Can a Fundamentalist Christian School Produce Quality Mainstream Journalists?

Here’s a fascinating premise for a news article: If you’re a conservative Christian, constantly surrounded by chants of “fake news,” and you’re attending college at a place where your school’s president is a vocal supporter of Donald Trump, what do you do if you want to become a mainstream journalist?

That’s what the Washington Post‘s Julie Zauzmer wanted to know, so she spoke with students taking journalism classes at Liberty University.

The short answer is that the students seems dedicated to producing quality journalism, getting to the bottom of a story, and amplifying voices that deserve to be heard. But that’s not the whole story…

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“As Christians, we believe in truth,” senior Timothy Cockes raises his hand to say. “Christians actually should be the best journalists there are, because we believe there is truth out there.”

[William] Collier says he wants to conduct himself as a Christian should, even when conversations in the newsroom get racy. He also doesn’t want to preach. “I don’t know if this is going to sound too left-wing. But I don’t want to be a Christian journalist. I just want to be a journalist that’s a Christian,” he said.

All of that is great. It’s the mindset you need if you want to have a career in journalism. But it’s hard for me to reconcile how these students can be arbiters of “truth” when they’re attending a school that requires them to ignore reality.

It’s not just that Liberty is a Christian school. It’s a school where, in order to attend, you have to sign a statement saying you believe the Bible is inerrant, that Adam and Eve were literally the first human beings, that the Earth was created in six days, and that Jesus’ return is “imminent.” No facts back any of these things up. Plenty of facts contradict them. But accepting the facts in this case would be grounds for suspension or expulsion.

Questioning dogma is what good journalists do, but Liberty is not a place where students are allowed to do that when it comes to certain issues.

That’s not to say graduates couldn’t handle some basic tasks of journalism — reporting on city council meetings, covering sports teams, explaining a big news story, etc. — but if you want to report on hard truths, how can you learn those skills at a school where you begin with the conclusions and you’re not allowed to challenge the obvious lies? (On another note, how can you be a critic of popular music, movies, and culture when Liberty censors material that may not be suitable for children?)

If those students become successful journalists at mainstream outlets, it’s because they’re shedding the kind of thinking they had to adopt at Liberty, not because they’re taking Liberty’s values outside the bubble.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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