I have some explaining to do. I am often asked what I think about various news shows and pundits and when I say “I don’t watch the news,” people are downright dumbfounded. Apparently, it is essential that a Christian be able to recite what O’Reilly, Beck, Hannity, and a host of others from Fox News say daily. I find that odd. Back when I could quote the Simpsons quite proficiently; a show from the same media company; no one ever thought that was fitting with Christian culture. I don’t watch the news…ever, if I can help it. Of course, there are plenty of restaurants and waiting rooms that are happy to show it to me. I’m always grateful for the reminders of why I don’t ever watch the news. However, its such a peculiar stance, I guess I should explain myself.

First of all, please remember that the biggest cable news networks are major entertainment companies. Their stock in trade is getting the viewer to keep watching. They know how to raise your pulse, make you smile, make you cry, make you see red. Further, their entertainment backgrounds drive the news they choose to show. Why is it important what Brad Pitt thinks of BP? Because Brad Pitt is their product. They need us to love or hate him so we’ll keep cheering or jeering him at the box office. Handing the news over to the entertainers has raised the importance of the dancing bears to astronomical levels and placed our civil discourse in the hands of those who prefer the dramatic as to the rational.

Please consider also that these entertainment companies have some technical expertise. Several years ago, I was on staff at a contemporary church. One of my many chores was to create video testimonies of our members. We had no video experts. I have a iMac and know how to use iMovie so it fell to me to edit these things. For one video, I was asked to edit in such a way as to change what the people said. It wasn’t hard to do and it made me wonder, what can the pros pull off. (By the way, I consider that a poor choice on my part. I’ve repented) Seeing is believing, so they say, but how do we know what we are seeing hasn’t been manipulated

So the companies have agendas? So the companies can manipulate how the news is presented? Maybe the problem is as simple as finding the news company which best fits our values? That’s easier said than done. The top three media companies are Disney, Time Warner, and NewsCorp. As news goes, that’s ABC, CNN, and Fox. If you stop to consider everything these massive corporations produce, its easy to conclude that they have no values but one: money. This is why Fox can produce Bible Study fodder movies under Fox Faith, and Family Guy for its Fox TV Network, or the NIV Study Bible under its Zondervan label and the Satanic Bible under one of many HarperCollins labels. Which values are at work in those decisions? The same values at work when it comes to the news: whatever sells, works. By the way, if you don’t think these divisions ever work together (one of the sales ladies at FoxFaith tried and tried to assure me that they don’t), consider this. When O.J. Simpson set out to release his book, “If I did it,” an almost confession to the murder of his ex-wife, this controversial, outrageous news was broken by none other than Bill O’Relly on FoxNew’s O’Reilly Factor. At the time (its changed hands since), News Corp’s HarperCollins published the book. Is this a case of true integrity; blowing the whistle on one’s own company? Maybe, more likely, its grand advertising; an any press is good press approach, disguised as news. Its money that decides what is news and money decides how the news is presented.

The news channels want us to believe it’s about other values. Last week, my family was on vacation which meant a hotel, and that meant cable. We use a ROKU box at home for Internet streaming of TV. Flipping through the news channels (I think we had Fox, CNN, and MSNBC) it was almost laughable to see the feigned emotions all over the map. Outrage and sympathy were as see-through as excitement on an infomercial. See-through or not, its working. Fox has managed to attract an audience for the sake of values. More than one person has told me that it’s the only news for Christians. It’s strange that none other than Fox is now feeding our faith.

So, after seeing that news was being manipulated by those who know how to manipulate, in order to convince the masses that companies with no morals were now moral crusaders, I flipped the switch. Done. I don’t watch the news. No, I’m not uninformed. I read it. There are a number of sources to read the news. Granted, a lot of those sources come from the same place, so I have to be cautious. I have to be a bit suspicious, like I am when Fox Faith calls to sell me a Bible study. I find it a little easier to take in print. By the way, if you don’t believe me, try it. Shut it off for a week. Stick to reading the news. You will be surprised at the difference. Just be ready for the bewildered looks you get when you say, “I don’t watch the news.”