Onward Christian Journalist: Evangelicals Want a Place in Mainstream Newsrooms

By Corrigan, Don | St. Louis Journalism Review, June 2006 | Go to article overview

Onward Christian Journalist: Evangelicals Want a Place in Mainstream Newsrooms


Corrigan, Don, St. Louis Journalism Review


At this spring's convention of state collegiate journalists in St. Louis, Shirley Shedd of Evangel University in Springfield was named the Hall of Fame Adviser by the Missouri College Media Association.

Shedd, newspaper adviser for The Lance at Evangel University, is a media professor and has served as vice president of the Association of Christian Collegiate Media (ACCM). Her publishing credentials include articles for the Assemblies of God publications as well as a four-part series on then-Gov. John Ashcroft for Springfield! Magazine in 1984.

At the banquet announcing the award, a speaker giving Shedd's introduction noted her commitment to "graduating 25 years of Christian journalists."

That observation elicited a snide student comment that Shedd's award selection was unfair "because she had Jesus on her side." And that comment later prompted an informal but stern reprimand that students need to be taught to respect people of faith.

More and more journalists, both student and professional, seem to be referring to themselves as "Christian journalists." They also are demanding respect for their self-proclaimed label, as well as for the certain brand of journalism the label implies.

But what exactly does that label imply? And what exactly constitutes a Christian journalist?

"I would have to define a Christian journalist as one who holds an Evangelical or a Judeo-Christian worldview--their journalistic values securely rooted in the teachings of scripture," said John Yeats, a past editor of the Baptist Messenger in Oklahoma, who has written extensively on the topic of the role and responsibilities of the Christian journalist.

"Everybody who writes sees the world through a set of lenses," explained Yeats, also an officer with the Southern Baptist Convention.

"Take the embryonic stem cell issue. The Christian journalist is going to see the story with the perspective that we need to guard against de valuing human life.

"The Christian journalist will see the need for having parameters on what is done in science consistent with belief in God," Yeats added. "A secular journalist is not so concerned about those issues, because there are no absolutes in the secular view."

Shedd of Evangel University said her school tries to teach students that Christian religious beliefs should be integrated into everything they do, including their careers. She explained that for Christian journalists, this means insisting on fairness.

"In some ways, I believe that Christians go to the extreme of being as fair and unbiased as possible--almost to the point of making sure they are not being partisan in what they write and report," Shedd stressed. "Unfortunately, those coming from a more liberal approach don't seem to have that same guiding principle.

"At Evangel, we actually struggle a little with the term 'Christian journalists.' We train journalists who happen to be Christian," Shedd said. "We believe that Christians should be the best they can be in their professions. The fact that they are also Christians should impact their work ethic and quality of work."

No compromise

Shedd said Christian journalists are not required to strictly follow all doctrine, because there can be differences of opinion on doctrine even within the same denomination. There are some issues, however, in which the journalistic perspective should be very clear.

"Issues--such as gay marriage--where the Bible is very clear, Christian journalists would have to make some ethical decisions on how to cover the story," Shedd said. "We tell our students that they need to do a complete, unbiased reporting job on all stories. The challenge would be if a publisher wanted a pro-gay marriage editorial, then the Christian journalist would have to make a decision based on core values."

Christian core values make an editorial favoring gay marriage out of the question, according to Yeats of the Baptist Convention. …

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