If It Bleeds, It Leads

“Garbage in, garbage out” is demonstrated in devotees of television.
TelevisionThose who study television journalism have long observed the principle that says, “If it bleeds, it leads.” The first story on a newscast may determine whether viewers stay tuned or whether they surf on to the next channel. How can they be enticed to lay down their remotes? By reporting the most sensational news stories available. That often translates into crime, political scandal or bad news about the economy.
Could it be that news stories are sometimes enhanced to make them even more sensational? It happens all the time. Witness the current glut of stories that report “expert views” of rising fuel prices. We’ve now reached the $4 per gallon plateau that used to lead the evening newscast. Newscasts now quote “experts” who predict prices will rise much higher. Viewers who feed on such negative outlooks are left with feelings of helplessness, pessimism and despair.
Must we feed on such “news”? Is this the best choice a Christian can make?
Our purpose is not to urge heads to be stuck in the sand. But sometimes we stick our heads where reality is manipulated to increase audience size. A steady diet of ratings-driven news can forge a view of our world that is not accurate. It can also eclipse the view of God that we must keep ever before us.
The night on which Jesus walked on the Sea of Galilee was dark and stormy. The disciples had been rowing to no avail for hours. The fact that Jesus could master natural laws should have encouraged them. Peter was given the same power to temporarily suspend the laws of physics as he also walked on the water. But the thrill was short-lived.
What happened to Peter that led him from the heady feeling of a rare feat to fearfully thrashing in the sea? Matthew tells us: “But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, ‘Lord, save me!'” (Matthew 14:30, NKJV) When he shifted his focus from the power of Christ to the inferior powers of the world, Peter lost his footing.
On every hand there are storms in this world. Devastation from hurricanes and earthquakes; riots over food prices; terrorism; rising fuel prices and a shrinking economy. Those who spend hours before the television (or Internet or newspapers) naturally become fearful. But there is an alternative: “These things I have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
The garbage of negative thinking can be significantly reduced by restricting the inflow of negative reporting.

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