This is a guest post by Nick Galieti, a podcaster for LDS Perspectives and Book of Mormon Central. Nick Galieti was recipient of the 2015 John Taylor: Defender of the Faith Award by FairMormon, is author of the books Tree of Sacrament, and The Exaltation Equation, and has directed and produced the documentaries Picturing Joseph, and Murder of the Mormon Prophet.
Readers, Editors, and Reporters have different expectations of “the news.” Typically, readers claim to want the truth of events; Editors want what sells the news and ensure that what is presented is compelling; and reporters want to influence the world with stories that can impact change. While this characterization may be oversimplified, the various views of the role and function of “news” does depend on the filter by those who consume, promote, or produce it. This can be problematic as the medium that some suppose should be an unbiased or dispassionate reporting of events, is used as leverage to promote narratives, agendas, or simply to sell the news for revenues sake. In this regard, all news is “fake” in that no one can receive absolute objectivity, even if it is presented.
The song, “Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart” by Chris Cornell played on the radio, and a lyric stood out and gave me pause. The original lyric is “take a picture of the sun and it won’t help you to see the light.” After hearing this lyric my mind connected to a recent news story about a 12-year old Mormon Girl who came out as gay in a Sunday Meeting but was stopped and told to sit down by a local church leader. Much has been written, comments on social media have flared, and every source seems to have the “truth” or is reporting “honestly” or “accurately” while contradicting or giving different information than the next.
Just as taking a picture of the Sun won’t help you see the light, reading ANY article on this event (or other sensational stories like it) won’t help ANYONE know the true story this girl’s life, the years of lived experience of her and her parents, nor does it help anyone know the truths of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Just as a photo is incapable of capturing the beauty of reality without some kind of shortcoming, or filter, “the news”, sometimes tragically, falls short of its potential to transmit truth or reality.
The firestorm and drama that has surfaced is not evidence of “truth-seeking” but is a manifestation of this conflated set of demands placed on news, as well as the power of unbridled character imperfection. Readers think they are getting truth, Editors are experiencing an explosive “hit” that comes with plenty of clicks, and reporters push their narratives and commentary. This dangerous and addictive cocktail of dissonant notes is bitter and unfulfilling.
This poetic lyric offers commentary on any, including members of the church, who seek truth. Occasional glances at scriptures, once a week prayers, and even once a week attendance at church is insufficient to understand and see the light of the gospel. If truth is really our quest, truth requires far more effort than a news piece is capable of offering. Truth requires both empathy and empirical skills, something sorely lacking in the discipline that few purveyors and consumers of news are willing to sacrifice to obtain.