May your faith be spread like seeds across the earth... September 2002
Faithful Witness
Journal of the Friends Media Project
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Friends Media Watch Challenges For Media Artisans In The Year To Come
                        by Dana Kester-McCabe
"Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.
Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

Jesus of Nazareth - John 14:27

The year ahead of us is not unlike most years. We all make the same kinds of resolutions: to do better work, to take better care of our selves, to treat other people better, to procrastinate less, and so on. For media artisans the challenges this year are significant. With an impending war that could reverberate through out the world, I can almost sense a collective shudder at the thought of how this might impact what we do. And, there is a great deal to be done. There are many issues to be explored and stories to tell. But we are lucky, for most of us will witness tragedy, but will not experience it first hand.

Journalism
Among Friends working in the media, journalists probably have the most obvious and heaviest burdens during this time. First there is the challenge of finding the truth in the stories they cover. With sophisticated and complex campaigns of misinformation (i.e. lies) being disseminated by governments and other groups, this will be no easy task. Not only is the information potentially questionable, but it will surely be hiding something more grim. When a story is not about war, the pressure to get it right will not be any less than it has ever been. But these stories will have greater importance for a public that will quickly tire of daily battle dispatches that will seem more like video games than reality.

Journalists will have a harder time selling their stories to editorial boards if they present material that does not
  
"Drop thy dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease,
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of thy peace.

Breathe thro' the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak thro' the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still small voice of calm."

- John Greenleaf Whittier
reflect the attitudes expressed in audience polls. News organizations have a lot of money invested in their war coverage. Look at their fancy graphics and the inflammatory titles for shows on a war that has not even begun. They cost money to produce. These companies expect a return on their investment. Most journalists would be dismayed if we suggested that their companies had a vested interest in seeing a war go forward. But, ratings go up in times of crisis and that means advertising dollars. While there are initial revenue losses during wall-to-wall coverage of a breaking news event, the returns are great as major stories take on a more suspenseful yet predictable pace. The question should not be "How can I stay in this business?" - but - "How can I make a positive difference as a minority voice in this business?"

Narrative Artisans
Friends have criticized film and television for years for violent antisocial content and more recently for troubling product placement. During wartime these venues become rife with pro-war propaganda. But, there are good stories to be told - stories that not only entertain but enlighten. I suppose if I had a New year's wish it would be for stories presented to mainstream audiences that show positive out comes for good behavior, that show our potential rather than glorify our weaknesses. There are people working to produce just these kinds of shows. I can only hope and pray that the mega-media conglomerates give audiences a chance to support them.

New Media
The Internet has come a long way in the last five years. Technology, though slowed by economic factors, continues to provide innovations allowing for a freer and more accessible press. The line between reliable and disreputable material for the most part, has become clearer. News outlets with established reputations for fair and balanced reporting stand out from fly by night muckrakers. The audience has grown up a little along with the medium. And trustworthy organizations like the American Friends Service Committee, which are not traditionally thought of as news organizations, provide fresh perspectives where the mainstream media has not. There is, however, a lot of work to be done in new media.

The "digital divide" (between those who can afford access and those who cannot) continues to be troubling, though largely ignored. But like television, it is hugely attractive, and there are reports of Third World villages with television and Internet connections via satellite - powered by gas generators - that do not have paved roads or other seemingly more essential modern conveniences. According to the Pew Survey on Society & The Internet: "The Internet has become the fastest growing electronic technology in world history. In the U.S., after electricity became widely available, 46 years passed before 30 percent of American homes were wired. It took the Internet only seven years to reach 30 percent of American households." But there are still folks who are not connected. As an outreach tool for Friends, new media can accomplish much, as long as they continue to use a variety of forms of outreach touching people in all walks of life.

"Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness."

- Chinese Proverb
   Another aspect of new media is computer games. Standing in front of a case of these games, it is very difficult to find anything nonviolent and precious little for girls. Friends have been credited with inventing the game that Monopoly is based on. There is precedence for combining fun and learning about social justice in our society. Rather than boycotting the medium entirely, surely there are some folks out there that can come up with some engaging and entertaining games that do not involve, theft, murder and mayhem. Perhaps some of our Quaker writers could team up with some Quaker programmers. If any of you want to be put in contact with each other - email me at: info@friendsmedia.org

What will all this mean for the artisans of faith, working in any of these areas? It will mean that spiritual discipline, prayer, meditation, worship and support from our communities will be even more valuable. It will be important for journalists, artisans, and their faith communities to reach out to each other, to hold each other in the Light. Audiences should become more demanding of fair, balanced news coverage and better quality entertainment. We need to be informed and responsible consumers. We should contact the media whenever we have serious concerns. Likewise when the media does a good job we should also respond. Everyone likes positive reinforcement. Praying for the news and entertainment media to "get it right" is also not a bad idea.

"To the wrongs that need resistance,
To the right that needs assistance,
To the future in the distance,
Give yourselves."

- Carrie Chapman Catt

Queries
How will you seek support in order to remain steadfast to a calling, work or ministry in the media? How do you address fears about expressing unpopular opinions or ideas concerning faithful matters? What are you willing to risk to communicate Truth as it has been revealed to you? Do you seek innovative ways to sow the seeds of compassion and reconciliation through the media?

Dana Kester-McCabe is a freelance graphic artist, writer and designer from Bishopville, Maryland.


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Copyright 2002 - Dana Kester-McCabe - All rights reserved.
Published with the author's permission by
Faithful Witness - Journal of the Friends Media Project