Jonah Goldberg v. Piers Morgan and Why Christians Don’t Do Bad Journalism

This is an example of bad journalism.  Agree with him or not, Jonah Goldberg barely had a chance to share his views on CNN’s Piers Morgan show.

Here is another example of bad journalism: Martin Bashir ambushing Rob Bell last year.  Not good, though I agreed with the stern critique of Bell.

Christians stand for better journalism than these examples.  We don’t ambush people; we don’t steamroll them to make our points; we listen respectfully and disagree respectfully.  We stand up for truth, but we do it as those filled with grace.

(The CNN site and WordPress are not working symbiotically on this issue–Wordpress often seems to struggle handling embeds.)

  • David Wickiser

    To respond, Martin Bashir himself is a Christian. He goes (or at least went) to Redeemer Presbyterian in NYC. While I’ll agree that it wasn’t good journalism, I would restate your thought as “Christians must stand for better journalism” rather than “Christians stand…” as Bashir seems to disprove this.

  • Sergius Martin-George

    I agree with Mr. Wickiser. When I saw the headline, “Why Christians Don’t Do Bad Journalism,” my first thought was, “Really? They don’t?”

    I strongly beg to differ, and Martin Bashir is merely exhibit one. Christians do plenty of bad journalism, just as, pace David Barton, they do plenty of bad history (and don’t get me started on bad science). “Why Christians SHOULDN’T do Bad Journalism” — that I could live with.

  • owenstrachan

    Hey guys–thanks for weighing in. I was aware of Bashir’s attendance at RPC when I wrote this. This, though, has given me pause: I’m in no position to say that Bashir isn’t a Christian. I don’t know him. But that video surprised me. Stalin? Really? One of the worst murderers in human history? Comparing Rick Santorum to him? Very surprising.

    And again, the way Bashir ambushed Bell was NOT godly, not kind, not helpful. Too many of us cheered the “takedown.” It was ungodly.

    I actually don’t think you have to read me as saying that Christians are unable to do bad journalism. We certainly are. I was meaning it’s not normative that we do it. It was a manner of speaking. I stand by it. Sort of like saying, “A Christian does not cheat on his wife.” Christians certainly do that, but that behavior fails to live up to the norm. Christ frequently speaks in such terms, right?

    • Collin Garbarino (@cgarbarino)

      Sorry, Owen, but your analysis leaves a lot to be desired. Have you reflected on the purpose of journalism? or the various kinds (and their purposes)? What exactly is “good” journalism? You seem to have a fairly narrow and ahistorical understanding of the term.

      Your post makes it sound like Christian journalism means being nice and objective. I’m sure the Pharisees felt disrespected by Christ. I’m sure the Judaizers felt ambushed by Paul. I’m sure the Arians felt steamrolled by Athanasius.

      • owenstrachan

        Collin, tell me what you really think, brother. I jest. Appreciate the engagement. I don’t think journalism means being a lily-white rose, a sop who fawns over one’s subjects. I do think being a journalist means being respectful to one’s interviewees. If you invite them on your show, you should give them a hearing. Piers Morgan purports to be a journalist. Larry King was as well. He interviewed people. He listened to them. In this case, Morgan wouldn’t let Goldberg finish his points. He pontificated at length. That’s sham journalism.

        Christ’s blade was felt in his content, not his style. Good grief–I’m not against strong words, and said as much (“stern critique”). This isn’t about softening one’s message. It is, though, about being gracious. It’s fine to write a polemic as a Christian. It can be downright good. But I very much there’s a way to do it and a way not to do it.

        But you’ve shifted the ground here. I wasn’t talking about a debate. I was talking about a show that purports to be about interviewing people, which ostensibly is about hearing them out. Good interviewers have done this for decades–King, Charlie Rose, William F. Buckley. The new style for these kind of shows, whether on Fox News or CNN, seems to be about ambushing a guest in order to grab headlines and drive traffic. I have no problem with debate, disagreement, argument, polemic, etc., but the conversational style should fit the format. If Goldberg has been tapped to go on the show and answer questions about his book, he should be able to talk, form sentences, and make his case. If Morgan wants to disagree and rebut that case, fine.

    • Pastor Dave Bissett

      Owen, Please expand, if you can, on the sin “ambushing” as I am most curious. I thought the interview of Bell was pretty firm and straight forward. How would you script it differently — can you give a few sample exchanges. Thanks if you have time to to this for your audience. db

      • owenstrachan

        Good question, Dave. Thanks for the tone in which you asked it. I fully agreed with Bashir’s critique and was 100% glad he made it on the air. I didn’t like how he said it, though, and he didn’t like that he repeatedly cut Bell off. He would ask a question, barely give Bell time to answer, and then state his own position. In my view, it’s perfectly fine and even appropriate for him to state his positions–but he should have allowed Bell to answer and had a genuine dialogue.

        A nice example of how to “do” debate and meaningful intellectual conversation with folks with whom you have some degree of disagreement is Al Mohler’s “Thinking in Public” podcast. He just interviewed Jimmy Carter, for example, and did so respectfully.

        • Pastor Dave Bissett

          Owen, I’m *so* glad you mentioned Al Mohler’s “Thinking in Public” podcasts — I find them to be superbly done, and most helpful in our day of incivility. I heard him interview Jimmy Carter, and was pretty humbled by his respectfulness (when my spirit might have resorted to barking or such). Make sure to thank Dr M (for that episode particularly), next time you cross paths. db

      • owenstrachan

        Dave, this a reply to your reply, but this blog won’t let me reply to your comments on Carter right underneath your post. Yikes. Anyway, I agree with you fully.

        I would say in pursuit of clarity of my own comments that I do NOT think that TIP is the only way to engage people. I’m responding here to Collin, but there are all kinds of ways to engage. There are debates, arguments, polemics, columns, etc. I’m fine with all of them. But what I am protesting is setting up an interview that purports to be about a topic and then ambushing someone–not letting them talk, shouting them down, badgering them. That’s not good journalism.

        If you want to reclassify such shows as “entertainment” as Glen Beck does and others would, that’s fine by me. I may not watch much of it, but that’s fair, and the honesty on the medium changes the conversation. But if you purport to be a journalist, to be fair in your coverage, then you should do just that: interview people in a respectful style. You may still register serious disagreement in your interview. I’m fine with that. But again, you don’t ambush the person.

        I hope this helps. I appreciate the challenge.

  • davejes1979

    I don’t know if Bashir is a real Christian, although I do know that he is an oily, leftist journalist and demagogue (see his despicable “interview” with Andrew Breitbart in 2011).

  • Jethro

    You couldn’t think of any Fox News examples to use? Seriously?

    • owenstrachan

      Ummmmm…I chose a supposedly Christian journalist making much the same theological case that I would. Not close enough to the pin? Actually, I don’t watch much Fox News, so didn’t have any go-to examples! I was aiming for even-handedness in my inclusion of Bashir v. Bell.

      Thanks for the challenge.

  • CO

    Reblogged this on CO

    • owenstrachan

      Thanks my man–hope it’s helpful.

      • CO

        No, thank you!! All your works!!!