Media coverage of Carnival Cruise Line’s cruise ship problems has been extensive.
This week, it’s Carnival Legend, which developed sailing speed technical problems. Within the last month, it was Carnival Dream with lost power and stopped toilets and Carnival Elation with steering system breakdowns. Worse, Carnival Triumph, a 4-turned-8-day cruise in the Gulf of Mexico, garnered wall-to-wall coverage as 4200 passengers were slowly tugged and towed to Alabama. They reputedly endured stopped toilets, sewage on floors and walls, low-to-no-to-bad food, stuffy stinky staterooms, and a lot more. But they came ashore alive and relatively well.
Far worse, January 13, 2012, Costa Concordia ran aground at Isla dl Giglio, Tuscany, Italy with 3,206 passengers and 1,023 crew aboard. Some 32 people died, 2 are still missing and presumed dead, and 64 more were injured. Costa Concordia is owned by Costa Cruise, which is in turn controlled by, you guessed it, Carnival Corporation.
Certainly the Costa Concordia disaster was a catastrophe in the sense that people lost their lives and others were hurt. What’s most disturbing about this episode is that it all seems, even now after months of investigation, so unnecessary. In my estimation, Captain Francesco Schettino is guilty of criminal negligence, dereliction of duty, and an assortment of other crimes rooted in his incredibly unprofessional and inept leadership, or I should say the lack thereof. His actions and inactions contributed to if not caused the grounding. On top of that, he abandoned his ship. He and other top crew members are facing indictments, trials, and possible prison terms.
Aside, though, from the clearly tragic Costa Concordia incident, the rest of Carnival Cruise’s problems should be characterized more as corporate managerial challenges than as bona fide catastrophes. Yet media dutifully portray each cruise ship incident as unbearable pain for the passengers.
With due respect to the older folks caught in these ship snafus and with due concern for children who might have been scared, Carnival’s cruse ship problems are not that significant. Certainly not the end-of-the-world scenarios played out in media. People were discomforted and annoyed, but they still had something to eat, were not in life-threatening situations, and were soon headed home.
Put these cruise “catastrophes” alongside a host of other more dangerous situations around the world and they just don’t measure up.
People are living in the midst of civil war (Syria), in refugee camps (Lebanon), under oppressive dictatorships (North Korea), and in impoverished environments (Haiti). These people are suffering. These circumstances, not cruise ships with broken generators, rank as human catastrophes worthy of media attention.
So let us continue our concern and care for the people harmed by Costa Concordia, and let us keep the rest of the incidents in perspective.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2013
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In December, we launched the “Making a Difference with Rex Rogers” video column. It’s been fun to say the least, and we’re learning. You can view one of these video columns in an inset on the right side of this website.
First allow me to salute some friends. The idea for the video column initially came from Publisher David Vanderveen. His vision for what can be done in online Christian media today is the prime directive behind our effort. And Dave is a man of character whose friendship I’ve enjoyed for the past couple of years.
The video column is published by Dave and Faye Vanderveen’s “West Michigan Christian News” for its E-Edition and website and eventually for their Christianenews.com and MissionsInMedia.com websites. Bob and Debra Foster of BoDe Productions produce the videos. Faye, Bob, and Debra have become new friends whose desire to honor the Lord is evident in everything they do.
As I said, we’ve learned a few things. For example, I’ve worked with a teleprompter only once before. So learning to focus on the text and not lose my place, while not also looking like I’ve got tunnel vision, is a developing skill. It gets easier.
Relaxing on camera is a major consideration because it affects the appearance and ease with which a viewer can engage the topic. I’m not an actor and until now haven’t done much on camera—on radio, yes, but not on television or video. With repetition, though, you become comfortable with your surroundings, at ease with the lights, camera, and process, and your body begins to take on its normal habits—meaning you begin to move naturally when you speak rather than looking like a robot. It gets easier.
