The General Election. Syria. North Korea. Donald Trump. Brexit. We are awash with news, and news of such significance and impact on all our lives, that sometimes it can feel overwhelming.
One response to this is tune out: to turn off your TV and radio and opt out of Facebook updates. Another, very traditional response, is to blame the messenger. "It is all the media’s fault," is a common cry.
I’d like to suggest that another response is prayer. As Christians, we believe that prayer supports people in their lives. So, I’d like to challenge you to start praying for journalists. This is particularly apposite as we approach the Day of Prayer for the Media this Sunday.
Why do this? Because we are very lucky to live in a democracy where we have freedom of the press and we want to keep it that way. And, if you’re reporting that list of stories – and more – a bit of prayer wouldn’t go amiss.
Freedom of the press is not a worldwide phenomenon. If you live in a war-torn nation, chances are that you won’t have a free press.
But you don’t have to live under such duress to experience censorship. Cuba, Eritrea, Uzbekistan all have highly-censored media.
Then there’s Turkey, a place where you may have enjoyed a sun-drenched holiday. Since the failed coup attempt of July 2016 freedom of the press has been restricted. Currently, some 150 journalists are being held in Turkish prisons, according to the International Press Institute.
But, here in the UK, we have a wide choice of media and can read, listen to and watch whatever we want, whenever we want to.
You are very likely provided with news by local, as well as national and international journalists. Here’s why those journalists need your prayers.
1. Job cuts
Nationwide, jobs are being cut. According to The Press Gazette, the journalists’ trade magazine, staff numbers in regional newsrooms have been cut by between 25-50% from pre-2008 figures. Nationally, newsrooms are laying off journalists too. It’s hard to work under those conditions.
2. We work long hours
The result of job losses, the demand for 24-hour news, and the bottomless pit of social media, is that journalists work fantastically long hours. Their phones are never off. I once received a text message from a friend on a national newspaper tipping me off to a big news story at 5am. Next week, I’ll be heading to the Middle East on a reporting assignment. There, I’ll be working from the minute I wake up until I go to bed.
3. Reporting can be dangerous
Third, reporting can be a very risky job. Compared with many of my colleagues globally, I have an easy time of it. But still, I’ve been threatened, bullied, received hate mail and caught my fair share of tropical diseases whilst overseas.
This though is as nothing when you remember that tragically, one hundred and fifteen journalists were killed last year, whilst doing their job. Three quarters of them were targeted and killed specifically because of their role as reporters, according to the organisation, Reporters Without Borders. Whoever killed them wanted them dead to stop them telling people like you and me the stories that they had uncovered.
4. We're doing our best
And finally, we could pray for journalists simply because they are there, trying to do a good job, every day. If I had a fiver for every time I have heard a preacher call for God to ‘raise up young people into the media’ I could retire next week. Yet, I’ve seldom been prayed for. Why not pray for the journalists who are already there, rather than the youngsters who are not?
How to pray
So, as the Day of Prayer for the Media approaches, why not make a commitment to pray for journalists in your congregation, home-town, or simply the ones whose work you enjoy?
Wondering what to pray? You could try strength, resilience and being enabled to tell the stories that they find. You could also pray for their relationships and marriages, which, in my experience, often suffer because of the pull of work.
Once, years ago now, I can remember having a particularly smooth-running day. Everything seemed to fit into place and, despite being beset with deadlines, I got through everything and was calm.
As I walked home, I bumped into a local cleric. ‘We’ve been praying for you today,’ he said. ‘Did it make any difference?’ It really had done. And so, I’m convinced, it can be a support to others too.
Hazel Southam is a journalist, broadcaster and author of My year with a horse
For more information about the Day of Prayer for the Media, visit themedianet.org/pray4media