his stories. I think of Jorge Lanata in Argentina, who, during the last few decades, has become a permanent gadfly of those involved in political fraud and corruption and who has exposed the roots of poverty, especially in Argentina. I think of Michel Auger in Canada, who became a specialist in covering organized crime in Québec, even continuing his groundbreaking reports after being shot six times in the parking lot of Le Journal de Montréal. These, and thousands of others like them, are all “truth-heroes” to me. Transparent government, justice, and progress depend and thrive on the likes of these.

Speaking of truth-heroes, the founder of this publication, Mary Baker Eddy, definitely qualifies in my view. She saw Truth as being a synonym for God. Truth brings to mind the real, the genuine, the permanent. Human truth, whether the correct way to spell the name of a witness or the actual amount of a budget deficit that may be buried away in a haystack of figures, echoes this Truth that is God, and is to be valued and appreciated.

To me a central part of being a contributing citizen to society is to pray. One way that I pray for journalists is by seeing that truth (something that some reporters treat with a sort of sacredness) is not fragile, vulnerable, or subject to manipulation. Rather, human truth is an echo of divine Truth, and is powerful and healing. Jesus said that those who would follow him would know the truth and that it would set them free (see John 8:31, 32). One of the Ten Commandments emphasizes the importance of not bearing false testimony (see Exodus 20:16), certainly in a formal, legal setting, but the commandment can also be applied in the sense of being always truthful. And certainly truthfulness is a quality of God, and that we be truthful is the will of God.

Because God has made His children, including journalists, to be truth-tellers, shouldn’t we expect to experience protection and immunity from penalty and damage as we are dedicated to the truth? I know several journalists who’ve worked in areas of conflict and who’ve felt God’s protection. You can listen to an account of one of them here.

Mary Baker Eddy, writing about thinkers, printers, and authors, and their importance to society, affirms, “That man does not pay the severest penalty who does the most good” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 387). Indeed, since we are reflections of God, Truth, shouldn’t we expect to experience safety as we are dedicated to Truth? Of course, this fact that there is safety in being who we are as children of Truth doesn’t justify foolhardiness or irresponsibility when getting a story, but it does help us know that all journalists have a right to be safe as they go about their business, and this safety includes taking steps that are wise.

How impoverished our world would be without good journalists! We best support them by being grateful for them and by living truthful lives ourselves.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.