The importance of integrity and truth for Christians working in the media

Christians working in the media have been speaking about integrity and truth, and the challenges they face in their jobs, with several leading journalists taking part in a special online service organised by the network Christians in Media.

Lucy Denyer, associate editor of The Telegraph magazine, explained: “For me integrity means doing my job to the best of my ability, even when it’s uncomfortable, because I trust God that he’s called me to be there.”

She admitted: “It can be a tough working environment. Journalists are trained to ask hard questions, often they’re cynical. But they are also taught to hold everything up to the light and question it for rigour or for truth – which is not so different to being a Christian after all.”

Warren Nettleford, ITV News and Channel 5 presenter, spoke about covering stories where teenagers had been killed.

He said: “I’ve had to interview parents who have suffered a terrible loss, and you are there, knowing that your editor wants a story that will engage with viewers. At the same time you are there to ensure that the parents can say what they want to say. You don’t want to verge on being sensationalist.

“So it’s really important that you make sure that the parents can be heard – but you’re not going over the edge to make it into entertainment.”

Tim Levell, programme director for Times Radio told the service: “Truth and integrity have always been important to me, but not just in the on-air output, but in my off-air dealings with people too.”

He also spoke about the importance of keeping confidences when colleagues have shared private information with him.

Sandra Godley, BBC CWR radio presenter and gospel singer, recalled having to ‘whistle-blow’ on a work colleague.

“It was difficult, but it was the right thing to do,” she explained.

Tim Pemberton, Head of Religion and Ethics for the BBC’s audio output, was the keynote speaker at the service that had been viewed around 500 times within hours of its launch.

He spoke on Peter’s denial of Jesus from Luke 22, and pointed out, “Speaking the truth can be threatening and costly. Jesus ended up on a cross for it.

“We have to face the fact that serious truth telling can lead to loss – of money, employment, relationships, status and, as we see in the gospel story, even your life.”

He said, looking across society, “Truth is now a cudgel, a weapon with which to beat and shame your opponents into submission. We are no longer open, honest enquirers. We are all warriors keen to prove our point. We no longer see people who simply disagree with us on an issue. We have to impugn their integrity and question their motives.”

He contrasted this with St Paul, writing to the Ephesians, and encouraging them to seek unity by “speaking the truth in love.”

Pemberton encouraged people “to seek one-ness by caring how my telling of the truth impacts my family, my friends, my opponents and my enemies. We all have a choice in this – to follow the status quo and add to the cycle of abuse and anger or to fulfil the promise of our good intentions, listen to others and make sure our contribution is insightful, courteous and positive. This is a radical, counter-cultural idea.”

He added: “Hopefully, none of us will face death for speaking the truth, like Martin Luther King, but we may need to confront the threat of ridicule, of loss of job, of loss generally. All we can do is prepare ourselves.”

Other participants in the online service, led by comedian Paul Kerensa, included young people currently taking part in a mentoring scheme run by Christians in Media.

The service was held ahead of the annual Day of Prayer for Media, when churches and individual Christians have been encouraged to take part on Sunday October 31st.

Rev Peter Crumpler is a Church of England minister in St Albans, Herts, UK, a former communications director with the CofE, and the author of ‘Responding to Post-truth’ (Grove Books).