David Aikman, foreign correspondent for Time magazine, says he does not fit the stereotype in American media. The British-born journalist became a Time correspondent in 1971. He has served as Time’s bureau chief in Eastern Europe, Israel, and Beijing. Aikman currently works out of Washington, D.C., specializing in foreign policy and Communist affairs. He talked with CHRISTIANITY TODAY about his experiences as a Christian in the secular media.
How does your Christian faith impact the way you perform your job?
A Christian brings to journalism a coherent world view and a purpose to life that transcends the immediate framework of the profession itself. A journalist who is a Christian should see journalism as a vehicle for living out his Christian witness in the community, and for implementing God’s purposes in the world.
Is there a difference between a good journalist and a good Christian journalist?
Not in terms of desiring to be professional. I admire many of my journalistic friends who are not Christians as thorough-going professionals with a high sense of self-esteem and purpose. A lot of people attracted to journalism see it as a profession that can do good by uncovering wrong and telling the truth about life and society.
There is a difference on the career path, where some get caught up in the corporate games that exist in large organizations. I think no self-respecting Christian could give himself or herself to these games of corporate ladder climbing.
Do you make your faith known among superiors and colleagues?
Probably a large number of people at Time magazine know I’m a Christian, simply because over the years I’ve done and said things a non-Christian wouldn’t do or say. I try not to be unpleasant and obnoxious, and I probably err at times on the side of caution in my words. But when the opportunity comes up, I say what I believe.
What conflicts do you face in deciding if and how to cover a story?
There are certain stories I simply won’t cover, stories related to activities a Christian could not condone. For example, I would not cover a story on prostitution if it required me to treat it as a morally neutral activity.
Is this respected by your superiors?
Yes, it is. On one occasion in India, I refused to sign a form agreeing to self-censorship. Some other journalists signed with the intention of ignoring it later. I felt I could not in good conscience say I would do one thing and then do another. So I had to leave India. Time magazine respected my decision.
How do you respond to the oft-heard criticism that the media are liberal?
There is no question the media are liberal. Any honest journalist for a major media organization would admit he is somewhat to the left of the American people. This has been documented in several different ways. The famous Lichter and Rothman survey in 1982 found, remarkably, that 81 percent of the prominent media people surveyed had never voted for a Republican presidential candidate, and 86 percent seldom or never went to church or synagogue.
Obviously you consider yourself to be in the minority.
Definitely in terms of social attitudes. And I think I’m probably politically more conservative than most of my colleagues, but my colleagues at Time respect the positions I take. I haven’t found any irreconcilable differences between what I want to say and what the magazine wants to say, at least on the issues I report.
How do you advise Christians to deal with the media?
I have two pieces of advice. First, quit complaining and become a journalist. Second, make friends with journalists. There is a wide measure of distrust between the evangelical world and secular media. This may be justified to some extent on both sides. But since Christians profess a belief system that espouses reaching out to others in love, it’s up to them to take the initiative to bridge the gap. Ordinary Christians should go out of their way to make friends with, pray for, and perhaps eventually lead into discipleship ordinary secular journalists.
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