Granola, not pablum

A crunchy diet is part of WORLD's survival plan

Issue: "Motel 1600," Sept. 6, 1997

We hear it, more and more loudly, from every side: The magazine you're holding in your hands right now is an endangered species. Not because it's WORLD magazine, mind you-but just because it's a magazine.

Newspaper reading is down dramatically. For every 100 people who picked up a morning paper a generation ago, perhaps only 60 do so now. Afternoon papers are virtually extinct.

Subscriptions to mass circulation magazines like Time, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, and even Reader's Digest also tend to be down from a decade or two ago.

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The sophisticated explanation is that people are getting their information in new ways-through the traditional electronic media like radio and TV, and through new resources like the internet. The more likely truth is, however, that folks simply aren't as interested in serious information as they used to be. Even Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, and Peter Jennings are having a harder time than they used to making world news and current events interesting to their audiences.

A big part of the explanation for such a sad state of affairs has to be that the huge reduction in the number of media outlets we've seen in the last half century or so has also produced a huge decline in the number of editorial points of view. Right here in Asheville, N.C.-a town of only 60,000 people-there used to be nearly a dozen daily newspapers, most of them operating at the same time. Now there's just one. Appropriately, scores of newspapers across the country now bear hyphenated names-a quiet testimony to the muting of lively editorial exchange that once enlightened and edified the citizenry.

Granted, you can still find a little of that give and take in some media settings. "Op-ed" pages suggest a spirit of fairness. USA Today, for example, uses part of its editorial page almost every day to state its own opinion on some subject (predictably statist and liberal) and then provides space for a rejoinder. I suppose that's better than a total monopoly for liberalism, such as is the case on the major networks. But "the alternative" point of view is always just that-an afterthought to the monotonous and monolithic liberalism that is so dominant. How much better to have half a dozen different points of view in every metropolitan area-in print, radio, and TV-each competing vigorously and unashamedly for the attention and ultimate allegiance of thinking people.

To be sure, a mere multiplicity of ideas is by itself not a virtue. The result might well be just so much chatter. If real benefit is to come to readers and listeners, the ideas being promoted need some basis in truth, some premises rooted in reality. That is the other great loss in our news media today; the only things they really know for sure are the latest politically correct dogma, preached with unrelenting fervor and little concern for truth.

So are we also running scared about world? Do we worry that our readers will desert us too? Maybe sometime, but not right now. For the very issues that have so trivialized and weakened many of the news media in our day are precisely the characteristics that energize WORLD. Specifically, we have deliberately chosen often to go against the flow, and to provide an alternative voice on many issues. But it isn't just any voice; we haven't chosen to be feisty for the fun of it, but rather because we believe it's the faithful thing to do. There's fibre in God's Word when you take it literally and at face value. We've discovered over the last 11 years that there are plenty of readers out there who are tired of the pablum they've been offered and are asking for some crunchy granola instead. WORLD wants to be a major national provider of a granola diet-especially since we've also discovered that granola eaters aren't in a hurry to dash off every few weeks for some other newfangled menu.

That isn't as cocky as it may sound. No, we don't believe all truth resides with us. One of the earliest truths of the Bible is that we humans are fallen-and that includes us at WORLD. We'll keep making some mistakes. And we'll confess them promptly and publicly when that is helpful.

But we are not mistaken in our commitment to bring you an assertive journalistic package every week (don't forget-that's 50 issues a year now!) that works diligently, and professionally, to help you see world news and current events through the eyes of biblical faith. I hope we never have to put a hyphen in WORLD's name, signifying a merger with some other periodical. But if we do, I also hope it happens because we find someone more faithful than we are-not less-in that task.

Joel Belz
Joel Belz

Joel, WORLD's founder, writes a regular column for the magazine and contributes commentaries for The World and Everything in It. He is also the author of Consider These Things.

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