Mainstream, Mainline, Main Thing


December 20, 2016

The mainstream media has taken a beating from commentators who consider themselves something other than mainstream in the past year. As a journalist and truth seeker, I feel obliged to come to their defense. I believe the members of “the mainstream media” are honest and work hard to provide legitimate stories. 
    
In a year of politics, sometimes focus will fall more on one candidate’s scandals than another, and this may indicate some bias or lack of fairness. That isn’t good, but it’s also not presenting false information. People have a lot of news judgements to make, and of what or how much to cover a certain topic is common newsroom debate, and is debated, rightfully so, by those who are consuming the news. 
    
Mainline denominations are in decline. It’s a fact. You can read any Barna study or a number of other analyses and come up with plenty of statistics to back it up. Yet, in my job, I come into contact with vital churches all the time. You can read about them every month in this magazine. The majority of churches may be in some form of decline, but there is a minority of vital churches that seem to have a very bright future ahead. 
    
Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, said the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. Larry Fagan often reiterated this during his time as Missouri Conference Lay Leader, reminding people that, as United Methodists, the main thing is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. For those who are keeping the main thing the main thing, other problems matter less. 
    
Getting back to my original defense of the mainstream media, when I say I trust the media, I’m talking about journalists, covering news, for newspapers, television stations and radio. The stuff we see on the Internet is largely a different matter. Post election, you may have heard that George Sorros hired people to protest president-elect Trump and bused them into key locations. The story was everywhere, but it never happened. It started with someone taking a picture of a bunch of buses lined up for a convention and assuming protestors were being bused in, and then it built from there. Recently, one of the other United Methodist Conferences in our own South Central Jurisdiction had to counter a fake news story about United Methodist Churches being converted to virtual mosques and used to harbor potential terrorists. It was a work of fiction that named real churches in order to seem more real. 
    
I see a lot of false news shared via social media by people who should know better. Please consider the following before you click on that Share button:

  • As a general rule, when you feel compelled to share news on social media, I would suggest that you consider sharing news from mainstream media news outlets and from the news section, not the commentators. It is much more valuable to your cause. 
  • When sharing, take care to make sure what you’re sharing is not from a site disguised to look like a newspaper. If it has a url like www.nbc.com.co, it’s not NBC. There’s an extra co there, and the site has nothing to do with the television network NBC. 
  • Check things out at www.snopes.com, which does a fine job of taking apart lies gone viral. Don’t trust a post that says “Snopes says this is real.” It’s a new common tagline on fake news.
  • If you find you’ve shared something on social media that contains false information, immediately take down the post, and then post an apology for spreading misinformation – without repeating the misinformation.  
As for our part, here in the mainstream of the Missouri Conference, in the middle of mainline Protestantism, we will do our best to keep bringing you real stories of United Methodists in Missouri who are keeping the main thing the main thing.