Media is (are) …

Many of you love to criticize the media. But what is the media?

Wrong question, actually. It’s not “media is.” It’s “media are.”

Media are plural.

Media, by definition, refers to more than one form of communication.

Back in the day (not so long ago), media had three forms: newspapers, television and radio. We got our news from one or more of those sources.

I worked in the newspaper business for about three decades. I refer to this often in my blog because it’s a big part of who I was, and still am.

Newspapers

Here’s a story I haven’t shared in awhile. I worked for an Upper Peninsula weekly after graduating from college in 1982. The owners/editors were a father/son (the son still owns and runs the paper); the father was a retired University of Michigan journalism professor, where he taught for more than four decades. He never stopped teaching; that job was like a paid internship for me.

A former board member of the ACLU, Mr. Maurer – as a sign of respect, nobody called him by his first name – had liberal views on life, which many journalists do. But he didn’t force his views on this naïve just-starting-out born-again-Christian reporter.

Instead, he drilled this into me: Believe whatever you like. But tell me why. Defend yourself. Think it through.

That’s a lesson I wish all 330 million of us Americans understood. When I got to The Saginaw (Mich.) News in 1985, where I worked for 24 years, I saw that lesson lived out. We sought other viewpoints. We wanted the views of the common man and woman: When the City Council made a decision, how did it affect the people who live there, who are affected by the decision?

We challenged our readers to think about issues, on our news and editorial pages. Did the Council make the right decision? If not, what options do you as a citizen have?

Our news editor was never satisfied, seeking other viewpoints on every story. He drove us nuts, and worse. But we were good. Oh, were we good.

I don’t think we realized how good until the newspaper fell apart in 2009.

Television

We in the newspaper business liked to critique TV newscasters. Our paper printed around lunchtime, and we accused the local TV station of literally reading our stories on air during their noon news.

TV news offers a different perspective. Back in the day, it could report news as it happened – a house fire, for example, showing video of the flames. The newspaper had deadlines hours away, so we had to do more analysis beyond the immediate fire – cost of damage, effects on the residents and the neighborhood, things like that.

And TV producers knew, and know, their audience: lots of weather and sports. Especially weather, if a storm was brewing. That’s what we talk about.

Radio

I’ve also enjoyed listening to news radio in the morning. In Saginaw, WSGW-AM 790 was, and still is, a great source of news. Here in the Cleveland area, I sometimes listen to WTAM-AM 1100. Especially when I was a driver for a day program that served adults with developmental disabilities, I’d put on WTAM for at least a half-hour to get the morning’s headlines – news, sports and weather.

Radio also offers something else that proves important to commuters and drivers: a traffic report every 10 minutes. Every so often, those reports affected my morning drive. Crashes, backups, wires down, flooding here and there … whatever affected traffic.

Radio, like TV and newspapers, knows its audience and serves its purpose.

So, what happened?

News gets cloudy

The World Wide Web (remember that term?) happened, followed by social media.

Newspapers, TV and radio have kept their missions throughout the media sea change, for the most part anyway. Newspapers have changed the most, adding digital platforms to basically become 24-hour news operations. The newspapers themselves point to a moment in time, with analyses and columns to try to make sense of the day’s events.

Radio hasn’t changed too much in format. Television is all about ratings, and since we love to talk about politics, that’s what the national news networks report on. With bias.

This is where the “news” gets cloudy. If your politics are conservative, you watch FOX. If your politics are liberal, you watch CNN. You might watch the “opposition” just to complain about it – not to learn anything from it.

Social media exaggerates this trend. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, others – we see only what we want to see.

We block people who don’t agree with our politics. We complain – a lot, multiple times a day, using memes that we don’t even write. We refuse to consider other points of view.

Then, we complain the “media” shares only bad news.

Media are, remember?

We choose our media sources

If you’re listening to or reading only one media source, that’s on you. Media proclaim every viewpoint under the sun, depending on the source.

So, what is “news” anymore? Does anybody seek both sides, or multiple sides? When the national debt skyrockets to heights that paralyze the average American, for example, is there anyone who tries to explain what that means?

I see memes blaming people for not taking coronavirus stay-in-place orders seriously. I also see photographs of empty New York City streets. As a nation, I think we’re doing very well. Traffic is minimal on local roads. People in public wear gloves and/or masks frequently.

Public gatherings are nearly non-existent.

Where do we get our news about the virus? Do we seek more than one source?

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Image by Lenny Ghoul/thenewsblender.com

 

Our president either ignores or fires experts – not just medical, but on every issue of consequence – and has done so during his entire presidency. I don’t watch his news conferences. I know the “media” have to, but the true leaders of the virus effort are the nation’s governors, Republican and Democrat.

What was President Trump known for before he became president? “Your fired.” He’s still doing that. Put that on his tombstone.

Oops, I showed my bias in how I consume the news. We all do that, you know.

Our governor has a 2 p.m. news conference every day on https://ohiochannel.org/. I’ve watched a few of those, and they are filled with facts and good information. Our local community college also has a microbiology professor who provides daily updates with graphs and charts, speaking in a homey, down-to-earth manner. He’s great.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rz-l38SmvHU

Don’t just tell me what you believe. Tell me why.

In your own words. Not with a meme, please. Put some thought into it.

