On Jan. 19, 2019, The New York Times released a news article with the attention-grabbing headline, “Viral Video Shows Boys in ‘Make America Great Again’ Hats Surrounding Native Elder.”
Various news outlets covered this story, asserting that a group of Kentucky’s Covington Catholic High School students — who attended the March for Life rally in Washington, D.C. — had surrounded a Native American, Nathan Phillips, and mocked him with chants.
The chants were reportedly led by Covington junior Nick Sandmann, who was portrayed as standing inches away from Phillips with a smirk spreading across his face.
The story caused an uproar in the media, and Sandmann, along with some of his classmates, received death threats and various insults from people all over the nation, including members of the media, celebrities and even politicians.
It later came out that the students had not initiated any form of aggression or mocking behavior against Phillips. The notorious “smirk” that Sandmann had on his face was his way of making it clear that he was not going to get angry or aggressive when Phillips banged a drum inches away from his face.
News outlets should be held accountable to inform and relay the facts, not to present biased information.
Factual news reports should not collide with opinion or false interpretation. This is clearly outlined in the code of ethics published by the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Article V of that document stipulates that sound practice “demands a clear distinction for the reader between news reports and opinion. Articles that contain opinion or personal interpretation should be clearly identified.”
The problem is not that opinion articles are being released — the problem is that opinion articles are being released as fact.
An example of this biased reporting can be seen in the coverage following President Donald Trump’s election.
In October 2017, the Pew Research Center published its evaluation of the news coverage of the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency. Their research revealed that 45% of the news coverage was neither negative nor positive, whereas 44% was negative, and just 11% was positive.
The bias in media is clearly seen as day after day, opinion overwhelms the facts in news coverage.
As Christians, we need to stand against false news narratives and restore the role that news should have: presenting the facts separate from opinion.
The Bible tells us not to spread false reports. This is another reason why news outlets should be held accountable to relay the facts.
In Exodus, Moses gives the laws of justice and mercy. Verse one reads: “Do not spread false reports. Do not help a guilty person by being a malicious witness.”
In Proverbs 24, Solomon reminds us that we should not give a false testimony. Verse 28 says this, “Do not testify against your neighbor without cause — would you use your lips to mislead?”
The Nick Sandmann case is a good example of what happens when we pervert the truth and purposely mislead. Because of news outlets’ eagerness to paint Catholic Trump supporters in a bad light, Sandmann and his classmates suffered threats and condemnation without cause.
News outlets should be held accountable to relay the facts for another reason, too: Defamation and libel are subject to legal action.
According to The First Amendment Handbook, created by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, defamatory communication is one “that exposes a person to hatred, ridicule, or contempt, lowers him in the esteem of his fellows, causes him to be shunned, or injures him in his business or calling.”
Sandmann settled his lawsuit against CNN and continues to seek justice with other news outlets that released articles containing defamatory material.
Releasing biased and defamatory information is not only a crime against the individual but harmful to news consumers.
Christians need to stand for the truth. It takes a nation to restore the role of the news media to one of honest, fair and factual reporting.
Jude Prestidge is in the 10th grade at Dayspring Christian Academy.