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Friday Miscellania

It’s Friday and there are a few things I’ve been saving in my Favorites folder that I’d like to mention today.

The Internet Effect on News

I say, without any hyperbole, that this article from TIME may be the most important you read today. In it Michael Scherer explains how news has become commoditized through the internet.

Here is a basic shift that has occurred in the news business: Because of the Internet, you, the reader, no longer have to buy information in pre-fabricated packages like “newspapers.” You can just go online and individually select the articles you want to read. And there are lots of websites and blogs to help you out. Every day, Matt Drudge, the Huffington Post, Yahoo, Google, Swampland, or a hundred other different bloggers, will pre-select articles for you and provide links. You choose your own adventure.

There is a corollary effect here: As the value of the package declines, the value of the individual article increases. Online, news organizations charge advertisers based on the number of hits they can get on a site. And since the hits are often coming for specific stories, and not the entire site, a blockbuster story that gets linked to, say, Drudge, is money in the bank.

This means that the competition on the level of the individual story is more intense than ever before, and there is enormous pressure to distinguish yourself from the pack. Assume, for instance, that 12 news organizations do the same story on the same day about how Hillary Clinton has a tough road ahead of her to get the nomination. Which story is going to get the most links and therefore the most readers? Is it the one that cautiously weighs the pros and cons, and presents a nuanced view of her chances? Or is it the one that says she is toast, and anyone who thinks different is living on another planet?

The author explains that, as we rely more on isolated headlines and less on the total package, we become enamored with flashy headlines and stories that are fast and provocative rather than methodical and accurate. “This trend towards story-by-story competition, and away from package-by-package competition, is a blessing and a curse. It is forcing better writing, quicker responsiveness, and it is increasing the value of actual news-making and clear-eyed thinking. But it is also increasing pressure on reporters to push the boundaries of provocation. I am not sure that the Politico story crossed any boundaries, or distorted the truth. I do believe that what Allen and VandeHei did is very much the future of news.”

This is something that we, as Christians, need to consider and consider well. Of all people we are the ones who should value truth above speed or controversy. We should be people who do not allow what’s controversial and provocative to titillate us, even while many of the facts may be wrong. I’ve seen this tendency in my own heart and at times even on my own blog.

The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment

I just found out yesterday that my book, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment, has gone into a second printing. I’m not too familiar with the whole publishing industry and associated terminology but what I do know is that this means the book has sold most or all of the copies Crossway printed. I’m guessing their sales forecasts were for the book to sell fewer copies than it has. So I suppose that’s a good thing.

Thanks again to all of those who purchased it. Since the book’s release I’ve been blessed with many kind and encouraging emails. Several people have written to say that they are using the book with youth groups, Bible studies, and so on. That is both humbling and gratifying.

The Atonement

Some time ago Shai Linne was kind enough to send me a copy of his new album The Atonement. I can’t say that I listen to a lot of rap music so I’m not the kind of person who can adequately evaluate the album from a musical standpoint. However, I can say that it is very strong lyrically. The only real parallel I can draw is to Voice and his albums. The songs deal with real and deep theology. The music is interspersed with snippets of sermons by John Piper and C.J. Mahaney.

Here is a brief biography:

shai linne is living proof that God has a wonderful sense of humor. He once told his mom that he would never, ever become a Christian, completely oblivious to the fact that God had chosen him to be a Christian before time began. He doesn’t like the spotlight, so God gave him natural gifts that put him on stage as an actor. He doesn’t like to be in front of people, so God gave him spiritual gifts that are mostly public in nature. shai has appeared on numerous independent and national Christian Hip-hop releases, including his 2005 full-length debut, The Solus Christus Project. All this from someone who doesn’t like hip-hop and never pursued a career in music. Someone in heaven is having a big laugh at his expense. After all this time, shai still doesn’t get the joke.

For more information and to listen to song samples, check out his MySpace page.

Earth Hour

Tomorrow is Earth Hour. People around the world (but mostly around North America) will be turning off their lights for one hour at 8 PM. “Join people all around the world in showing that you care about our planet and want to play a part in helping to fight climate change. Don’t forget to sign up and let us know you want to join Earth Hour.” Toronto is a flagship city and many people here will be participating (though surely far less than the organizers would like). I noticed that even the Toronto airport will be dimming the lights for that hour. The management of a local mall just held a contest to seek ways to save energy. The prize was a trip for two to Australia. I couldn’t help but wonder…wouldn’t that trip to Australia cause more pollution than anything they might hope to save by turning down the lights? But I digress. I don’t think I’ll be participating (though it’s possible I’ll change my mind if we’re the only family in the neighborhood with lights on). How about you?