Posts Tagged ‘News stories’
Last November, LDS Harvard undergrad Rachel Esplin made viral video news with her incredibly articulate and intelligent responses to some very difficult questions about the Mormon faith. She was asked whether she wears sacred undergarments, if Mormonism is a cult, how she views the role of women in her church, and what her relationship is with Jesus. For not having served a mission, this young 20-year old is an amazing missionary for the LDS faith.
The interview is twenty minutes long and something you may enjoy viewing as part of a Family Home Evening or perhaps even burning it to a DVD and sharing it in a Sunday School lesson about how to share the gospel in today’s media savvy world. Rachel was on the debate team in her high school and her mother teaches at BYU Idaho. But still, this young woman did a better job than I ever could at responding to difficult questions with poise and confidence.
You may also be interested in viewing some of the hundreds of comments that accompanied just one typical news piece covering the popularity of the video as it appeared in the Boston Globe. I think the very first comment is excellent as it helps us to see how the world perceives us as being closed and secretive. Especially note the tenor of the comments that focus on the claims of exclusivity. This continues to be a difficult point for many to deal with both within and without the church.
I am blessed with the luxury and challenge of having a lot of time on my hands. That can be both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that I am able to work from home to provide for my family and still make a good living doing tech support. The curse is that there is a lot of downtime in between support issues.
Being the computer guy that I am, I spend my free time on the Internet, especially in technical forums and on tech news sites. In fact, I used to write for a technical site, but got tired of all the one-upmanship from the other geeks and wanna-be techs. So I have been concentrating on my Latter-day Commentary blog instead.
I have been thinking a lot lately about what is the best use of my time. There is so much information out there and so many sites that one can visit. There is no way that you can read all the blogs, news stories and commentaries that are produced each day. I can barely keep up with reading what my favorite LDS bloggers post.
Bloggers are Information workers
I have tried sorting all my favorite sites by activity so the latest essays are always on the top. That helps. I have also tried using Google Reader but find it too easy to not comment on essays that deserve feedback and participation. I prefer to visit each site to read the posts there and to see what they have added on their sidebars.
I can’t imagine how some people are able to write comments on so many sites. In addition to great essays on their own blogs, they leave dozens of comments each day on the LDS group blogs and on the sites of fellow bloggers. It’s as if they have nothing else to do all day but read and write comments. Don’t they work?
Maybe they’re like me and are already in front of the computer twelve to sixteen hours a day anyway, making a living by what they write. It is an amazing thing that I am paid to answer phone calls and emails. Someone once described my job function as being a hunter-gatherer, only I gather and share information, not food.
Gathering and sharing information
I love this story from Elder Oaks that he shared back in the Sunday afternoon session of the April 2001 General Conference: “Two men formed a partnership. They built a small shed beside a busy road. They obtained a truck and drove it to a farmer’s field, where they purchased a truckload of melons for a dollar a melon.
“They drove the loaded truck to their shed by the road, where they sold their melons for a dollar a melon. They drove back to the farmer’s field and bought another truckload of melons for a dollar a melon. Transporting them to the roadside, they again sold them for a dollar a melon.
“As they drove back toward the farmer’s field to get another load, one partner said to the other, ‘We’re not making much money on this business, are we?’ ‘No, we’re not,’ his partner replied. ‘Do you think we need a bigger truck?’” As Elder Oaks concluded, it is clear that we don’t need a bigger truckload of information, either.
Adding value to information
Like the two partners in the story above, our biggest need is a clearer focus on how we should value and use what we already have. There is so much information that can be found out on the Internet. If all we are doing is bringing some of it back to our site and offering it there, then what value are we adding to readers who visit?
The first thing I always think of when I read that humorous story from Elder Oaks is to wonder why the partners didn’t charge more for their melons than they paid for them. They incurred the expense of transportation and did their customers a favor by bringing it closer to them. Besides, they also had equipment overhead.
They added value to the product they offered because they brought it closer to the market. Likewise, when we gather interesting information about the church or the doctrines or practices, we can add value to it when we offer it on our sites. The best way to do that is to focus our readers on how the information has blessed us.
