A really good thing would be if the American Church got truthful news and information, and then used that to vote. Dreaming? No, not dreaming. It can happen and this comm is to that end.
Good afternoon dear pastors, Joan here to make exactly that happen.
There’s so much that we need to know about the media to be truly media savvy…how to work with them, talk to them, understand that they are, after all, very human. They can seem extremely powerful and infallible. The first is true…the latter is not. Because what they write, what they broadcast, what they say goes out so far, truly broad-cast, the media does have an outsized platform…that’s the power. The infallible part is that they’re driven by tremendous pressures…money pressures, time pressures and pressures from a lack of information. So while I could write you a book on what you need to know about the media, here’s just a piece, albeit an important piece of what you need to know going into this election year.
It’s a presidential election year and the media is working hard to extract stories from the campaign trail to tell you and thrill you. As a long time media strategist and media interview trainer, I’ve watched the media through many elections and here offer you the best of my thinking and experience to enable you to figure those folks out.
Whenever I’ve had the chance to meet some of you, so many mention our U.S. media as a culprit in weakening the Church. I agree. Can’t control them, but surmounting bad reporting by knowing how to extract truth from the media is a powerful skill, and we want you to have it.
Side benefit; when Church leaders know how the media operates and are able to get truthful information out there, it dis-enables bad reporting. No audience.
So we want that, especially now when we’re deciding nominees then a winner. Lindsey Communications has provided media strategy and training for over 30 years to high profile individuals and organizations and I’ve seen the difference it makes to their success when they gain insight into the media’s own operational strategies and their internal pressures.
What follows is to give you that insight which will help you discern the best media choices…
To begin; you’ve noticed the shift away from straight factual reporting into entertainment. Anchors look good, personality matters, and fun features may be included. With the immense number of ways a consumer can access news, each outlet tries to make it interesting in order to grab you and keep you. That translates to dollars for them and dollars to pay for staff. More cameramen, reporters, researchers, techs means more stories which in turn increases the chance for more audience, and the cycle goes on.
Edgy, shocking, visual, human stories thrill us; they elicit an emotional reaction which keeps us there. Now you can understand how the news might be skewed toward thrilling you and maybe some accuracy is sacrificed.
News outlets are imperfect; not just imperfect in their accuracy, but in their preparation (hurried, low staff), and imperfect in their autonomy (often using other outlets’ stories and old information on file). Also which stories are run with may be decided by big breaking news that subsumes an otherwise important story.
Yikes - how does any normal reporting ever happen, with all that going on!? Add in ambitious reporters who wittingly or unwittingly light up a story that doesn’t warrant the push. And maybe mix in a whole blob of personal pov’s and you see the filters any facts go through until the end result which may not be exactly a factual balanced report. Increasingly those pov’s reflect one political aisle more than the other.
Here are some ways they do it…
Watch how a reporter asks a question. Common strategies to twist answers are to offer two bad choices; “Are your views really that narrow? Or are you simply uninformed?” And watch for shock/disbelief/disapproval on a reporter’s face as they lead the viewer’s reaction. These are shaping strategies as the reporter seeks to shape your opinion either for or against the person being interviewed.
Other ways to shape a story are to omit certain details, to amplify others, to select glowing words to attach to certain ideas or the opposite.
And then there are images. Pictures can definitely shape our opinion. Just look up Michael Dukakis and you’ll see how his presidential campaign was ruined. One visual did it. Images are ultra powerful and the media knows it very well. They select a person to interview whose physical looks fit a narrative they like, for good or ill. (It’s so important for men and women in the church to be mindful of messages sent by dress and grooming especially with any kind of public profile.). But when you’re consuming news now be aware of the story within a story shaping your opinion by the visuals presented.
Another shaping strategy; reporters know how to use their voices to express confidence and assurance, certainty and authority. A savvy media consumer looks past that, past all of this and discerns truthful content.
