Historically, "news" has been new information considered to have sufficient importance to justify an announcement to the citizens. Therefore, it is reasonable to say that a news program should only happen when a newsworthy event happens.
It could also be argued that the program should only last as long as necessary to tell what happened.
But, when a news program is designed, scheduled, formatted and funded, it takes on a life of its own. It must fill up its packaged, scripted and dollar-driven slot. Advertisers are not interested in supporting an occasional program of uncertain length.
Yes, of course, angles and agenda take over. Humans, with their own bag of biases, must decide what information meets the standard of "sufficient importance." That leads to the invention of news.
For example, in his Washington Post column,1 Eugene Robinson chronicled how the disappearances or deaths of young, pretty white women – like Natalee Holloway, Laci Peterson, Elizabeth Smart, Chandra Levy, the "runaway bride," etc. – drive many news programs.
Perhaps it is coincidental that young white women are an advertiser-favored demographic.
And, the stories are deeply tragic. We all hurt for the loves ones who wait or grieve. Nevertheless, the fact that we know these stories in such depth is an extreme distortion of the justification for news. How do any of those stories constitute information "of sufficient importance to justify an announcement to citizens?"
Do you believe in "The Bermuda Triangle?"
Several years ago, a PBS program offered a plausible and persuasive resolution of the Bermuda Triangle mystery: It doesn't exist.
Sure, weird things happen in that theoretical triangle between Miami, Bermuda and Puerto Rico. Planes and ships have certainly disappeared in very mysterious circumstances.
But, such things happen in all waters. In fact, as the program illustrated, imposing the same "triangle" all over the oceans of the world reveals about the same number of strange things everywhere.
Lloyds of London, the US Coast Guard and other maritime data sources do not see any unique patterns at all in the Bermuda Triangle.
So, why do we believe it?
Because, over the past 50 years, writers and filmmakers have woven the facts about the triangle into very compelling narratives; proving that if you arrange any set of facts into certain patterns, story lines will always emerge.
Once people accept that story line, every new incident helps to build it stronger. So, now, when any plane or yacht goes down in (or remotely near) that area, people jerk into a confirmation of the myth.
Perhaps we should be more skeptical of the news and myths that permeate our daily lives.
The Bible tells the story of a horrific storm of events surrounding the birth of Jesus. Babies were slaughtered all across the land as Herod sought to eradicate any challengers to his reign.
The storm had unique fury for four men. Three of them traveled a great distance in order to worship Jesus as the new king of the Jews. Furthermore, after a meeting with King Herod, they left with a specific command from him.
The fourth man was Joseph, the presumed father of Jesus.
Caught in that very treacherous storm, the voice of God warned all four of the men of the dire consequences and directed them into a plan of action.
In fact, the Bible tells many stories of people caught in storms – political, financial, military and meteorological – who were directed into specific actions that saved their own and many other lives.
Is it possible that we would all "hear" the voice of God more quickly and clearly if we didn't make Him compete with Katie Couric or Bill O'Reilly?
Let me ask that a different way.
What if a stranger sat down at your table in Starbucks and began giving you advice about an important financial matter? Would it be appropriate to ask about his personal success, morality, family relationships and other measurements of life?
Your intelligence and prudence would require some kind of personal relationship and foundation of trust before receiving advice from a stranger.
Yet, we are quick to invite unknown people and agencies into our living rooms to plant advice, philosophical positions and worldviews in our minds.
Those voices often undermine our ability to navigate storms. Why? Because they sow seeds of doubt.
Pessimism is one of the most dominant and pounding attitudes of news agencies and reporters. That attitude goes to the traditional motives for news: it is almost always "bad." Crises, tragedies or urgencies represent the conventional criteria for information "of sufficient importance to justify an announcement to citizens."
That inherent bias tilts the entire organization toward an expectation of bad stuff coming down. It is not reasonable to expect a news gathering operation to announce hope or persuade people to have confidence.
Nor is it reasonable to consider them as reliable navigation aides.
But, there is a Voice we can trust to lead us through the storm.
God has always preserved – even prospered – His people in the midst of adversity. The 91st Psalm is a great anthem of protection in the midst of death and destruction. Thousands and ten thousands may fall around, but "the plague will not come near your tent" (Psalms 91: 10).
In the previous article, I wrote, "God is very comfortable in what we define as ‘chaos.'" Obviously, He is very comfortable in storms. After all, storms are a very natural part of His creation. Hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, thunderstorms and other weather phenomena all perform essential services.
Jesus actually spoke to storms. And, they obeyed Him.
Would you rather listen to a financial reporter on CNBC or The Voice of the One Who created and directs – and walks through – storms?
Do you need continuous doses of doubt and despair as you navigate the storm?
Or, would your posture and efforts in the midst of a storm be more victorious if you are directed by the One who creates and manages storms?
Contact Ed Chinn at firstname.lastname@example.org.