Breaking the news

My first realization of how media technology is changing came in 1999. Word reached The Christian Index office in Atlanta (where I was managing editor) that pastoral care pioneer Wayne Oates had died in Louisville.

It would be a story that our staff would edit and place in the next print edition of the historic Baptist newspaper.

Later that morning, I headed down Interstate 75 to do a series of stories on how the loss of family farms was impacting people of faith. Exiting at Cordele, Ga., my trip took me to some very rural communities in South Georgia.

My first stop was a visit with Ray Coleman, then a pastor near Pitts, Ga., the heart of watermelon country. Knowing that he was a graduate of Southern Seminary where Dr. Oates had taught, I passed on the sad news.

Ray responded: “I know, I saw it online this morning.”

It took me back. News had reached the watermelon patches as quickly as the newspaper headquarters.

The realization was amplified during the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant nearly one year ago. My colleague Tony Cartledge and I left the newsroom at nearly 11:00 PM one night to go to dinner. We wrote and released a story about novelist John Grisham’s address immediately following the session.

In earlier days, we would taken our notes and film back home and included the story in the next edition that would hit mailboxes more than a week later. But time was of the essence now.

Of course, instant news is not necessarily reliable news. A lot of stuff gets passed around without passing through the filter of a trained editor.

However, emerging media technology requires professional journalists to be on our toes. We have to get good stories out more quickly. And our print efforts must be original, insightful and relevant.

No longer is there one approach to gathering and sharing information.

Following Sunday’s runway accident in Denver, one survivor (of the plane that veered off track and burst into flames) went right down the emergency slide and into the airport where he posted his eye-witness account on Twitter via his cell phone.

An AP story carried in many newspapers yesterday was partially based on this man’s posts. Reporting the news ain’t what it used to be.


  1. John,

    You said,

    “pastoral care pioneer Wayne Oates.”

    After 1900+ years of Christianity how can one man be a “pioneer” in the area of pastoral counseling? This statement reflects typical modernist arrogance. Of course, I understand that what you really mean is that Mr. Oates was a pioneer in the bastardization of the Christian ministry with modern psychological philosophy.

    You said,

    “Of course, instant news is not necessarily reliable news. A lot of stuff gets passed around without passing through the filter of a trained editor.”

    Uh, and news filtered through a “trained editior” is always reliable? This statement reflects typical media arrogance – like we, the masses, need our information filtered by some know-it-all who, when he was a wet-behind-the-ears pup decided it was his divine calling to give his opinion to the general public every day!


    Mark Osgatharp
    Wynne, Arkansas

  2. Mark-
    By peeking through the pinhole with both eyes, you can’t see that not all truth is captured by a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible.
    Indeed, Dr. Oates was both a pioneer and a giant in the pastoral care movement that is valued by so many but was rejected by those (like you) who currently run Southern Seminary.
    And while journalists (like all professionals) vary in their skills and integrity, it is nonsense to suggest that most professional news organizations do not benefit from a process that leads to more reliable information than a chain letter passed around by email.
    Glad you got to laugh out laugh out loud however. It’s good for your soul.

  3. Between you two, I got to come down on JPierce’s side on this one.


    And I suggest after Christmas before 2009 if you need a good movie to watch, get the DVD of the Australian Western The Proposition.
    Good poetry and “superbly crafted” as one of my elite friends said.

  4. John,

    You said,

    “Dr. Oates was both a pioneer and a giant in the pastoral care movement…”

    But Paul said,

    “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”

    And Hebrews says:

    “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.”


    “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”

    Above all, Jesus said,

    “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

    These Scriptures, among many others, make it clear that there is a chasm as wide as the sea between fundamentalism and modernism.

    I would also note that the generation which followed on the heels of Mr. Oates revolution in the area of “pastoral counseling” is the era that saw the rise of the staggering filth of a “same sex unions” among Baptist people. Go figure.

    Mark Osgatharp
    Wynne, Arkansas

  5. Mark-
    You and your buddy St. Paul always win out here. Calling gay couples “staggering filth” is some that Christian love you picked up from the Apostle in 1 Corinthians 13, I guess.

  6. John,

    You said,

    “Calling gay couples ‘staggering filth’ is some that Christian love you picked up from the Apostle in 1 Corinthians 13, I guess.”

    Let me see if I’m following your reasoning here: since Paul said we ought to love on another that means it is unloving to define “same sex unions” as filth? So how far do you carry that method of exegesis? Does that mean that three way unions are not staggering filth? Does that mean it is unloving to call rape staggering filth?

    When Paul defined Christian love he included these elements: it “does not behave unseemly” and “rejoices not in iniquity.” Since sodomy is unseemly an iniquitous that means it is unloving to practice it or rejoice in those who do. Therefore it is perfectly consistent with Christian love to define “same sex unions” as staggering filth.

    Lest you accuse me of mis-defining “unseemly” behavior, let Paul speak for himself:

    “Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.”

    This explicitly describes homosexuality as unclean (filthy) and unseemly (and therefore unloving). Well did Jude speak of your sort when he said,

    “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.”

    Mark Osgatharp
    Wynne, Arkansas

  7. Mark,

    Can you tell me of a sin that is not “filth”?

  8. John,

    You said,

    “Can you tell me of a sin that is not “filth”?”

    No sir, I cannot. So why has homosexuality been singled out as the sin that is to be respected, approved of, applauded and sanitized?

    You know full well that the push for homosexual unions and homosexual rights is not about showing love for sodomites as sinners. In fact, those on the right who are involved in discussing the issue on a political level have gone out of their way – to the point that it is sickening – is expressing their “love for the sinner while hating the sin”.

    What the advocates of homosexual unions and homosexual rights are fighting for is the full acceptance and approval of homosexuality – and for that matter bisexuality which by definition is non-monogamous – as non-sinful, normal and morally clean behavior.

    True Christians will ever hold out the hope of forgiveness and deliverance for every type of sinner while ever acknowledging our own filthy sinful condition. We will never consent to call evil good and good evil.

    Mark Osgatharp
    Wynne, Arkansas

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