And where do we find truthful content? Well I went to the top, to our country’s foremost knowledgeable authority on the news outlets out there and how good a job they do in their reporting. Disclosure; I am on the board of the Media Research Center which is America’s premier media watchdog. I asked my dear friend and colleague Brent Bozell, founder and President of the MRC to point us to the best, trusted sources. Here’s his counsel:
Let's preface this exercise by granting that "news" in the traditional meaning of the word is dead. Market demands and financial realities have moved us into the infotainment space, a combination of news, entertainment, information and commentary all rolled into one. (Example: I can't think of a single news program on television that doesn't incorporate all four elements.) So what follows is not news in its pure sense but the closest we can come to that. I am not prioritizing, just listing.
Newspapers are but a whisper of what they once were. The public has gone to video and the cost of paper has become exorbitant. Still, there are entities out there that have outsized influence. Most, if not all, have online editions that include more information.
1. The Washington Times. It's quite slimmed down, but I read it daily and can tell you it's excellent. It reports stories correctly, but also breaks stories regularly. Sadly, it doesn't get the exposure it deserves. But for me it's the best paper in America. In fact, it's the only news outlet I can think of that bucks the "infotainment" trend.
2. The New York Post. It’s gone into the real news business, especially on the investigative side, with some top shelf reporters. It was the Post, for example, that broke the Hunter Biden story.
3. The Epoch Times. This paper came into being about a decade ago. It's thing is not so much investigative journalism as it is solid news reporting. People like to suggest it's a far right paper, and it may focus on news of interest only to a small market of conservatives, and yet I cannot recall anything they've done that's been determined to be wrong.
Sadly, there's very little news on television anymore, unless it's a major breaking story (January 6, October 7, the start of the Ukraine war, etc.). It's gone into the commentary mode, because that's what the market wants. With that said…
4. Fox News. The most popular shows are “The Five” and the “Jessie Watters Show.” With all due respect to them, they contain gossip, but that’s what the market wants. If you want news, Brett Baier's newscast (6 PM East Coast Time) is the place to go. It’s not all "Breaking News" but when there is real breaking news, Fox is the place to go. But here's something fun. If you want to get a bead on what will be the news story of the day, watch "Fox and Friends" in the morning. The overall best show is Levin's weekend show. More on that in a minute.
5. Newsmax. It made a strong run after the 2020 election. Its ratings shot up, but have now come back down to a rather distant second place behind Fox News. Still, it is quite popular with some conservatives who see it as more populist than Fox. There's not as much reporting as there once was, and still lots of re-runs of interesting documentaries because they don't have the resources to populate their programming 24/7. Still, they're worth watching.
6. OAN. It was an excellent network, but they have since waned.
7. The BBC. Yes, you read that correctly. They are liberal, especially in their coverage of things in the United States, and that seems to be their primary focus. But their strength is coverage of international news. When you consider how important the international scene is today, it's imperative to know about it. Where international news is concerned, the BBC is quite good and I go there.
One reason Rush Limbaugh was king: while his commentary was excellent, it was based on a correct interpretation of real news. With that in mind:
8. Sean Hannity. He is number one in audience, and it's not just because he has great guests but also because he covers news every single day. Now, reality check: It's only one or two or max, three stories repeated every few minutes. But that's talk radio: everyone does it now.
9. Mark Levin. Of the popular conservative talk shows, Levin is the most serious and most intellectual. He will cover the important news of the day if a political issue, and especially if a political issue in the legal space, he'll do a deep dive into the Constitutional issues surrounding it. Listeners come to understand the "why" of a story's importance far better listening to Mark than to anyone else. Something else. As opposed to everyone else, both in television and on radio, Mark encourages his guests to take all the time they'd like formulating their responses - a blast of fresh air and why I enjoy appearing on his program more than anyone else's.
The newspapers outlined above have online appendages, but there are numerous online news outlets that don't have paper equivalents.
