Credibility and Trust

Four seemingly unrelated articles cause me to think about trust, credibility and communication in our media-saturated culture. The first is Nicholas Kristof”s column on April 12 about public attitude towards newspapers and television news operations. He reports that according to “Trends 2005,” a Pew Research Center report, 45% of Americans believe little or nothing in their daily newspapers.

The Fox News Channel has the trust of less than one-third of Republicans, and even fewer Democrats.

In the second article Ed Garvey writes in the Capital Times (Madison, Wisconsin), that the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church face a confidence gap among their U.S. flock. A New York Times poll shows only 18% of Roman Catholics have a great deal of confidence in those running the church. Garvey notes that church membership is up but attendance is down.

The next
20 years
are going
to be
years for
those on
the religious right.
But a reaction
will set in
over the
next quarter
of a century
that may
hurt Christianity
in all its
–Tony Campolo

The third is a report on remarks by the popular evangelical speaker Tony Campolo referenced by Dale at Movable Theoblogical and reported in Ethics . Campolo tells a British audience the current success of the religious right is sowing “disillusionment” that will result in “a departure from churches” in the next 20 years as “thoughtful converts” realize the Bible addresses a broader range of issues than the limited agenda of the religious right. He says this will harm all Christian groups.

The fourth is a survey (All the Mainline News That’s Fit to Print ) of coverage of Mainline denominations in the New York Times over the past twenty years by Lovett Weems and David Schoeni for the Lewis Center for Church Leadership. It reveals decline in coverage and concludes that the Mainline voice is less influential today than in years past.

These whet my appetite. They are fertile ground for comment, critique and speculation. By looking beneath the surface of these stories I think we can learn a lot about ourselves, the culture and how communication shapes us and misshapes us. In the next few posts I will look at these and I invite you to reflect on them as well.

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