Christians in Journalism is a London-based fellowship of Christians working in journalism and supporting each other as they try to stay true to their faith in a difficult environment, and as they
share the good news about Jesus Christ with their colleagues. We are now part of themedianet.org.
[This article, by Robert Hutton, was first published in Artisan magazine.]
Hacking for Jesus
Most journalists have no trouble calling on the name of Jesus.
They do it constantly, and brilliantly. If you want to hear good
swearing go into a newsroom half an hour before deadline.
That’s not the only way we like to invoke the Almighty. “Was Jesus a Spaceman?” “Could the Messiah have married?” “Did the Holy Spirit invent cheese?” What a friend newspapers with space to fill have in Jesus.
There are even actual Christians working in journalism. I’m one of them. There aren’t loads of us but we get about, and not just at the “respectable” end of the market either. I spent five happy years working for the Mirror, including a wonderful stint at the Sunday People, where they spend so much time investigating sexual indiscretions within the Church that they have their own slang for the subject.
At its best, it’s the best job in the world: power without responsibility and lunch on expenses. The people are fun, there’s the chance to travel, and the eternal hope that you’ll be on the spot when history is made. Even if you’re more likely to be there a couple of hours afterwards, that’s still better than most people get. But it’s not surprising that there are times when it’s not a lot of fun being a Christian in the media. People who feel that believers have no place in a newsroom aren’t shy about telling you that you should quit your job. The surprise is that the people you’re most likely to hear that from are other Christians.
Now, there are jobs that it’s hard to reconcile with a Christian faith - pole dancer, mob hitman, high priest of Baal - but is journalism really one of them? That’s not to say there aren’t difficult issues. I got an early break as a trainee when I was the only person in the office after a small plane crash. I had a great day, truly, racing to the site of the crash and then scooping rivals on the story. But I had it at the expense of several lives. Is it still OK to look back at it with pride?
And there are pressures: to write stories that aren’t really true, to top up your meagre salary by padding your expenses and hardest of all, to fit in with the culture. How do you avoid gossip when, if you’re honest, most great news stories start out with a whispered indiscretion? How do you avoid cynicism when you’re constantly lied to? How do you keep your temper when all around are losing theirs? What would Jesus do?
Well, I don’t think he would tell us to walk away. If you want a harvest field, where better than a newsroom, where you can be pretty sure the person next to you won’t have heard the gospel? Most hacks are pretty hostile, but that’s better than indifference.
We set up Christians in Journalism because we wanted a place where we could talk about this stuff without being told the solution was to quit our jobs. Meeting other people who’ve faced the same pressures means we can give each other support and hold each other to account. We meet up for beers, for discussion and to pray for each other and our colleagues. We’d like to help them think about Jesus as something more than a space filler.