In the digital swirl of the 24/7 news cycle and the perpetual over-share of personal details on social media platforms, journalists in this century are challenged to remain ethical in a realm of moral landmines.
From April 10-11, Regent University’s School of Communication & the Arts (COM) and Robertson School of Government (RSG) hosted its annual forum to discuss the dovetailing issues in today’s media climate; particularly in the realm of first freedoms and terrorism.
The event explored many elements from the perspective of esteemed guests and keynote speakers and panelists such as Clifford May, president for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies; and Knox Thames, director of policy and research for the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, who contributed their working-knowledge of toeing the line of ethical reporting.
“People say, ‘you’re a Christian school; don’t you already have the answers?” said Dr. Eric Patterson, dean of RSG. And though he explained that the core of Christian values lies in loving God, loving neighbors and telling the truth, ethical fundamentals aren’t always a guarantee.
“How does what we believe play out in the nitty gritty of our everyday lives – and even more so in our professional lives?” asked Patterson.
Dr. Mitch Land, COM dean, asked how these beliefs play out in a journalists’ right for freedom of expression and how to take the “moral high ground” when those freedoms become limited.
“We have a lot to express – and a very real truth to convey,” said Land. “I’m ready for real freedom; freedom of religious expression and freedom of all forms. And these freedoms are worth dying for.”
While Land said that nearly all people are “ethically challenged” on a daily basis, professional journalists are presented with this “nitty gritty” in their roles as informational “gate-keepers.” Where do journalists, in this day and age, draw the line in their roles as truth-tellers in the midst of war and religious freedom – or do they have to draw a line at all?
Erick Stakelbeck, terrorism analyst for the Christian Broadcasting Network, shared his expert knowledge on ISIS, and the importance of presenting the unfolding violent events abroad to American audience.
“Unless you make it real, and unless you show them how it’s affecting them in their own backwoods, the audience tends to zone out,” said Stakelbeck.
Steve Bradford, vice president of the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and Land presented the 2015 Chuck Colson Award for Outstanding Contribution in Ethics, Media, and Culture at the conclusion of the event. The award was presented to Michael Cromartie, vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
“What a wonderful conference and idea – our country needs what you’re doing,” said Cromartie, who served as a research assistant to Colson.
Charles “Chuck” Colson, from whom the award is named, served as Special Counsel to President Richard Nixon during his infamous Watergate scandal – and was first from the administration to be incarcerated.
After his time in prison, Colson converted to Christianity and spent the latter years of his life ministering in his Prison Fellowship and BreakPoint ministries.
Cromartie said that in the midst of the nation’s “culture wars” and the differing moral values, it feels as though Christians in the media industry are living and working in exile. He encouraged his audience to present their conflicting worldviews in love – treating others with Christ-like respect and dignity – and shared what was the very thesis of the event itself:
“Snarky looks don’t communicate the Gospel – the Gospel is ‘good news’ about the human condition,” said Cromartie. “Be faithful to God’s call to care for ‘the least of these.’ Do your duty even while you’re living in exile.”
Learn more about Regent University’s School of Communication & the Arts.