Friday, September 23, 2011
Why the World Needs More LDS Journalists. And Why It Probably Won't Get Them.
Add Mormonism and journalism to that list.
Journalism is an essential branch of society, often dubbed The Fourth Estate by those in government and other political positions. It's a watchdog that alerts us when government is running amok, when society is on the verge of anarchy, when dishonesty is the norm and morals are decaying.
It provides us a safety valve so that we, the valued system, can stand up and make a change.
It's a warning voice. It was so important that, even as early Saints in the modern era of the church were driven from state to state, the prophet Joseph Smith established a printing press in several cities — stressing an ability to communicate the church's message to the masses.
Theology inherent to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has as an essential tenant of its faith, the need to rise up and raise a voice of warning to the masses. This is the Church of Jesus Christ, the true gospel of our Lord and Savior, the kingdom of the true and living God.
Journalists who have a sense of purpose, a clear distinction between right and wrong and a desire to effect change in a broken system are essential to the process of the Fourth Estate. Watchdog journalists work best when they are constantly alert to the dangers and moral ills of society, ready to alert the spread of contagious malfeasances so that medicine can be prescribed in an efficient and timely manner.
Such ethics in journalism are being replacing by a moral relativism like few other fields in the world.
John C. Merrill has stated, "Most journalists view ethics as relative, varying from press system to press system, ideology to ideology, culture to culture, and country to country. In fact, many journalists see ethics as relative to news medium, time and situation even within the United States. It is easy to succumb to what has been called in philosophy the 'naturalistic fallacy' — the idea that whatever is, should be. The fact that journalistic ethics vary from place to place and time to time does not prove that such ethics should so vary."
The world of journalism is changing. Declining circulation, loss of advertising revenue and more readers who prefer to consume their news for free from online news aggregators and blogging sites have led to dramatic cuts and changes in the news world as we know it today. Not only have those changes shaped the modern newsroom, but it's also shaping the modern journalist and his view on society. A 9-5 news reporter is no longer viable. A watchdog journalist must be ever-vigilant, ready to break a story wide open at a moment's notice, and willing to drop everything to pursue a scoop — even if at an inconvenient time of day.
Why is that a problem with Mormonism?
Mormons are taught to prioritize life. God, family and an effort to perfect oneself individually are dominant factors in that life. This takes time. And it's time that many journalists don't have. In the new journalism of 60-hour work weeks and erratic schedules, there is little room for three-hour worship every Sunday, a weekly family night to teach gospel principles to children, and an active involvement in the lives of children.
It's driven many practicing journalists away from the industry. And it's pushing active Latter-day Saints away faster. The excuses are tolerable, even noble, and cannot be discounted as "petty:" the need to raise and provide for a family is too great; the desire to enhance one's relationship with diety, a loving Father in Heaven; the priority on marriage and exaltation (as well as the heavy investment required in achieving the above-mentioned goal). All are priorities that should come before an employer, because they matter much more than keeping an employer or publisher content in his pocketbook in one's eternal progression.
I'm a journalist. I'm a Mormon. And despite my brief career in the industry, I find it increasingly harder to rationalize myself as both. The world in which I work is negatory — often downright derisive — of values espoused by most religions, but especially those of the Latter-day Saints. Meanwhile, members of the church to which I belong are often toothless — and yes, even derisive — of the values espoused by working members of the media.It's created a duo-persona in my life, with one side that reflects journalism and objectivity and another that reflects service to God and man, as taught by my religious dogma.
But no man can serve two masters. One will eventually wear down over time, and leave a relationship devoid of personality, defunct of values and difficult to maintain.
The only question is: which falls first?