Twelve questions to consider when watching the news

It's very good to see Lars Dahle joining the blogosphere. Lars is Principal of Gimlekollen School of Journalism and Communication in Kristiansand, Norway, where I am now an adjunct lecturer. He's heading up the media and technology stream for Cape Town 2010 (3rd Lausanne Congress). A couple of his early posts have focused on the question of how we engage with the news. He proposes twelve questions to reflect on while watching the news:

We need to actively engage the news. If not, we don’t appreciate the demanding and significant work of the journalists. Nor do we become critically aware of the explicit angles and the underlying perspectives in the news.

I propose the following set of criticial questions when watching, reading or listening to global, regional, national and local news:

  • To what extent did the various news stories engage you, interest you and captivate you? Why?
  • What themes, issues and conflicts are represented in the selected news stories? Why do you think those have been chosen?
  • Which of the stories are highlighted as major news? How and why?
  • Which sources and interviewees have been selected in the major news stories, as far as we can tell from the published news? Why do you think those persons have been selected?
  • Which perspectives and angles have been chosen in the editorial introductions, the actual interviews and in the graphic presentations? Why do you think these journalistic and editorial decisions have been made?
  • Whom do you identify with in the major news stories (if any)? Why?
  • Would you describe the major news stories as essential and important? Why? / Why not?
  • What kind of essential areas, topics and perspectives are missing in these news stories (if any)? Why? To what extent may this be representative for the news industry?
  • What kind of professional and personal values do you discover among the journalists in the major news stories? To what extent do you identify with these values? Why? /Why not?
  • If the Christian faith, Christian organizations or Christian individuals are covered in the news stories, how are these portrayed? Why?
  • To what extent did the news stories leave you with a sense of involvement, hope, excitement, indifference, despair – or maybe with a mixture of such feelings? Why?
  • How do a classical Christian view of humanity and the world help us to understand the wider context of the major news stories?

It's a very helpful framework, not just for watching television news, but for reading the newspaper or engaging the news in any other context.

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The Tony and Jane Watkins Trust oversees and supports the ministries of Tony and Jane Watkins in Christian training, education, and communication. It is a charity registered in England and Wales, no. 1062254.
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