 

Cover photo: Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine gives an update Feb. 27 at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland on the state’s preparedness and education efforts to limit the potential spread of COVID-19. (Tony Dejak/The Associated Press)

The reason we’re here: To touch a life

I scroll past the vast majority of memes I see online because they are shallow and often untrue. They are easily misunderstood. I speak from experience; I comment on them occasionally, and have been told I missed the point.

But this one caught my attention. For one, I hadn’t seen it before. For two, I like the message it presents.

I actually like it.

… touch the past, touch a rock

My wife and I recently spent a weekend at the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum in northern Kentucky. We touched rocks, and other things.

creation 5

Both attractions were designed and built by Answers in Genesis, an organization that “advocates Young Earth creationism on the basis of its literal, historical-grammatical interpretation of the Book of Genesis,” according to Wikipedia. While there, I bought a book, “A Flood of Evidence; 40 reasons Noah and the Ark still matter” by Ken Ham, who founded Answers in Genesis in 1994, and Bodie Hodge, his son-in-law.

They use the Bible to prove itself.

If you believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, which I do, that’s fine, but I don’t see this book convincing anyone of its truths who doesn’t accept the Bible’s inerrancy. That eliminates most Americans.

The book, the Ark and especially the Creation Museum use rocks to explain how fossils formed quickly when plants (mostly) and animals died. Plants and animals that die naturally don’t fossilize; they decay. It took a quick catastrophic event, such as Noah’s Flood, to bury plants and animals in a hurry, allowing them to fossilize.

Noah’s Flood also formed the Grand Canyon. That masterpiece of God’s creation was not formed over millions of years by a tiny river. The book and museum discuss this too.

And they mention Mount St. Helens which, when it erupted in 1980 and again in 1982, made rock formations in hours and days that scientists previously thought took millions of years.

Rocks, as this meme indicates, are a window to the past. We interpret the rocks differently, depending on what we’re looking for.

But the past is gone. We can’t change it. We interpret it and try to re-interpret it (are some people truly trying to say the Holocaust never existed, or that man never walked on the moon?). We study the past to learn how best to live today. Or, that should be why we study the past.

… touch the present, touch a flower

I’ve been on a weeding kick recently. Our yard and gardens are full of them, unfortunately. It seems like it’s a never-ending battle. Weeds choke off plants and flowers.

flowers

I’m not an expert on flowers, but I see them bloom for a time, then disappear. Annuals bloom for one season, then die. Perennials bloom year after year, going dormant during the winter, then re-emerging in all their beauty in the spring.

I think this is what the meme is trying to say. Flowers are beautiful today. We enjoy them in the present. We’d better, because tomorrow they’re gone.

Even perennials don’t live forever. They have to be replaced with other flowers eventually, if you want to keep your garden colorful.

A sunset. A rainbow. Sparkling ripples on a slow-moving lake or river. A fall color tour. A gentle breeze.

Such beauty. Nature can be so wonderful.

Then, it changes. The beauty is gone.

Night. The storm that precedes the rainbow. Crashing waves. A frigid winter snow. No breeze at all in 90-degree heat.

We endure, hoping for the touch of a flower once again.

… touch the future, touch a life

People matter. We so often forget this.

If you’ve read this far, hopefully I have touched you at some level.

But touching a life involves so much more than words on a printed page.

wcws 2

I volunteer at a food pantry twice a week. I’ve met an 18-year-old girl who is head of household for her family of six. Her mother passed away a year ago, and now she’s in charge at home. At 18.

We at the food pantry can help her for a day or two. What then?

I also volunteer at a once-a-week after-school pick-up basketball ministry that our church youth director organizes. After playing for a couple of hours on a recent Thursday, one of the young men told us how he’s trying to build a life for himself and lead his teenage brother down the right path, even though both of their parents – who are separated – are drug addicts.

Can we make a difference in the lives of either of these families? Are we touching the future when we connect with young people at these events?

I come home to a nice house in a decent neighborhood. No one is forcing me to touch a life.

Actually, that’s not true.

Since I call myself a Christian, and since I try to live by the Bible, God Himself commands in that Bible that I must connect with other people at some level.

You are watching. I know you are. If I call myself a Christian, what do you see?

I must serve.

Far too many “Christians” use the Bible to try to justify sinful lifestyles. Jesus was crucified for saying exactly this. The apostle Paul was stoned, flogged and beaten for saying exactly this.

What does it mean to touch a life?

It’s not about me, trying to justify myself at all. That’s an easy way to identify “fake Christians.” What’s our motive? Is it to serve others? Is it to touch a life?

This will be our legacy. If we want to touch the future, we MUST touch a life. That life will continue on after I’m gone.

Already, I’ve lived in South Euclid, Ohio; Bloomfield Hills, Mich.; New Kensington, Pa.; East Lansing, Mich.; Ridgewood, N.J.; Pickford, St. Ignace and Saginaw, Mich.; Rockford, Ill.; and Elyria, Ohio.

I touch people, and I’m gone. You touch me, and I leave. I take part of you with me wherever I go.

Because you have touched my life.

Thank you.

I hope I am worthy of your time. I hope I have helped you get just a little closer to God because I was there.

Don’t be too hard on me when I let you down. I try not to criticize when I see others fall. We’re in this life together.

The future will change because both of us are here in the present. That’s a given.

How will the future change? For good or evil?

May the rock and the flower guide us as we learn how to touch a life. No matter where our lives take us.