Props are important. At our first shoot of several columns, I switched out sport coats, shirts, and vests. OK, but we’re going to go with sport coats for a while. And in the inaugural shoot we used a green, well, really green, curtain backdrop. It’s a goner. For the second shoot we switched to a black curtain backdrop, pulled back the camera to reveal more table, lowered it so I didn’t look up so much, and stayed with a white shirt. It gets easier, and we plan, more creative.
Ideas and writing are what motivate me. But for content to make a contribution or an impact it must be shared. Publishing print is one way, posting is a new way, videoing is a newer way. It’s all fun…and it gets easier.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012
The National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) annual meeting brings together Christian radio, television, and other media people from across the nation and, in more recent years, the world. This year’s event at Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, February 26-March 1, 2011, represents my second visit.
The Charlotte, North Carolina event a few years ago was my first event, which I attended after several years of our radio staff at WCSG inviting me to go with them. At the time I was still serving in the university presidency. In other words, I was more of an academic than a broadcaster, so much of the potential of the NRB blew past me. I focused on my staff friends.
This year in Nashville has been different. I’ve been serving with SAT-7 for about a year and one-half and this changed everything.
After 34 years in Christian higher education I knew the principals. I knew which organization represented what and which school or leader was known for this or that. Now I’m in a new element. I’m learning a new landscape, actually what I call a “people-scape.”
Even more, really—I’m learning the key people, organizations, and culture of three areas at once: Broadcasting, Missions, and Middle East. The people-scape in all three of these areas of expertise and service is substantially different from Christian higher education, as is the politics and culture. There’s some overlap: I met one former Christian university president who has spent years in the NRB. We enjoyed a good chat about “life after the university presidency.” But mostly, things are new, challenging, and interesting.
I was impressed by the spiritual energy of the event. People I met, sessions in which I participated, large plenary meetings I attended, all evidenced a passion for Christian ministry, service, and use of media to advance the message and person of Christ. Quality ran high—events were professionally produced. And I appreciated the fact that I didn’t run into a kind of personal or institutional arrogance—my ministry’s more significant than your ministry—I’ve witnessed in other Christian settings from time to time.
Given the unprecedented and continuing events of the past six weeks or so in the Middle East, people’s interest in the region is higher and more energized. People wanted to know about SAT-7, about Christian ministry in the Middle East and North Africa, what’s going to happen next, and how media might play some positive role. Consequently, we did radio and television interviews and connected with key leaders whose influence can help SAT-7 communicate its mission in the States.
We made a long list of contacts that will likely result in future interviews, name recognition for SAT-7, and ministry. We saw what we needed to do, which is get more content into audio and video format for sharing. And we made a lot of new friends. For SAT-7 and for me I’d say this event was a success. We plan, Lord willing, to return next year.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011
MTV was considered edgy when it went on air in 1981. Music TV helped make the music video industry, and advanced Hip Hop, rap, and highly sexualized video content. In the years hence MTV has shown fewer music videos and more so-called reality programs, racy, and trumped up programs about who’s sexier than whom and who’s sleeping with whom. Lately, programs have crossed the line into outright vulgarity.
Now comes “Skins,” a program imported from the UK featuring “actors,” which is to say underage youth with no experience, in wall-to-wall questionable, immoral, and illicit behavior. Stealing, drunkenness, lying to parents, drugs, sexual encounters, nudity, orgiastic innuendo, all get airtime.
But the problem is it’s illegal to portray naked pictures of children. It’s called Kiddie Pornography.
People are reacting nationally—which is somewhat encouraging in the sense that there’s enough moral reservoir left within the culture to lead people to object. Strangely, or maybe predictably, MTV executives so far claim to be surprised or clueless.
Surely it isn’t much of a stretch to argue that programming child pornography, however “hip,” is unadvisable, wrong, immoral, and likely illegal. Yet here we are.
It shouldn’t surprise us. American culture has been jettisoning moral absolutes, the idea of right and wrong, since the 1960s. But in doing so our culture, i.e. us, leaves itself open to an anything goes, do what’s right in your own eyes society.
In particular we’ve tried to have our cake and eat it too in terms of sexuality. We want total freedom but no physical or emotional consequences. We want to preserve quaint ideas like marriage when we finally have children, but even that concept is being challenge.