10. Daily Wire. These people are interesting because a) they have plentiful resources, a product of an excellent business plan; b) it has attracted great talent in Ben Shapiro, Matt Walsh and the like; and c) they have great news, great information, great commentary, and - and this is becoming their signature - great comedy. They are still relatively new, and filled with relatively young people, so they have their growing pains.
11. Daily Caller. This is Tucker Carlson's outfit. It seemingly was more prominent a few years ago, breaking more stories with more investigative journalism, and I can’t explain why it’s fallen back. Its news product is good, and even if reduced, it's investigative operation, mainly through the Daily Caller Foundation, is excellent.
12. Breitbart. Breitbart continues to thrive with a full-throated news network. One could criticize it by saying its news focuses too much on politics, with too much commentary in its stories that is in itself projected as news; and with too much entertainment fluff. Probably all true. Still. There's excellent stuff here and the reader can see it.
13. Daily Signal. This is the Heritage Foundation's news site. Good stuff here, but limited. I sense more resources are going to go into it, so it'll grow nicely and professionally - because it's the Heritage Foundation.
It seems everyone has his own podcast (this writer excepted) these days, but there are a few that will give the listener a good understanding of the news. I profess not to be learned enough to offer an opinion, but there has to be a reason why Ben Shapiro and Charlie Kirk are far and away the most popular. Podcasts are the longest of long form journalism so the listener does get an in depth understanding of news stories.
- I probably overlooked good outlets, and apologize. Conversely, there are outlets listed above that may not have made the list two years ago.
- This is a fluid list. A few years ago you'd have found the Drudge Report on anyone's list because of its seemingly dispassionate news aggregation effort, offering dozens of headlines from dozens of different news outlets on a daily basis. Then it went anti-Trump. Today it's anti-Trump on steroids, and it has lost its cache.
- Two years from now it is guaranteed that this list will be different, with some of these gone, and some new ones coming out of nowhere. The communications industry is evolving at a lightning-fast pace (two years ago no one had ever heard of Tik Tok, yet today it dominates social media world wide) and there is no telling what outlets, and what new technologies will emerge.
- I predict within five years there will be a new conservative news network. There is a huge market opportunity here.
- Keep an eye on "News Nation," a new network out there. Its owners insist they want to be balanced. We should not immediately dismiss them because they’re new. Time will tell.
- With one exception, if anyone tells you social media is where one finds news, flog him. Social media is a necessary evil, especially if you want to reach the young, but at best it provides only information. The exception? X. All news is projected through X today, which is to say that anyone who has a news story promotes it on X with a tweet (or whatever it's called today). If you're on social media, X will provide you news.
- And, finally, A.I. This may change everything. In fact, it will change everything. There is no telling, none whatsoever, where we will be in the world of communications in ten years, even without AI. But when you throw this new technology into the mix, I will venture to say that nothing can be safely predicted two years from now. So for now, I stand by what I write - barely.
My heartfelt thanks to Brent for this brilliant counsel. Knowledge is power, and everyone in the country, especially those of us for whom faith plays a key role in our lives, should be looking to the best sources of truthful reporting that are available to us. Most of us have neither the time nor the expertise to extract a list such as Brent has just given us. How important is this? Well here’s Chad with some boots on the ground stories of just how this is playing out in real life.
Joan Holt Lindsey, Founder and President of Lindsey Communications
We are blessed to have among us on our “Church Finds Its Voice” team, a media expert with years of experience in messaging, presentation and approach—Joan! While Joan is really good at all of this, most pastors and faith activists have had little or no experience in this arena—and probably more stressing than that—really don’t understand the media or the very different worldview they hold.
As we’ve articulated in these emails, the presidential primary in the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, have thrust some of our pastors into a huge spotlight. While they did great, and some of those guys even appeared on network TV doing interviews, it’s much better to be prepared ahead of time than to have a microphone pushed into your face when the cameras are rolling!
