“There’s only bad news or public relations.”
That was the cynical summary of a well-known TV journalist who gave me and my fellow Seminary students a day of media training at the BBC’s Edinburgh HQ many years ago.
There’s only bad news or public relations.
When he challenged us to argue against his assertion, we came up with multiple examples of “good news.”
“What about a factory winning a large order that will increase employment by 300?”
“Just PR for the business. Not for TV news.”
“What about a policeman rescuing a child that fell in a river?”
“Police PR. No media interest there.”
“House sales doubled last month. Surely that’s good news worth reporting?”
“Nope. Just free advertising for realtors and mortgage brokers.”
No matter what “good news” we suggested, he derided all our ideas as cheap promotional gimmicks, not fit for publication or broadcast.
With such a dismissive approach to anything upbeat and positive, is it any wonder that our media serve us up such an unremitting diet of negativity? It’s just so depressing isn’t it?
But in an age of multiplying and diversifying media sources and resources, we don’t need to accept being force-fed such junk food. Instead we can, and should, feed our minds a diet of words, sounds, and images that’s tilted towards what is good and beautiful rather than bad and ugly. As the Apostle Paul put it:
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things (Phil. 4:8).
Paul was not arguing for unrealistic isolation from the bad news that inevitably fills a fallen world. No, this is not a warrant for monasteries and convents; but it is a warrant, even a demand, that we choose a deliberate imbalance in favor of what is inspirational and wholesome, instead of the media’s general weighting on the side of what is depressing and gross.
Garbage in, garbage out
As Paul explained, our media diet will not only change the way we think, but the way we feel, speak, and act. Hardly surprising, is it? Just as the quality of the food that we put in our mouths affects our thinking, feeling, and doing, so the kinds of words, sounds, and images we put in our ears and eyes will have the same effect. “Garbage in, garbage out, “as they say.
Like the Philippians many of us are habitual worriers (4:6), our minds always racing from one unresolved anxiety to the next. It doesn’t need to be like this. Paul holds out the prospect of an unimaginable and unsurpassable divine peace (4:7) to garrison our hearts and minds, a peace that will patrol the entrances to our emotions and thoughts. But the way to enjoy that peace-patrol is to change our media diet (4:8).
In other words, if we let what is false, offensive, dishonest, filthy, ugly, and loathsome into our minds, we might as well sign up for a course on how to be hyper-anxious. These interlopers drive peace from the garrison, lower the drawbridge, and invite the armies of worry and instability into our citadel.
Good in, good out
On the other hand, if we starve ourselves of that junk, and replace it with what is true, admirable, right, pure, beautiful, and attractive, peace will stand as a sentinel all around our feelings and thoughts, creating an impregnable castle of calm and tranquility. The peace of God and the God of peace will be with you (4:7,9).
Why not start a new diet for a new year and trim the weight of worry and anxiety from your burdened heart and mind?