Navigation

A word about this blog

Daily News and Prayer is inspired by The Christian Science Monitor, one of the most important (and most underappreciated) newspapers in the world. Posts are usually (but not always) responses to articles in the Monitor about events and trends that call for prayer.

The blog's aim is to help strengthen humanity's collective confidence that we can triumph over even the most deeply entrenched evils, in ourselves and in the world.

Notifications: If you would like to be notified about new postings, please send an email to kscollins@gmail.com, with "Blog mailing list" in the subject line. I'll be sure to let you know each time a new item is posted.

Note on submissions: If you would like to contribute to this blog, I would be happy to consider your submission. It should be 500 words or less, well written and fit the topic. Read several postings to get an idea of the subject matter and tone. It should also fit the audience, which is general, international and non-denominational.

Please email your submission to me at kscollins@gmail.com. I will get back to you as soon as I can. Please be aware that, while I appreciate the interest and efforts of anyone who wishes to write for the blog, publication is not guaranteed. If I feel your piece is promising but needs revision, I will let you know. Nothing will be published without your seeing the final copy.

« | Main | »
Sunday
Jun142015

The importance of context to prayer-based journalism

An occasional commentary based on Alain De Botton’s thought-provoking book, The News: A User’s Manual, about the role of news in modern society.

De Botton is a Swiss writer and philosopher – a philosopher of daily life, as some have called him. He is dedicated to taking a fresh look at things that we take for granted, and in 2014 he turned his eye on the news.

As de Botton points out, news outlets do readers and viewers a disservice when they communicate information only as a snapshot of today’s events. What about the context? Why did it happen? What does it mean for the future? As de Botton puts it, “We’re standing far too close” to many of the events that shape our world, as if trying to understand a great painting from a few inches away.

This observation is not new, of course. Most journalists today are conscious of the need for context. But it’s hard when the news is rushing by so fast. And it’s particularly challenging for the journalist who is trying to communicate news as a starting point for prayer, as often happens with The Christian Science Monitor.

In order to get the kind of news that is helpful for prayer, readers and viewers need reporters to keep the spiritual context in mind from the get-go. That is, we want them to keep in their mind’s eye spiritual facts, even if the senses say something contrary.

For example, when I was in Iraq a dozen years ago during the US invasion (as an employee of a government contractor) I wrote essays about the experience that were later published in the Monitor. During the experience I tried to understand what it meant to produce prayer-based journalism, and so I prayed silently, looking for spiritual insight about the small slice of life in an occupied country that I was seeing. I discovered a world of beauty and joy, and not a little sadness and fear, that I hadn’t seen initially. The prayer helped me see the sadness and fear as not hopeless. And I discovered changes in myself – more compassion and patience about things around me, and a little less fear.

For me, this was seeking out and understanding the spiritual context of the story. When a reporter communicates that context to readers it can make the story unique and insightful. A small example might be Mark Sappenfield’s article in the Monitor about the fall of Ramadi in Iraq a few weeks ago. (I have not talked with Sappenfield. This is only my response as a reader.) He addressed the fears the event prompted and applied a measure of understanding about the sectarian nature of the conflict. Seeing the battle with the Islamic State as Armageddon-like can be scary and enervating. Seeing it as an inflamed sectarian conflict gives one a handle on how to pray about it. There have been many other examples throughout the Monitor’s history of prayer-based journalism.

Some might see this kind of journalism as biased, antithetical to the objective reporting that for so long was the standard in journalism. As de Botton puts it, “we should perhaps be more generous towards bias.” Trying to be strictly objective (meaning trying to communicate only what the senses say, without judgment or insight) can do a disservice to readers, not only by bleeding the news of color and history, but also by ignoring the world of mental influences that actually determines what happens.

We want as much of the whole picture as possible when we turn to the news – deep insights communicated in a way that is as engaging as a great work of art. Then we can pray with joy and power.