There’s no one more capable in the Christian space than Joan for training folks and helping them prepare for media opportunities. We must understand the media's angle and their different worldview. I did dozens of TV interviews before I could grasp that a significant number of the media folks deeply disagree with our faith and values. Understand that everyone has a worldview, and the media has an agenda in their questions and stories. They ask the same questions of multiple people, and they ARE prepared. They do tend to put evangelicals in a bad light and primarily, it’s because they just have not been around regular churchgoing, Bible-believing Christians. Their angle comes from what they’ve heard and from the echo chamber they live in --comprised mostly of other media types.
I did a German TV interview in Iowa last week the day before the Caucuses. Along with some of the other interviews pastors and I participated in, I thought it was representative of this point.
I definitely respected them for coming out in subzero temperatures with wind chill temps below -20! I also respected all those pastors for keeping their churches open with that weather for the folks who could make it out. The German TV guys weren’t just unfamiliar with us, one of them admitted to me it was the first evangelical church he’d ever visited. They had a preconceived notion of what we believe, and I had to explain that yes, committed Christians indeed, do care deeply about life and traditional marriage, but that we care about inflation and runaway spending, and Israel dealing with the horrific Hamas atrocities, and the drugs and human trafficking being enabled by the wide-open southern border. I didn’t let them get away with making us monolithic and predictable…we all must know the media’s approach and angle and be prepared to push back and stand for truth!
Chad Connelly, Founder and President of Faith Wins
So you can see how powerful the media is, and in fact, we’ve watched the media report in efforts to keep candidates off of the ballot or to swing the opinion of their audiences one way or another politically. From a legal point of view, has the media had occasion, wittingly or unwittingly, to promote illegal or unconstitutional points of view? Here are attorney Brad Dacus’ thoughts…
Taking people off the ballot is common in authoritarian countries like Iran and North Korea but the tactic has never been attempted against a leading Presidential candidate in the United States or any other candidate running for office, until now. In a nation where the Left controls large corporations and media, the masses have falsely justified their efforts to remove candidates from the ballot, namely conservatives.
Persuasion of voters is the essence of a political campaign. Advertising, theme songs, speeches and even negative campaigning have been around since our country began and each advance in technology since then has offered new opportunities for candidates to persuade voters.
With that comes the blatant misrepresentation of facts that can be both harmful to a true election but down right illegal as it pertains to fair election laws. Elimination or blocking of a valid candidate due to political differences and misleading accusations is a line that cannot be crossed. This atrocity of justice which is quickly becoming more prevalent in our elections must be stopped.
It is my legal opinion that all of these cases are brought in bad faith, are frivolous, and themselves constitute examples of illegal election interference. Let’s pray that the use of lawfare comes to an end. After all, its continuations may be fatal to our democratic republic.
Brad Dacus is the Founder and President of Pacific Justice Institute
Hello to you all, Kielle here, and fully into Presidential election data mode…one of my favorite things in which to immerse myself. I love a good Presidential election, and this one is going to be a battle for every vote. The media plays a vital role in this fight, and knowing what sources to trust is critical.
The data is already showing us that voters are still reliant on traditional news media, but are increasingly also looking to digital media for information, meaning the influx of info is vastly expanded. Did you know, there are over 3 billion users on Facebook, 2.4 billion users on Instagram, 1 billion on TikTok, and over 556 million active users currently on X!! All sharing different information, from varying sources, mixed with a whole lot of personal opinion…it’s an astronomical amount of material to sort through let alone attempt to determine credibility of those messages.
Voters want info..they are searching for what's real! And the Church is the perfect source to offer truth to these billions of seekers. The Church’s voice, utilizing trusted media sources straight from the expert, Brent Bozell, is what we can all rely on during a time in which the battle for voters’ attention, opinions, views and votes is at an all time high.
Kielle Lindsey is the President of the Lindsey Foundation
As always, we are standing with you and are praying for each of you and yours!
-Joan, Brad, Chad and Kielle
Your Church Finds Its Voice Leadership Coalition