"Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered." Proverbs 21.13
While the media obsesses about President Trump's antics, the people of France and Italy are grappling with the ravages of Storm Alex. Over the weekend you would have thought that the only newsworthy event in the world was the bizarre attempt by the Whitehouse to make a virtue out of a medical emergency. Meanwhile the colossal damage and risk to life being suffered by our neighbours in France and Italy never made the headlines.
This distasteful juxtaposition - of what gets reported and what doesn't - is a reminder of the influence of the media. We react to what we see and hear. When it comes to reporting news, whether private or public, broadcasters have a significant responsibility because of the trust we place in them to keep us informed. This information is the basis for our response: in prayer, in action, in simply being aware. And so that places us in a dependent relationship to the news media: we relay on them to feed us a balanced, inclusive and objective diet of local and world news.
The trouble is that, like so much else in society, even the news media has been subjected to the tyranny of entertainment. Broadcasters have become celebrities and algorithms determine which news stories will satisfy our tastes. The result is that there are large swathes of ignorance in general awareness and, where there is reporting, it often delivers a distorted impression of what is actually happening.
The warning from Proverbs reminds us that ignorance is not an excuse for inactivity, when it comes to helping those in need. But in an age of misinformation, how are we to hear? The obvious solution is to go and find out for ourselves. Yet all sorts of covid- and environmentally-related reasons render that impractical. On the one hand we need a public broadcaster we can trust: both for content and for accuracy. On the other hand we can also seize the initiative and cultivate our own networks of information - by keeping in touch with relatives, friends and contacts around the country and around the world. We can pay closer attention to the prayer guides and information leaflets which accompany the mailings we receive from our favourite charities.
God cares enough to have sent his son and to abide with us in the person of the Holy Spirit. Our faithful response is to embrace his initiative and to pay attention...