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I Object To Your Objectivity
Tim Stafford's review of Marvin Olasky's Telling the Truth: How to Revitalize Christian Journalism (July/August), while championing fairness and objectivity in the traditional journalistic sense, proceeds to turn Olasky's argument into a cartoon devoid of nuance and dimension. Dismissing directed reporting as "Old Testament journalism," Stafford accuses Olasky of arrogance in claiming the ability to determine the "God's-eye view" of most issues. In fact, how-ever, Olasky presents six categories of issues in descending order of certainty. Only "class one" issues include an "explicit biblical embrace or condemnation." Every other class allows for some measure of disagreement among Christians seeking to apply biblical principles to twentieth-century life.
As an example of Olasky's arrogance, Stafford includes the following quote: "Biblical ob-jectivity means supporting the establishment and improvement of Bible-based education, and criticizing government schools." What he fails to mention is that Olasky is illustrating a class-two issue, one with only an "implicit biblical position." Just before the controversial quote, in fact, Olasky nuances the issue: "Even though there is no explicit biblical injunction to place children in Christian or home schools, the emphasis on providing a godly education under parental supervision is clear." Does this change the conclusion? No, but it does perhaps help to provide a flesh-and-blood portrait of Olasky rather than a caricature with a god-complex.
As a national correspondent for World magazine (which Olasky edits), I can testify that the values of directed reporting--while they may clash with traditional conceptions of media objectivity--do not preclude really listening to interview sources, as Stafford would suggest. Rarely, in fact, am I given the spin before I begin my reporting. Standard operating procedure is to begin probing and "see what turns up."
Recently, for instance, I was in Southern California ...