Who dominates such “news” stories? Often it’s a pop-culture idol, especially if it’s one who is notorious for indiscreet exposure. Or it may be a famous person involved in a scandal or accused of a crime.
Then there’s the coverage of a jealous astronaut charged with attempted murder or the sleazy scandal about a female teacher being sexually involved with a male student. Or other juicy trivia about celebrities, like who’s hooking up and who’s breaking up. Sensational disappearances or the inexplicable deaths of individuals of interest also receive extensive coverage.
Sadly, journalists know well the adage, “If it bleeds, it leads.” Television and popular magazines lead the way in presenting entertainment stories with sensational pictures and video clips in place of objective news reports because of their visual appeal. They cater to images and pictures over words, almost blotting out the distinction between entertainment and crucially important news.
Neil Postman’s book, Amusing Ourselves to Death , explains how our society is changing from a “print-oriented, reading-oriented” society to an “image-oriented” society, with emphasis on pictures and graphics rather than the printed word. Witness the decline in newspaper subscriptions. Most people are reading only what is short, shallow and superficial. They prefer magazines filled with pictures. They love television and videos!
Obsessed with sexiness, increasing numbers of people are being enticed into pornography, which is incredibly easy to access. This may be directly related to another trend, replacing biblical values with a fascination for society’s latest idols, images and reckless lifestyles. As a result a values revolution is reshaping Western society.
Repeatedly aired video clips of scantily clad women whose actions are outrageous may appeal to our human curiosity. But they also erode our perceptions of public decency. Though these clips of people exposing themselves in public certainly attract attention, aren’t they really just a form of public voyeurism provided in the name of “news”? Yet such visuals will run repeatedly for many days. Many commercials are equally tasteless and sensually provocative.
Public demeanor also is dropping in other areas. Debates aired on TV are increasingly disrespectful. Two guests with opposing views will sarcastically argue with each other and with the host, often interrupting so much that it is difficult to grasp what anyone is really trying to say. These are but a few of the growing negative influences, especially on our youth, that are now acceptable in our popular media.
Then there is the problem of diminished international awareness. In the US especially the excessive focus on national and local news to the neglect of what is happening in the rest the world could prove disastrous. Most Americans are woefully unaware of what is happening beyond their own borders, except for the war in Iraq and major natural disasters. America’s obsession with things entertaining or sensual is making it an amazingly uninformed nation.
If a free people want to remain free, they need to understand the values that are the foundation of true freedom. Free people need knowledge of history, geography, government, economics and current world affairs as well as other subjects. To stay free they need to be informed, to learn the principles on which fair and righteous laws are based. TV news is capable of having either a positive or negative influence on our values and actions. But today’s trend is toward a growing negative influence.
Our traditional values, taken partly from biblical Christianity, are based to a great extent on a book that must be read to be understood. That book is the Bible, our only reliable source of divinely revealed truth. The God of the Bible wants all people to be literate readers, able to think clearly and deeply about life.
The Bible, the Word of God, when read and understood, lays a solid foundation for a broad understanding of what life is all about. It helps us understand past, present and future events and the principles that are crucial to maintaining our freedoms and a decent society. Referring to God’s Word, Jesus Christ requested of His Heavenly Father concerning His disciples, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17 John 17:17Sanctify them through your truth: your word is truth.
American King James Version×).