Monday, September 13, 2010

Fanning The Flames: The Real Villains

Needless to say, burning or defacing the sacred book of any religious faith is unethical, self-defeating and just plain wrong.

But there is a villain in the recent outburst of publicity over threats to burn the sacred text of Islam. It is not the vast majority of those who practice Islam, nor is it even the attention-getting pastor of the Florida church who got it all started. The villains are those in the media who inflame public opinion, here and abroad, by paying attention to someone who purports to represent a tiny church with less than 100 members.

I agree that if, say, the Methodist Church would decide by a vote of its members, or even all of its clergy, to perform such an act, that would be legitimate news, much as most of us might disagree with it. But to give some weirdo pastor with a tiny church membership an international podium to promote himself is an irresponsible act. I am not talking about censorship (which all of us in the media oppose); I am talking about the responsibility of editorial choice and control.

The bias of the Old Media has been apparent for many years now. It has also accompanied their dramatic decline in readers, viewers and listeners. I am sad to report that some of the New Media have joined in on this sacred book-burning spectacle; albeit they have almost all condemned it which is commendable, but still no excuse for promoting the story.

There are very few persons or institutions which approve of this sacred book-burning act. It is not enough to justify a worldwide sensational story, especially when the fringe persons who perpetrate it are insignificant, and not news. If, as a profession and institution, we cannot demonstrate self-control and good editorial judgment, then eventually there will be those outside journalism who will want to do it for us.

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