- - Monday, January 30, 2017

It’s hard to imagine that Pope Francis and President Trump might have anything in common, but last week they did. The Vatican and the White House both spoke out critically about the media.

It was Steve Bannon’s outburst that got the most press. “The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut!” he said. Trump echoed Bannon’s opinion that “the media is the opposition party, in many ways.”

As might be expected, the Pope’s comments were gentler and more constructive.

“I am convinced that we have to break the vicious circle of anxiety and stem the spiral of fear resulting from a constant focus on ‘bad news,’ ” the pope said in a Jan. 24 message. “This has nothing to do with spreading misinformation that would ignore the tragedy of human suffering, nor is it about a naive optimism blind to the scandal of evil.”

Nevertheless, the pope warned against a media industry that believes good news won’t sell and uses human tragedy and evil as mere entertainment. Back in December the Pope was even more blunt when he said those who focus on muckraking or who spread fake news risked becoming like those who have a fascination with excrement!

I’m with the pope on this issue. News outlets busy themselves in a ring-around-the-rosy with the outrage du jour, while neglecting positive and constructive news.

Here are two items that deserve more media attention, both from the Middle East. The first is inspiring. The second invites the reader to help.

100 Syrian orphans to be settled in Israel:
Israel’s Interior Ministry approved a plan to bring in 100 children who have survived the civil war and place them with Arab Israeli families. This humanitarian act is planned despite the fact that Syria and Israel are still officially at war with one another. “The situation in Syria is very harsh,” Interior Minister Deri said. “Civilians have been slaughtered for years only a few dozen kilometers from Israel.”

World Food Program needs funds to feed displaced Iraqis:
The World Food Program (WFP) said it had halved the food rations distributed to 1.4 million Iraqis displaced in the fighting with Islamic State, because of delays in payments of funds from donor states. The impact of the cuts is already being felt in refugee camps east of Mosul, where US-backed Iraqi forces are trying to retake the city from Islamic State. One-hundred-sixty people have been displaced since the military campaign began in October. (From Themedialine.org)

With a provocative and media-manipulative man in the Oval office, it is more important than ever for credible journalists to distinguish themselves by being grounded, focused, and clear. We need media that are not distracted by every tweet and murmur, and media that are not easily intimidated. We desperately need less screaming, less echoing, and more thoughtful, wide and deep reporting.
Can journalists stand up to their vital role in this time of chaos and confusion? I hope so. Our democracy depends on it.

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