May 14, 2008

Are You Watching?

2008 1514 page6 capt was a few years ago, outside the National Press Building in Washington, D.C., that I finally caught up with Walter Cronkite, for many years the archetypical TV news anchor and stalwart of CBS News, once 
considered the “Tiffany” of broadcast journalism.
“Mr. Cronkite, I want you to know that I’m a journalist today because as a boy I watched you,” I said.
“Well, I hope you’re happy with that decision,” he replied, or words to that effect. I suspect he’d heard that from more than a few people.
After nearly 36 years in print journalism, starting in high school and continuing to my service at Adventist Review and Adventist World, I’ve been largely happy with that decision. Part of it is the satisfaction of reporting news stories and seeing them in print. The other part is satisfying my personal, seemingly endless, curiosity about what’s going on in the world.
2008 1514 page6Sometimes, however, I wonder if I’m part of a vanishing breed: everywhere I turn, there are statistics signaling a drop in news “consumption” by those younger than I; today’s “twentysomethings,” we’re told, are more likely to get their political news from a “fake” news program, such as Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, than from the New York Times 
or from Katie Couric, Mr. Cronkite’s successor, one level removed, at CBS.
The numbers for the newspaper business reflect this, as noted by veteran journalist Peter Osnos, now with the Century Foundation: “The Newspaper Association of America reported . . . that, in 2007, the industry had its sharpest drop in advertising revenue—9.4 percent—since the association began measuring these numbers in 1950. Online revenues are up—they now represent 7.5 percent of newspaper ad revenue—but that increase doesn’t nearly offset the print plunge.”*
Newspapers are either going out of business or shedding so many staff members that the resulting product is a shadow of its former self. Where once a dozen newspapers had correspondents in London, for example, or in Nairobi, a handful remain; other outlets rely on a newswire such as the Associated Press.
I mention this not merely to lament the tumult of change in a particular industry. Rather, I write to ask every Adventist reading these words a question: Are you paying attention to what’s going on in the world? Are you following today’s events?
You see, if we are looking forward to that “blessed hope” of Jesus’ soon return, we should be watching for the signs of that event. No, we can’t know the day or the hour—and the “Great Disappointment” of October 1844 shows the futility of trying to set a specific date.
But we can know that things are happening, and we can share that knowledge with the rest of the world, as well as with family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors. To do that, however, means we have to be informed in the first place.
I hope every reader of this magazine is reading at least one daily newspaper. Those with Internet access can not only read the Adventist Review Web site, but also a raft of Web sites with general news. Google, the online search engine, will let you customize their news feed,, to reflect your tastes and interests. From there, you can scour the globe, literally, for relevant information.
At a time when Adventists are facing danger in many places, where religious liberty is constantly in play, where governments come and go, I wonder if there’s really any excuse for those of us with the means not to be on top of world events. In the United States, in particular, we have an “embarrassment of riches” in terms of news, via radio, the Internet, and even cable and broadcast TV: just about every home in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area can view not only the major U.S. networks via broadcast and cable, but they can also tune in to a half hour from the BBC each evening.
Having a global news perspective will aid our understanding, fuel our prayer life, and let us fulfill Jesus’ command in Mark 13:37: “What I say unto you I say unto all, Watch” (KJV).
Are you watching?
*Peter Osnos, “The Platform: The Newsroom Morale Crisis,” The Century Foundation, online at; accessed April 3, 2008.
Mark Kellner is news editor of the Adventist Review.