Seven tips for reading the news

Image: Seven tips for reading the news

Is the news trying to inform you, or entertain you? How do we respond as Christians to what we see?

When we want to know what's going on in our world today, we often turn to the news. Either on TV, the net, or in a newspaper, the news is the main way we all try and get a picture of the latest happenings across the globe.

But, how do we read the news in a way that’s healthy? How do we, as Christians, react to the news?  Here’s my opinion:

1. Keep the right mindset

I hate to start off with a “Sunday-School” answer, but I think it’s true. When we dig into the news, we are tempted to believe that our fate lies in the hands of people other than God. That’s obviously not true.

God controls our destiny, and that includes our short, short time on this earth, and our eternity in the New Jerusalem. While we’re here, our focus should be on the worship and service of God, and the souls of the lost which are headed for much more devastation than anything that can be imagined here on earth. After all, earth ends. Eternity doesn’t.

2. Understand the source

As I read through my Facebook/Twitter news feeds, I get the feeling that some people think the news is there to serve them by giving them reliable & straightforward information.

For most news outlets, that’s not true.

First and foremost, news stations are trying to get you to listen because they want to advertise to you during commercial breaks. They want to advertise to you because they make a lot of MONEY for doing that. Therefore, you being informed is not their top priority. You being shocked and curious (and therefore, continuing to watch) is their main goal.

As an intern at a local news station, I sat and listened to Police radios, trying to catch breaking news. I also answered phones where people called in to report what they thought was newsworthy.

If someone called in with a story that would affect a lot of people, but at the same time the Police radio told us a guy stabbed someone at a bar (which affected practically none of us), we would probably focus on the stabbing. Why? Because it held the shock factor needed to keep you from changing the channel! And you know what the headline would have been? “Stay tuned to see why you may not be safe at local bars.”

Don’t get me wrong. The event happened. It is 'news'. It’s legitimate to report on those things. All I am saying is, there is a lot more going on than what is on the news. And you may be getting some of the information important to you, but definitely not all. Most likely it’s the information that will get you to watch so that they can sell your viewership to their advertisers. Just know that.

3. Follow a variety of outlets

For some of you, point number 2 might have been obvious. But even more obvious is the fact that news outlets, especially major news outlets, are incredibly biased. Biased is a fancy word for re-telling a story in such away that promotes your point-of-view. It can also be referred to as lying, or at the very least, leaving out some very important facts.

If you only consume news from an outlet that is bent toward your viewpoint, as tickled as your ears might be, you will never be hearing the full story.

I recommend reading/listening to news from all kinds of different outlets in order to get, to some degree, a more well rounded view of what is actually going on in current affairs.

4. Hold on to facts

When consuming news, it’s easy to hear the spirit of the journalism and skip over some of the facts in a story. If you see a name, a statistic, or a source cited, note it and google it. Learn to recognise information over explanation.

Try to look for facts over opinions.

5. Find and follow independent media

In addition to mainstream media, put at least a few blogs from informed and concerned individuals in your google reader. They may not be famous, they may not be highly paid but they may be just passionate enough to explain some things to you in a helpful way. You would be surprised how much you can learn from people who aren’t trying to sell you something, but rather trying to fight for something they believe in. You may even be surprised what’s out there. There is probably someone covering news as it pertains to your specific neighborhood – I know there is for me.

6. Use what you know

At the end of the day, what we learn in the news should help us glorify God.

For you, this might include understanding how to better care for other people who are suffering. It may help you understand how to pray for the people in your city or country. It may give you discussion points for having conversations with a non-Christian friend. The point is, like anything, we should read the news to the glory of God.

Personally, I use the news to strike up conversations and relate to people as I share the Gospel with them. I try to keep somewhat informed about what is going on so I can keep up with conversation amongst a broad audience in order to show that I am more than just a “Bible thumper” but an informed citizen who puts his faith in Jesus.

7. Know when to turn it off

If you wanted to, you could consume news 24/7 for the rest of your life. Literally. It’s on all day, every day.

News, like anything, must be kept in moderation.

Now, I’m not going to be a legalist. I literally CAN’T tell you what moderation looks like for your life. It’s an issue that will be custom fit to what God has called you and your conscience.

But please, between you and God, set some boundaries. It’s okay to consume news, but it’s not okay for the news to consume you. I go back to point one as I say, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on earth.”

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