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29 August 2012

What’s the news?

What’s the news?

18 April 1930 will go down in history as the day the BBC decided there was no news to report.

During what should have been the 6.30pm news bulletin, the BBC presenter announced: “Good evening, today is Good Friday. There is no news.” A judgement had been made somewhere within the BBC that apparently nothing newsworthy had happened. Piano music was played instead of the current affairs update before normal scheduling was resumed. 

There is no way such an announcement could be made today. The industry of ‘news’ has grown into a multi-billion pound enterprise. Twenty-four-hour news is here to stay with an insatiable appetite to find news and perhaps at times to make news. 

But who decides what news is? Who decides which stories are told and which are forgotten? Who is shaping the news? The Leveson inquiry is examining the culture, practice and ethics of the media, particularly the relationship of the press with the public, police and politicians. The inquiry has dominated the headlines over the first half of this year and has exposed the influence of a small, non-elected group of media executives. One after another, we have seen the leading politicians of our day (including the last four prime ministers) having to explain their relationship with News International and the pressure they have felt to seek its support. These politicians were convinced that if the Sun or the Times turned against them, their election chances could be fatally damaged. 

As I reflect on this news phenomenon together with so much other media that I am bombarded with day in and day out I come to the conclusion that I am being manipulated. My worldview is being shaped and moulded by people I have never met and probably wouldn’t recognise if I passed them in the street. 

The Apostle Paul challenges his readers in Romans 12:2: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.” 

There is a battle being fought for our minds, our understanding, our view of the world in which we live. There is another way of seeing things than presented in our newspapers and on our TV sets. There are other stories to be told – news announcements with an eternal significance not simply those made at the whim of a journalist, marketing executive, TV or film producer. 

What are the news reports which are being given attention to in heaven I wonder? I am sure there are the big concerns – the conflicts around the world and the injustices which shape our societies which leave so many powerless at the point of starvation; our failure to care for the planet and the fact that there are so many who have yet to hear the wonderful life-changing news of the gospel. But I am convinced alongside the big stories that heaven is interested in the little stories of lives changed, small acts of kindness and of generosity which could so easily be missed on the international or national stage. 

I was recently in my home city of Bradford visiting one of the TLG centres providing education for 30 young people excluded from mainstream education but included and welcomed by this group of Christians. While there I met up with John Kirby from Christians Against Poverty (CAP). He told me statistics of how CAP helped more than 21,104 in 2011 get out of debt and how 500 people became Christians as a result of the charity’s work last year. It currently has 205 church-based debt help centres and well over 1,000 churches running free money management course CAP Money in their community. 

I could go on. So many stories to be told of Street Pastors, Foodbanks, Youth for Christ centres, employment schemes, marriage and parenting courses, schools, academies, prison ministries, drug rehabilitation programmes, support for those with disabilities, children, young people, the elderly – churches all over the country caring for their communities, reaching out with God’s love and of course individuals going about their daily lives at work, in their neighbourhood among their friends and families, determined to be agents for good to the people who surround them. 

Our media team here at the Evangelical Alliance are passionate about telling these other stories, to present some news with a difference. So if there are stories that are not being told where you are please let us know via stories@eauk.org and maybe the Inspire awards are an opportunity for you to highlight what God’s doing among people you know. Visit our website for details of how to apply.

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