Acton Institute Powerblog

PBR: Journalism and New Media

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Last week I wrote that “The ethical standards connected with journalism as a profession have arisen out of centuries-long practice and reflection,” and that “To abandon these standards in the rush to new media would impoverish public discourse to the detriment of us all.” (I develop some related points at length in an accompanying blog post).

I also asserted that “Professional journalism must be present for a free society to flourish, and it is in the pursuit of this calling that Christian reflection and practice over the last two centuries has a critical role to play.” Any discussion about Christian engagement with journalistic culture would be remiss without mention of the World Journalism Institute at the King’s College in New York, whose mission “is to recruit, equip, place and encourage journalists who are Christians in the mainstream newsrooms of America.” (Acton research fellow Anthony Bradley is the Francis Schaeffer Chair of Cultural Apologetics at WJI.) The King’s College also publishes Patrol, “a daily web magazine that covers the arts, culture, and politics in New York City.”

This week’s PowerBlog Ramblings question is: “What form will journalism take in the age of new media?”

Jordan J. Ballor Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is also a postdoctoral researcher in theology and economics at the VU University Amsterdam as part of the "What Good Markets Are Good For" project. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary.


  • Ken

    A glimpse of the new media are the long lists of links or contributors that populate blog site margins. The other characteristic is the niche markets that are being “served” with all the opinions. It’s likely too much to take in and have a real life or balance in the one you’re trying to manage. My browser opens to The Wall Street Journal and I get alert mail from a couple of think tanks that appeal to my desire to learn the truth of matters and be exposed to the cunning aspects of the serpent’s work.

    But I think information from journalistic sources is not the whole problem. It is that those sources are filtered. Many of our friends inform me that they watch CNN, Fox News and MSNBC and know what’s going on. I listen politely. The other day I met a neighbor who had been to The Container Store and was prepared to organize the things she could control. It was advice from Oprah. I suggested to her that she find a more reliable mentor.

    Last week the House voted overwhelmingly to push forward a tax law that too few realized from the start violated that portion of the Constitution of The United States wherein the “Congress shall be forbidden” stuff is enumerated – Section 9 [3] “ex post facto” laws.

    I sent word of this to my circle of friends and business acquaintances together with a pasted definition of the latin phrase. A forty something professional engineer with two children replied that he hadn’t known about ex post facto. His kids will be voters in a couple of years. With this crop of rookies on the bench, the concern for “professional journalism” in new media seems a luxury.

    There’s a site on line that I’ve watched for the past few years. It is supremely leftist and the staff directory photos reminds me of those little pop up ads that entice you to look for high school friends on line. What have these kids been up to that gives them credibility to advocate for free press forums in Durham, N.C. with the expressed purpose of advancing social and racial justice for the oppressed who cannot tell their community story in the media that drops a paper on everyone’s curb. They want their own paper and they want it subsidized by tax payers. But of course they do!

    I think the future is lots of stuff to read and too little time. And a readership so fragmented and so focused on it’s submission that thinking and reflection is lost to the new process.

    Take last week’s kerfuffle about the AIG bonuses. As Suzanne Garment writes in a WSJ opinion piece today, instead of being an adult and making sense of the issue, we had a President embedded in the populist rage, and confirming what many knew about him and his political classmates. They didn’t even recognize the blatant unConstitutionality of what nearly three-quarters of the duly sworn Congress members had just done. Obama blogged his reaction. Reflection or even a remote knowledge of the document he had also sworn to protect and defend hadn’t swayed his pronouncement.

    New Media? I think we need to get back to basics. Catching and Throwing the ball. It’s spring you know.