Culturally we’ve argued, reflected and encouraged by Hollywood, for embracing the idea that consenting adults without the benefit of marriage can sexually do whatever they want whenever they want with whomever they want. Let it all hang out.
After a time even this isn’t enough so we get “Skins” on MTV. We get a program exposing and exploring teenage sexuality and calling it normal. We get Kiddie Porn.
MTV and others will make the argument “If you don’t like it don’t watch it. Censorship is wrong.” But this libertine statement is at bottom narcissistic and self-indulgent, wanting the protection of society but accepting no responsibility for reinforcing, building, or contributing to the social good.
Years ago the United States Supreme Court used the phrase “no redeeming social value” in reference to pornography. This phrase describes “Skins.” It has nothing to offer but debauchery.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011
Last weekend, Tucson was the scene of tragedy, 6 people killed in senseless violence, including a nine year old child born on 9/11, along with 14 people seriously wounded, including Rep. Grabrielle Giffords.
I sincerely hope Congresswoman Giffords and the others make it. Truly it is a sad and sorry situation.
Watching cable news report and try to interpret tragedy is interesting and instructive. News anchors interview psychologists and professors but rarely pastors, the one exception being Billy Graham when he was younger and healthier than he is today at 92. To do so would, in journalists' minds, violate modern conceptions of the proper place of religion in public life, which is to say keep it private and personal and not really public in any meaningful way.
Journalists, therefore, search for secularized vocabulary to describe essentially religious or moral circumstances. They talk about "his demons," as in “he’s wrestled with his demons since childhood.” This is the go-to phrase media have developed in the past twenty years to describe sin or wrong moral choices, without actually admitting that there are moral choices.
Instead of personal or spiritual or moral explanations, journalists typically look for social explanations for tragedy. For example, it's the political rhetoric of the Right (which should be tuned up and toned down) or it’s the economy or unemployment.
Certainly inflamed or mean-spirited or hateful rhetoric can influence people. So do economic downturns. But to say this is to admit that any and all environmental circumstances of life influence people. Yet not everyone responds to social difficulty by becoming a killer. And to say social conditions influence people is not the same as saying such conditions are deterministic, meaning people are programmed to respond in a certain way and cannot do otherwise. No, people make choices.
Beyond this, journalists talk about mental instability, which certainly exists and may ultimately be the primary explanation behind Tucson shooter Jared Lee Loughner. Examining mental issues is a legitimate discussion. But not every person who suffers from mental illness becomes a killer. In fact, the overwhelming majority of mentally ill people do not resort to violence.
Perhaps the real reasons for tragedy lie deeper within hearts not taught moral accountability, nor instilled with hope. The culture in which we live celebrates detachment from moral restraint. Many kids grow up thinking they aren’t really responsible for their attitudes and behaviors. Remember? It’s the economy or parents or the environment or poverty or something, anything, other than them or us or me.
Kids grow up in a culture of abundance, whether or not they experience it, together with a sense of entitlement that makes them forever unfulfilled and unsatisfied. Even those who have are taught to want more in a consumer-driven culture.
Maybe more worrisome is our culture’s dying sense of hope, a declining belief that things can or will be better tomorrow. The Greatest Generation believed this. Nearly all American generations before it believed this. But today hope is in short supply.
Hope is a religious or spiritual concept. If human beings have no hope something withers within them. Loss of hope brings in its wake angst, anomie, and alienation.
Social explanations may be helpful in understanding something about tragedy, but social factors are never enough. Sin and evil are rooted in the hearts of humankind. Journalists, if they really want to get to the bottom of tragedy, should open media to spiritual insight. American culture, if it wants to reduce the number of tragedies like Tucson, needs to rediscover a Sovereign God who lives, loves, holds accountable, forgives, and offers a better tomorrow.
To argue tragedy is rooted in sin, evil, and personal moral choice is not to pronounce doom and gloom as much as to pronounce hope. Because for moral failure, there’s a remedy in Christ who personifies hope.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011