Today, it often seems as if weâ€™re swimming in words;
occasionally, as if weâ€™re drowning in them. There are so many
information sources, itâ€™s hard to determine who to listen to.
Here are just a few that are important to me, together with their
strengths and weaknesses.
Newspapers. Every morning, I read parts of the Los Angeles
Times. Itâ€™s a good paper and helps give me my daily fix of
news. I miss it when I travel. Many other cities seem starved for
good, solid, objective news.
Newspapers have changed a lot since I studied journalism.
Objectivity used to be the key to news reporting. Opinions were
reserved for the editorial page, and sensationalism--we called it â
€œyellow journalismâ€�--was avoided at all costs. Most cities had
two newspapers, one delivered in the morning, and one in the
evening. They often represented differing views, giving us both
sides of an issue.
All that has changed. So many newspapers have merged in recent
years that most cities have just one. Making money trumps
informing the public in many of todayâ€™s papers, and unlabeled
opinion has made its way even onto the front page! Some attract
readers with sensationalism. Others hew a party line. But the best
newspapers still give us information with depth and accuracy.
Television. Each evening, I watch The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
on public television.
Jim Lehrer is an old newsman, and he delivers the news straight.
News value, not entertainment value, determines his choices. At a
time when car chases, cute animals, and sound bites dominate many
newscasts, when â€œIf it bleeds, it leads,â€� Lehrer is a refreshing
His guests have varying views--all well-informed--giving a balanced
Commentaries are clearly marked as such.
Books. I keep at least one book going all the time, usually on the
headboard of the bed so I can read a chapter before I fall asleep.
Other books for other purposes--devotion, research, politics,
humor--cover the coffee table and fill bookcases throughout the
After Hurricane Katrina, I read a series of novels set in New
Orleans, including Walker Percyâ€™s The Moviegoer, Anne Riceâ
€™s The Feast of All Saints and some of James Lee Burkeâ€™s
crime fiction, featuring detective Dave Robicheaux.
Since Christmas Iâ€™ve read gift books including Doctorowâ€™s
The March, Wallisâ€™s Godâ€™s Politics, Jimmy Carterâ€™s
Our Endangered Values, and P. D. Jamesâ€™s The Lighthouse.
Recent devotional books include Thomas H. Olbrichtâ€™s Lifted
Up, on last yearâ€™s Pepperdine Lectures theme; Michael
Yaconelliâ€™s Messy Spirituality: Godâ€™s Annoying Love
for Imperfect People; and Hollowayâ€™s Living Godâ€™s
Love: An Invitation to Christian Spirituality, the introduction to
his Meditative Commentary on the New Testament. Iâ€™m
currently working through his Matthew: Jesus Is King as a part of
my devotions. Iâ€™m also reading several books on love as
research for my own book on the subject.
I appreciate the new honesty in devotional literature. Itâ€™s not
the old â€œHow I came to Christ and solved all my problemsâ€�
approach, but neither is it wallowing in sensationalism. It recognizes
that we canâ€™t do it right on our own, which, after all, is why
Movies. Our son Robert manages a video store, and he comes
most Sunday evenings with new releases.
Iâ€™ve been impressed with the serious themes of such recent
films as Crash, Good Night and Good Luck, Capote, The
Constant Gardener and Syriana.
I also enjoyed Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit.
Internet. At various times during the day, I check my email and
notice the headlines from several news sources.
Occasionally, Iâ€™ll click one for more information, but the
Internet is not a major source of news for me.
I use it more often for research, but even then I try to maintain a
skeptical distance. Iâ€™ve discovered too many errors presented
as truth to trust everything I read there.
Weâ€™ve been blessed with numerous ways to get information,
but that blessing can be a curse if we fail to discriminate, to
consider the source and the motivation of the people involved for
taking a particular approach.