I have a natural distrust of the media. Just because it is in print or on video doesn’t mean it is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Things get twisted along the way.
This distrust comes not because I have spent time working in the media and therefore have some idea of what happens behind the scenes that influences and shapes what we call “news.” I had it long before. I credit Rolling Stone magazine for fostering this skepticism, decades before their most recent journalistic scandal. It was an interview with British guitarist Eric Clapton that did it.
It was 1974 I was a big Clapton fan and it was the cover story for Rolling Stone. I knew he was a great guitarist, but I was interested in learning more about the man, especially about his religious beliefs. I had heard that he had become a Christian, and certainly his more recent music had shown some Christian themes. His lifestyle on the other hand would seem to indicate some incompatibilities with Christianity.
So I bought the magazine. (Back then I usually bought Rolling Stone anyway.) I read the interview, and came away somewhat dissatisfied. As I recall it, from the published interview it seemed Clapton avoided anything to do with spirituality and religion and was definitely not a Christian.
Three years later I came across a book, Conversations With Clapton, in the remainder bin at a local bookshop. It was British journalist Steve Turner’s complete interview with the legendary rock guitarist. What Rolling Stone had published was only a carefully edited excerpt.
There was a whole chapter in the book detailing Clapton’s sudden conversion to Christianity and his falling away from faith. It left no doubt in my mind as to the legitimacy of his belief, and a sadness about what had followed. It was a real-life example of one of the situations found in the biblical parable of the sower. Someone at Rolling Stone had decided that Eric Clapton, Christian, did not fit their narrative, despite it being an interesting and insightful tale.
I know that there are times when editing and length requirements prohibit the media from telling the whole story. Choices have to be made. As consumers we need to be careful, to understand that what is being presented to us may not be the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth. What is presented is going to reflect someone’s agenda, sometimes only subconsciously. Rolling Stone did not have a desire to tell the story of Eric Clapton’s faith (and five years later they would flatly deny that Bob Dylan had become a Christian); it didn’t fit their preconception of rock star.
Reading Conversations With Clapton taught me a lot, not only about Eric Clapton but about the media and how what gets published is a judgement call – someone else’s judgement. What are the biases of those choosing the content for the media you consume today, whether it be news or entertainment oriented? If you don’t know, shouldn’t you find out? Otherwise you might get taken in by a version of “truth” that bears no relation to reality.