FOX NEWS GOT IT WRONG
Folks, this may come as a shock, but you cannot believe everything Fox News, CNN, MSNBC or even your local newspaper tells you. Would you like to know some RED FLAGS to look for that can quickly give you clues about the reliability of an article? That’s what I want to talk about today.
Last week Fox News ran an article by Tim Scheiderer about Wheaton College that was a piece of TRASH. It was nothing more than a GOSSIP column. A lot of news these days is. I graduated from Wheaton, but I am not their biggest fan. However, I’m not their enemy either.
Too often Christians fall for outright lies and salacious half-truths and then forward them on as truth. Sometimes Christians are incredibly GULLIBLE, because we tend assume that other people are truth tellers. Do you really think that is wise in a secular culture? Jesus said we are to be as shrewd as snakes.
My goal today is not to trash the reporter who wrote the article, but to use his article as a platform to help Christians ask better questions about what they read in the news every day.
During the 80’s while I was in politics, about 50% of the stories I read where I personally knew the facts, were in error factually. That doesn’t include any additional bias, slant, innuendo, or spin. Just the facts. Today, with the speed of the news cycle, it’s even worse.
I am going to start by talking briefly about some of my experiences at Wheaton College, so you know where I am coming from, and to help put the story in context. Then I am going to give you FOUR QUESTIONS to ask in light of the Fox News article. 3 are general questions you can ask about any article. 1 is more specific to this article but can be applied to many other articles as well.
My experience at Wheaton was very mixed. I got a parasite in the Soviet Union and had to drop out for 2 years. Fortunately, they let me back in. I got sideways of many of my professors senior year because I openly challenged them in class. I had six others friends doing likewise in their classes. We were sick and tired of all the cow poop in the classroom. Actually, it was kinda fun. That may be telling more about me than I should, But, Oh Well….
There were two types of professors we would openly challenge:
- Professors who were incompetent.
- Professors who clearly violated the Statement of Faith.
Economics professor: “Raising taxes is not disincentive to production.”
Poli Sci professor: “Disarm unilaterally and plant poppies on the desert.”
Sociology professor: “Best economic system is a ZERO GROWTH economy.”
Bible professor who disregarded the statement of Faith — in class.
Professor who taught the HNGR Program: Motto: “Live simply so that others can simply live.” They used it as a blunt force weapon, “If you don’t feed the poor, we doubt you are a Christian.” e.g. Doug Comstock story – leather jacker
GUILT TRIP THEOLOGY. An appeal to guilt, not compassion. Just like the term “White Privilege,” today. Both try to manipulate you by GUILTING you.
On the positive side: I was president of CR my junior year. Brought RR to campus. That was when I was still a loyal Republican.
But, to this day I love RR.
Professor who taught me to write. Paul Fromer. I would love to go back and take a refresher course.
WRB question: where did you learn to write?
Good friends who loved Jesus.
Smart friends who in the evenings dissected what we were being taught in the classroom.
Wheaton College was not perfect then. It is not perfect today. But this article is a GOSSIP column. It is sloppy journalism. It is trash.
Matthew 10:16 “Be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”
So, let me use this article to give you a few tips about FOUR shrewd questions you can ask when you read news articles. I am not going to bore you by going back and reading through the original article. I’m simply going to use the article as a jumping off point to ask some helpful questions which you can use. You can go back and read the article/gossip column for yourself.
1) What do I know about the REPORTER?
You need to start getting familiar with the reporters you get your news from. Not just the ones you see on TV, but the ones you read. Each time you read an article, intentionally take note of who wrote it. Of all the articles you have read in the last week or two, can you name the person who wrote even one of them?
In this specific case, meaning the Wheaton article, apparently, the reporter initially claimed to be a writer for the WSJ. He made that claim in writing, via a text. When later pressed on the issue, he admitted he was a freelance reporter. That tells me two things:
- First, truth-telling is not this reporter’s highest value.
- Second, he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer: only an idiot lies in print.
Once I know that, I must question the veracity of everything such a reporter writes. If I don’t, I’m the idiot.
2) Does the reporter provide the SOURCES for his information?
If the reporter consistently leaves out his sources, BEWARE! That is a HUGE red flag. This guy left out his sources right and left.
IF he had solid, reputable sources, you know he would have stated so. But he did not.
Story: Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger by Ron Sider. I was skeptical, but I wanted to be open minded. After the first two chapters…. He did not give sources for his information. That told me what I needed to know.
3) What is the OTHER SIDE of the STORY?
Proverbs 18:17 “There are two sides to every story. The first one to speak sounds true until you hear the other side and they set the record straight.
Statement from Wheaton College President Ryken. – The other side of the story. Or as Paul Harvey used to say, “The rest of the story.”
If you read the article, definitely go read Ryken’s statement. He directly refutes some of the article, and calls other parts into question, and refers you to other helpful information, such as:
- Wheaton College Statement of Faith that every administrator and professor must sign every year.
- And the Community Covenant .
In light of reading the other side of the story, I am far from convinced that everything the reporter said was entirely false. However, I am convinced that SOME of it WAS false, and therefore I will not accept ANYTHING he says as true without further research. If a person is willing to lie to you once, you have to assume they will lie to you again.
4) WHAT DO THE LEADERS SAY?
In the case of a Christian college or any Christian organization: always distinguish between LEADERSHIP and the rank and file. Between administration & department chairs, and individual professors. Leaders determine the trajectory of an organization. If you want to know the future direction of a Christian organization, listen very closely to what the LEADERS say.
In light of that: did the article ever quote any of the leadership at Wheaton? NO! He referred only to professors. He never even mentioned a single department chair.
There is not a single leader in the Wheaton community that is quoted or referred to. That should tell you something.
On the other hand, when this reporter did refer to specific professors, he, de facto, SEEMED to set them up as representing the entire college. They don’t. Maybe the reason these specific professors are still teaching is because they have tenure. Did you know it is virtually impossible to fire a tenured professor. I saw a lot of those when I was at Wheaton. The College would have loved to have fired a few of them if they could have, but they had tenure.
Never assume any individual professor speaks for the leadership or the institution. I have no doubt some of the professors at Wheaton College have gone rogue. That was the case when I was there. And there’s nothing new under the sun. Always distinguish between the leadership and individual professors.
When Leadership stays the course, that’s not a guarantee, but it makes a huge difference. When Leadership strays off course,
now you’re in deep trouble. Always look at what LEADERSHIP says — and DOES.
As far as I can tell, the Leadership at Wheaton College is still focused on its historical mission. It’s not a perfect institution. I know that from personal experience. But folks, when you read articles like this, don’t believe them until you have asked some tough questions.
P.T. Barnum is reported to have said, “There are two types of people in the world, conmen and suckers. Thank God for the suckers.” You can be shrewd as Jesus commanded, or you can be a sucker. Your choice.
My dad often said the hardest part of his job as the president of Campus Crusade for Christ was getting good information. On a smaller scale, that’s the same challenge you and I face every day.
God’s advice to you is: Be shrewd as a serpent. You can only do that if you ask good questions and get both sides of the story before you make up your mind. Too much gossip gets passed around everyday under the guise of news. Quit spreading GOSSIP. God says it is still a SIN.
God is the issue, in every issue — especially when it comes to being shrewd about the news.
This is Brad Bright. Thanks for joining me today. If you found this podcast helpful, please like, subscribe or share. God Bless.
WHEATON COLLEGE RESPONSE: