Almost every newspaper or news magazine likes to tout that they are unbias and objective in their reporting. Yet all of us, when retelling events we have witnessed or researched (which is at the heart of news reporting), shape the account for our readers or listeners by the way we report it. We cannot help doing so, for our hearts and minds, indeed our very being, are involved in the process of writing. We will always have “media bias” because media is done by us. One reason I appreciate World magazine is they honestly admit right up front the perspective they use in reporting the news.
I thought of this recently as I found myself being quoted in a local paper regarding our church’s struggle with the library board and what transpired at their last meeting (you can read the article here). In large measure, I appreciate the Kokomo Perspective for bringing this issue to the public’s attention as the library’s decision will affect not only our congregation but the entire community. I sense the columnist may be somewhat sympathetic to our plight. Where he quotes me, he is using the words I uttered.
However, the columnist’s own perspective cannot help but influence his piece. In this particular article he packaged the information in a way that could confuse those reading about what has truly happened. So for the sake of journalistic accuracy, I offer these three clarifications:
1) The subtitle of the article, which is likely from an editor and not the journalist, says “Church pastor asks that his property be removed from consideration” (emphasis mine). Since the church property does not belong to me, I would never refer to it as mine and did not at the meeting. I merely represented the church, to whom the building belongs. Statements like this can make it look like this is an issue between the board and an individual.
2) The article states that “York said if the library decides to build on the church’s ground, it would be ‘very unsettling.’” That statement is too obvious to make, as of course we would already be unsettled if we were without a building. What I actually remember saying is that the way the library board has handled this situation thus far has already been “very unsettling” from our perspective. I had already made that statement in a letter written to the library board prior to the meeting and reiterated it that evening.
3) Later on a paragraph reads “York had earlier declined to be interviewed, and said he did not want to add to the library’s controversy. But he made his plea in the board’s open meeting.” Perhaps I’m misreading this, but the way it is worded sounds like the reporter thinks I am being hypocritical by declining to be interviewed but then going public in an “open meeting.” Please note the following:
- This reporter should remember our earlier phone conversation. When he himself requested an interview in early December, I asked to defer getting together until after the elders had spoken to representatives of the board directly on December 7. I thought he might contact me after that time to see what had transpired, but he never did. After the meeting on December 19, I was introduced to the reporter by a board member but he never asked me any questions about what has happened. Why did he write it like he did above?
- My point in even raising the issue that I had declined an interview before meeting with the library is not that I am above or against doing so. Rather, I am trying to stress in this situation that the righteous way to handle conflict between neighbors is to go directly to them. Our frustration is that we were never approached about these plans before they were made public, and then the initial contacts by library representatives had threatening overtones. Neighbors are to approach one another directly and honestly.
- Finally, what other option did our church have but to state our concern at their open meeting? The board deals with the expansion issue primarily in executive session, and I obviously was not invited. The elders of the church believed that it was important that the board hear from us face-to-face and not just in letter form.
Did the Perspective article contain honest mistakes or pokes at me? Regardless, just remember whether you read a newspaper article or this blog, a perspective or bias is already present. For media, by its very nature, is by us.