St Bride's: Sermon Series

Faith in the Newsroom

Faith in the Newsroom
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As journalists, we don't tend to hold back on our views.  I probably know the opinions of my colleagues on all sorts of things - politics, international affairs, the welfare system, the merits of Europe, bankers, Rafa Benitez.... Our morning editorial meetings are full of robust debate.  People aren't shy to give their personal views - in fact they are actively encouraged.  As well as chipping in with things learned through my journalistic experience, I will often contribute an angle influenced by my personal life, as a woman, a parent, a liberal, a Londoner....

But the one thing people don't ever seem to bring in to the discussion is their faith.  It feels like its pretty much the last taboo and well out of our comfort zones.  I would struggle to tell you what level of faith, if any, the vast majority of my colleagues have, or how actively they worship, aside perhaps of a handful of Catholics and Muslims who I work alongside. When the women bishops vote happened, we expressed frustrations as women, but not as Christians; the implications for an institution, not our institution.

In some ways, you could say it's not surprising.  Journalists seek out empirical truths, evidence, facts; we tend to be pretty anti-establishment and therefore might argue against the very concept of faith and loyalty to an institution such as The Church.  But so many of the things journalists find important - humanity, compassion, justice, truth, standing up for the poor/weak/voiceless are echoed throughout Christianity.

And as journalists, we don't operate in a secular bubble.  So many of the stories we cover have elements of religion or faith involved.  We have colleagues, contributors, contacts around the world of varying religions whose faith we respect and go out of our way to embrace.  We take time out to research and understand those faiths and what they involve; the differences between Shia, Sunni and Alawite [for example]. I've worked in Afghanistan where we built in extra time to allow our driver to pray several times a day. I've covered my head at Shia rallies in Baghdad.  And I've bitten my tongue when a Rabbi has only shaken the hands of my male colleagues.

But it's also true that often these people in return are most embracing of/at ease with any faith we have.  The most heartfelt Christmas messages I got last year came from Arab colleagues, whose greetings talked of 'best wishes on your most holy of days' and 'hoping God is with you'.

We also operate in dangerous environments in the field where you do have to face your mortality and therefore naturally think about faith.  I have been in some hairy situations in places such as Bosnia and Iraq, when shells or scuds are incoming... and done some pretty fast talking to God. 

But aside of a very few colleagues who are also close friends, or people I've done long journeys with where we've dissected everything under the sun, I have rarely discussed my faith at    work.  I wouldn't hesitate to answer if asked, but faith seems to have become a very private affair and in that very English way we tend to avoid asking questions seen as quite that personal.  Pretty ironic for a profession built on asking questions.

You could say that isn't just journalists - its pretty much the English way across the board.  To a great degree, faith and references to it have dropped out of our public life, our interactions at work, our professional dialogue. "God" is not an every day word in the workplace.   Whereas with Arab colleagues, we will happily use the word 'Inshallah' as naturally as any other.  Allah seems to be more woven into daily life, whether professional or private.

The one exception to all this, however, seems to me when you bring in St Bride's.  This is one place where I have stood with colleagues, and sung, and prayed, and listened, and reflected, and cried... I have shared that experience of being in a church with them as journalists - and with all their different levels of faith, and it works, and it matters and people are comfortable with that.

And for me as a journalist, (as opposed to just a parishioner), it is one of the many reasons St Bride's is so important an institution.  In a few weeks we will be marking the 10th Anniversary of the Iraq war. And with it will be a painful but important memorial here at St Brides for close colleagues we lost during that war.  And whether it is a memorial service such as that, or another press or TV event, or even Christmas carols.. .they are times when for once journalists don't have to express an opinion or argue the finer points but can just come together in a place of worship, with their own level of faith, expressed as quietly or loudly as they want. 

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