Post Author: Erica Schemper
A favorite line of shop talk among preachers is that we must preach with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. (This quote is frequently attributed to 20th-century theologian Karl Barth, although trustworthy sources, like Princeton Seminary’s Barth Center, say there’s no proof of this exact quote, just similar statements by Barth.) TYCWP asked young clergy women what sources they use for news.
Young clergywomen, like their Gen X and Millennial peers, are more likely to read the news from a screen than from a paper and ink broadsheet, though. (In fact, we might well be reading our Bibles from a screen, too.) Between the 24-hour news cycle and the speed of modern communication, we know that a sermon written with attention to the news on Thursday night may need editing by Saturday night.
Some of our favorite sources for news are rooted in the oldest forms of news media. The New York Times is very popular among young clergy women, in its web, app, and email formats, if not on paper. The Christian Science Monitor was also mentioned as a source that covers news in such a way as to add “light but not heat” to the world.
Radio is also a popular source, with National Public Radio, local public radio stations, and BBC World Service mentioned. A few of us admit to being “NPR junkies.” (Presumably, we are those who use the news as white noise and forget to turn it off even during pledge drives.)
We watch some TV, though not all of us watch it in a broadcast format. Many of us get perspective on the news from Comedy Central, and are feeling our way through this transitional period for “The Daily Show,” “The Colbert Report,” and “The Nightly Show.” One of our members recommends Comedy Central’s “@midnight” to fill the hole for those missing “The Colbert Report.”
Some of us do catch up with the news via the cable networks, but often by checking in with their web and social media presences. One member recommends making sure to check in with the cable news network you might personally disagree with (in her case, FOX News) if it happens to be one that is popular with the people in your congregation. More that one member points out that Al Jazeera America provides good coverage as well.
When we come across a news topic that we think needs a deeper read, favorite sources include the Atlantic, the New Yorker, Slate, Mother Jones, and the Economist. Sojourners provides a Christian perspective on the news. Haaretz and the Forward each give a Jewish perspective. And one clergy woman notes that Nate Silver’s 538 has helped her use numbers to dispel hand-wringing in her congregation during election seasons. When race is an issue, the Grio, the Root, and Black Twitter are important resources.
But following the news online is like drinking from a firehose: even if you just need a sip, how do you manage the force of a faceful of water? Some of us filter through our Facebook and Twitter news feeds. One member reminds us, if we do this, to be careful that we are friending and following people with a variety of viewpoints: otherwise we might be living in an echo chamber of our own opinion.
Another effective form of curation is to use a Twitter account to follow individual journalists as well as publications and websites, thus aggregating your news sources in one place for a skim through current events.
A few of us mentioned asking partners who have professional reason to be news junkies to point us toward important news items.
Of course, we also need to pay attention to the communities in which we serve. Adding a local newspaper, TV station, of feed from Patch to your social media can provide this information. Local police departments, school districts, or park districts with a social media presence can also help with knowing what’s happening in your own community.
Many of our members advocate for taking a sabbath from the news. Some turn it off and ignore it for a day or two each week (unless, as one person states, her Twitter or Facebook feeds blow up with a specific news item). Others are finding that they can use careful curation of some sort to keep on top of the news without drowning in it.
There’s a good chance our congregations and parishes also struggle with the amount of information available in the news. Keeping our ministerial heads above water, staying current, and always, as Barth did recommend, interpreting the news from the perspective of the Bible, goes a long way in helping our fellow Christians to manage the flood and make sense of the world we live in.
Erica Schemper is a Presbyterian minister serving a Lutheran congregation part time in the San Francisco Bay area. When she’s not trying to keep up with her three kids, she tries to keep up with the rest of the world.
Image by: Gabriel Cenkei
Used with permission