Michelle Martin

Changing times

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Nine years ago, when Frank was in first grade, we sat at the desk in the living room and put together a PowerPoint presentation on how airplanes fly.

I’m not sure he learned much about lift and thrust and airflow, but he did learn how to use pictures and text to convey information, and he learned how to make his slideshow work.

This past weekend, when Teresa had to come up with a presentation about sports for her first-grade class, we used video we had taken on my phone of Frank playing hockey. To make it easy for the teacher, I posted it online, in an unlisted video on YouTube, and emailed her the link. I also sent it in on a flash drive in case that didn’t work.

Going way back, when I was in elementary school (and high school and even college) class presentations meant index cards and poster board and maybe some pictures cut out of magazines.

While the academic level of the information demonstrated might not have changed much, the new way is more entertaining, and is probably far more likely to hold the attention of the class — which means that, in the end, Teresa’s class will learn more about scoring goals than Frank’s class learned about making airplanes fly.

That’s what media is and what it does: media is something in the middle, that comes between, that serves as a vehicle for the transfer of information. Without media — without some kind of a go-between — we would not know anything we had not seen with our own eyes or heard with our own ears.

Snow would be a mystery to those who live in tropical climates. We wouldn’t know about Washington crossing the Delaware, the moon landing or even the existence of Christ and our salvation.

That doesn’t mean that all media is good or all information conveyed is accurate or truthful. But complaining about “the media” as though it was one thing doesn’t make sense either, especially since we now must include “social media,” which has as many authors as there are Facebook users. We are asked to read and listen and judge carefully.

That’s what Jesus did with his listeners to use their judgment when he taught in parables. When he spoke about the good Samaritan, he told how the judge and the priest left the robbery victim by the side of the road. It was the Samaritan, a member of a despised group, who stopped to help. Who, Jesus asked, was the victim’s neighbor?

So when you read or watch media now, in an environment when media is all around, use your judgment. Beware “fake news” reports that have no data or research behind them. Look at the sources.

When you need to take a break, do so. Even if it means looking at cute cat videos.