The Role of Christian Media

Deciphering the media landscape and finding our calling within

What does it mean to be a “Christian” media outlet? This is the question I found myself pondering lately.

Many faith-based organizations have had to confront a similar question: what does it mean to be a “Christian” nonprofit, or business, or any entity for that matter? Contrary to how our legal system sometimes treats corporations, they are not the same as individuals, as they do not have a mind to think or a soul to be saved.

Since an organization cannot say the sinner’s prayer, its “Christianity” will have to come from something like a statement of faith or beliefs, a Christ-centred mission statement, and/or a formal affiliation with a church body. And all of these things are just documents, written and put into practice by people – people with their own biases, blind spots and flaws. 

 

Bias & Independence

In the same ways as secular and mainstream media, Christian media is vulnerable to bias and influence – and most of this comes down to money. Being funded by – or a ministry of – a church body by nature introduces bias and removes independence. Being for-profit – more common in secular media but certainly present in Christian media as well – changes the dynamic between editorial and financial priorities. And accepting government funding, no matter how little or seemingly free from commitment, does injure credibility as an independent voice.

Right now in Canada, two trends are converging which have major implications for independent Christian media: the secularization of the country, and the consolidation of news media.

As Christianity becomes less dominant as a religion and less important to the majority of Canadians, our major news outlets have less incentive to cover our stories or consider our perspectives. At the same time, Canada’s largest media corporations are rapidly buying up (and in many cases closing down) any small news outlets that until now had remained independent and profitable.

 

Representation

These cumulative changes to the media landscape over the past few decades have left Christians in Canada comparatively under-represented in most mainstream media – at least when it comes to topics that relate to their faith.

The CBC in particular has been accused of ignoring issues facing Christians and other larger population groups, and disproportionately covering smaller issues relating to minority populations. This became an especially hot topic following a viral blog post by Tara Henley, a former CBC journalist, saying she had quit over exactly this issue.

Henley gave the example of the CBC running a story about non-binary Filipinos lacking LGBTQ+ terms in Tagalog, while ignoring “local issues of broad concern.” Suggesting the CBC ignores big local issues is a broad and largely unfounded accusation (at least as of this writing, my local CBC station still reports on things like weather, road conditions, crime, education, and city hall, to name a few), but the broadcaster has certainly demonstrated an outsized commitment to covering issues affecting minority populations and intersectional identities. This much is clear.

(While Henley’s main point here resonated with many Canadians, it is worth noting that in her viral Substack post, she misrepresented both the nature of her employment at the CBC and some of her experiences there. Numerous reports have since shown that she was not an employee but rather an occasional freelancer, and that her actual work does not line up with her suggestions that she was stifled on covering bigger issues.)

 

What We Can Do

All of this leaves us with a big gap to fill, and a great opportunity to do so. Independent Christian media can step in boldly where everyone else has shied away, sharing important stories and perspectives from our faith community both in Canada and around the world. 

We know Christians are crying out for representation, and looking to independent media. Part of our opportunity is to meet that demand. But it is also to help paint a bigger picture, to fill in the gaps within our own experience of Christian life, and to break down the silos that we create unintentionally in our Christian communities. 

Christianity is big. It’s diverse. It’s global. But it’s also personal, intimate, and relational. There is much we can gain from listening to each other, with discernment and grace.

 

Here at ChristianWeek

My hope for ChristianWeek is to bring all of this together: filling the gaps that have been left for us, and serving the Christian community with stories and perspectives that are useful for all of us.

Christians are not a monolith, but we share some deeply important things in common. Wherever we can highlight that, celebrate that, and use it to enrich our faith – that’s what I want to do.

I hope you’ll join us and be a part of it.

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About the author

Luke Thiessen is the publisher of ChristianWeek.