Information should be prioritized
Some of the most valuable information I have is what I have learned over the years about how to fix computer problems experienced by my co-workers, especially in the specific network environment I manage. I am paid well for this knowledge. I am grateful to have been able to turn raw information into productive knowledge.
I do not spend my time studying, researching, gathering or compiling information about computer equipment and programs that I do not support or intend to support. That would be a waste of my time. While it may be interesting and perhaps useful someday, it is not applicable to the work I do today or in the foreseeable future.
Thus I am able to focus and prioritize the information I seek and gather in regards to the job that I am paid to do each day. I quickly scan headlines and summaries of the many thousands of tech articles that come out each day. But I only read the ones that apply directly to my present work and that will help me do my job better.
Gathering information about the church
I have been thinking about how I can apply this information gathering skill to my spiritual life. I subscribe to RSS feeds of dozens of computer tech publications. I have also setup Google Alerts to certain key phrases that I want to track, so that I can read what is being written about those subjects outside of my regular feeds.
Likewise, I am starting to add Google Alerts to notify me of new essays or articles that contain keywords like: Mormon, LDS, Latter-day Saints, Thomas S. Monson, BYU, Proposition 8, Mitt Romney, Glenn Beck, Polygamy, Prophet, Jesus Christ, Temple, Joseph Smith and many others. We are very popular in the news lately.
I think I have mentioned before that I am a church news junkie. I love to read the many stories that are published each day about the church. I think that more good comes from these stories than we realize. We work hard to share the gospel, but people learn a lot more about the church than we think from what they read online.
Summary and conclusion
In my conversations with non-LDS co-workers, friends and family, I am often asked what I think about some item they have read in the news about the church. They do not start a conversation by saying, “Tell me how I can best prepare for eternity by having my family sealed in the temple.” I doubt that will ever happen.
However, they do start a conversation by saying, “I saw video of all the protesters in front of your temple. Why did they pick your temple to stage their protest?” I then have the opportunity to explain what the Temple represents to us and that it is a place where we are married for time and eternity. That leads to further dialog.
That’s why I think that it is important that we know what is being said about us in the news and on the Internet. Knowing this information can only help us share the gospel as we turn it into knowledge for our readers. We do this by adding our own positive experience with the subject and then share how it has blessed our lives.
I’m sure you know that headlines are meant to be provocative and to entice you to read the article. It has always been a pet peeve of mine that most headlines are also mis-leading. How about this headline for example: “Home Sales Plunge by 8 Percent.” Why, how awful! How could such a thing happen? Those poor people trying to sell their houses. Reading the article is just as bad. It is full of words of doom and gloom like worst slump, slowest pace, weakness, pressure on sales, decline, turmoil, worries, drag, severe, fears, threats and my favorite, ‘worse than expected.’
It always makes me wonder if the writers of articles like these had to take a class in how to write a pessimistic news article. Or is it perhaps just their general state of mind? You would think that at least one writer looking at the same news could have reported it this way: “Falling home prices mean more people can afford houses.” Of course, anyone who has been following the housing ‘crisis’ (why is everything always a crisis?) know that it was caused by home buyers getting adjustable rate mortgages with the belief that home values would go up.
When I worked in computer sales many moons ago, we used to describe a technique used by IBM salesreps as the ‘FUD’ factor – fear, uncertainty and doubt. We would invite our clients to purchase a new computer system that was not an IBM and they, in doing their due diligence would contact IBM to get a competing quote. There’s nothing wrong with that as I do that myself on large purchases. The IBM rep would invariably say to our client, “Are you sure you want to do that? What if that company goes out of business? Can you afford to make a mistake like that?” I think the same technique is used by the writers at AP and Reuters.
What a difference in the headlines when you visit the lds.org newsroom. Each headline invites the reader to learn more about some good thing that the church is doing. A large percentage of the articles focus on good works of the members. Of course you’re not likely to see a negative news article on lds.org but at least every headline I see there is truthful and actually pertains to the content of the story. Well done to the people at church headquarters who do the newsroom. They are being true to the trust that we place in them – to uplift, motivate and inspire.
What do you think of the church’s newsroom? Honest news or one-sided PR?