Reader Comments (6)

Me Collins , I am a bit taken aback by your blog. Honestly it has this very odd presentation as an alternative the the newspaper, The Chrustian Science Monitor. Interestingly you have made the parallel quite clear and by quoting its founder , Mary Baker Eddy, as well as the Monitors purpose, and your prayerful interpretations.

I remain terribly uncomfortable with activities like yours for several reasons, primarily you have no added filter or objective editor for your blogging. As a commentator on media I have spoken at length at the ability to create a well designed web site and then write as an insightful expert on issues of the day. The responsible trend is that such writing must have an independent board to validate and hold your assumptions accountable. Specifically you have made it very clear you have close ties to the Christian Science Church. At the same time your writing tends to take liberties with its ideas the Monitor would only do with a process of professional oversight.

You leave the impression you are trying to create an alternative to The Monitor as you create prose that go unedited and can too easily be misconstrued.

Your approach is not unlike other journalists that have attempted to create blogs that were intended to be similar, and in their case replacements , to other media--newspapers explicitly.

I urge you to slow down and rethink your ambitions so that unintended consequences do not occur.

June 14, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRobert

Dear Robert: First of all, let's talk about the fact that YOU need an editor, not Mr. Collins. At least he has a grip on the English language. Don't comment on an English blog if you don't even know how to spell or communicate in the said language. I'd like to know what "Media Organization" you work for. Are you sure it's not an imaginary one in your head? Second of all, Mr. Collins is taking a stance on an issue he believes in. That's what a blog is. The writer of a blog offers his opinion, his stance, his insights. If you want to comment on his article, try commenting on the issue he's addressing: Spirituality in journalism. You know so little about this subject that you resort to speaking in run-on sentences and non-sensical postulations. All you care to comment on is... well, frankly, I can't even tell you because you write English like a 6 year old and I have no idea what your point is. And did Mr. Collins say this blog is a "substitute" for other media? What are you talking about? How is he taking an "alternate" route to the Monitor? He's doing exactly what the Monitor does, inspire journalists to write spiritually. What you're banking on is that people who read your comment aren't smart enough to see you're just a bumbling, bitter troll that wishes to incite a response from Mr. Collins. Mr. Collins has written for the monitor for 20 years, I think he has a grip on what readers of it want. And you speak of a "well designed" website - what in God's name does that have to do with the content you just read? You're all over the place, and you should consult two things before commenting again: 1. A very basic English class. 2. A very basic English class. I know of a few, so if you let me know where you live I can see if I can help you.

June 14, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterVictor Bourdain

Wow!!! Rather reactionary and aggressive and frankly amusing!!! I never suggested I was a writer, neither did I suggest I did not need an editor.

I have been chuckling since your reaction would never be allowed by a newspaper but personal attacks tend to be the nature of unedited blogs. Thank you for making my case in such an effective manner. And, yes, I'm happy to take two English classes.

June 15, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRobert

I'm glad you liked it, Robert. it's always very easy to be combative in the comfort of your own home, you feel like you've made your point in cyberspace, but could you make that point in person? Would you have the guts? When you start a blog I'd love to read it to see what an amazing, insightful, statesman you are. You fancy yourself a "professional" who knows all about newspapers - I'm waiting to hear what media organization you work for?

June 15, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterVictor Bourdain

Victor, I never meant to elicit the degree of animosity that has become posted here. I apologize for causing whatever discomfort I created in my efforts to address an issue that concerned me. I wish you and your endeavors well as you pursue your vision with enthusiasm.

June 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRobert

Hello, Robert. It is noteworthy to me that your initial comment here is the first seen on this newer blog. Congratulations on that. My surmise is that Keith Collins is producing commentaries that are hardly an "alternative" to the Monitor, but serve to supplement and enhance its utility. Appreciating what seems to me to be his commendable motives, I have suggested his blog to many friends and follow him in Twitter so that no post of his goes unnoticed. From time to time I will also post comments. So far, I have found his posts helpful in improving my understanding of the issues covered and the role of the Monitor in responsibly and honestly reporting them.

June 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDavid McClurkin

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>