Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry ... Happy ...

Do Local Journalists Believe in Christmas?

Despite the best (or perhaps the worst) efforts of Bill O’Reilly, the Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays debate has not bubbled over this year. Maybe it is a result of the times: The wars, the economy, personal issues. It just has not been an issue. According to Rasmussen Reports (
www.rasmussenreports.com), “… [W]hen consumers do their shopping, 69% prefer to be greeted with "Merry Christmas" rather than "Happy Holidays.”

The O’Reillys of this world might refer to the United States as a “Christian Nation”. It is true that many of the protestant founders of this country fled here to escape religious persecution. Nowadays, according to Rasmussen Reports, “Forty-four percent (44%) of America's adults attend Christian church services at least twice a month, and 92% of these regular churchgoers believe the God of the Bible is the one true God.”

Research and experience tells me that media mirrors society. Certainly, Ike, Katrina, Rita, the Jarrell tornado, and the Memorial Day floods may shake a journalists’ faith. I should say here that my beliefs are well documented, thanks to Eileen Flynn at the Austin American-Statesman. She asked me to contribute to their “faith page” February 24, 2007. If you want to know more, go to
www.newsmcnabb.com and click “Faith” on the menu.

In that essay, I cited the ancient prophet Elijah standing on a mountain, witnessing the destructive winds, earthquakes, and fires of life, but Elijah knew that God was not in them. Elijah was witnessing news. He did encounter a force beyond himself, the “Other.” Elijah left the cave where he had been hiding with a plan. That plan had to do with his world. Perhaps Elijah gained perspective and knowledge beyond himself.

Many others, more than 2,000 years ago encountered the “Good News” or gospel of grace and justice through a man, called God’s son, Jesus. These followers of Jesus also gained perspective and knowledge beyond themselves. They were changed people. They were still dealers in purple cloth, tent makers, and even writers, but they had grasped something else that could make them whole. In this fragmented age, we all need to be whole too. So, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the Christ (or the anointed which roughly means chosen, set apart and made holy).

Looking online at Austin media sites, readers can find the word “Christmas” although “holidays” seem to be written more often. Does this mean anything? Probably not. Are Austin web writers making an effort to be politically correct where possible? Possibly. Does this say anything about the news writers’ own personal believes or lack of beliefs? Probably not.

Knowing newsrooms over the decades, contrary to the preconceived notions of many in the audience, I can report that journalists do mirror society. Newsrooms here in Austin, one of the more pluralistic cities in the nation, are filled with believers. And, yes, their close-to-the-heart beliefs may provide an ethical and moral compass in their decision-making process. Does faith color the news? Does faith “slant”, “skew”, or “spin” the local news? I do not think so.

Every journalist may have formed an opinion about a political issue or candidate, but professionalism and dedication to truth-telling will win out. The same can be said of a journalist’s faith. Further, as I’ve noted in other blogs, the news goes through a thorough vetting process, and any possible prejudices are weeded out.

And in Austin, just as in society as a whole, there is a respect for another’s faith. It makes me joyous when I hear colleagues, regardless of their personal faiths, express with sincerity, “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas.” It is more than just a throw-away phrase said this time of the year. They really mean it. It comes from the heart.

My wish for you: Merry Christmas and highest hopes for 2009!

© Jim McNabb

No comments: