From the very beginning, my practice with secular journalists has been to give them near total access. The practice was framed by the ideological pillars that a) It would always be better to speak for ourselves than to be interpreted from outside; and b) the Truth has nothing to fear from discussion. It has been something I have fought for. One of the original founders of Act One dropped out in the first few months because I agreed to be interviewed by CNN.
Well, I think I may soon have to rethink.
For the last few weeks, Act One has been in the spotlight of Details magazine which is doing a feature story on our Executive Program. My staff and I, and our students and faculty spent a lot of time with the journalist doing the piece. We liked him, and by the end of his four days with us, it was clear that he liked us. I had high hopes that he would do a fair job on us. I pleaded with him not to caricature us according to the typical MSM perception of Christians as dangerous, scary, unhip, intolerant and idiotic. And maybe he won't. I'll let you know when the article comes out this Fall.
But, I don't have a lot of hope because of what happened yesterday, when the phototographers from the magazine were done with their dirty work. I should have gone with them when the three of them insisted that they needed to take a few of our wonderful students down the street for some "staged" shots.
One of our students, who happens to be from New Orleans, was brought down the street to a parking lot. There, the photographers had a beat up car which somehow, in a Los Angeles in which it never rains, they had managed to get covered in mud. The car even had Louisiana plates. They put our student behind the car as though it was his car. You know, a redneck, hick, unhip, scary and idiotic kind of car. It's sickening because this particular student could easily have been photographed in front of his own car - a very cool, hip, and sexy looking new jeep. But, THAT wouldn't have been the image Details wanted - get the picture?
Another student was brought down to Sunset Blvd. where the photographers actually had him kneel on the ground and look like he was praying! Because, you know, that's what we Christians in Hollywood do every day. Our student did it because he is a nice guy, and he thought he was doing it for Act One. The photographers would say they were doing it in a "ha, ha, aren't we funny?" kind of way.
But all I could think was, imagine if Details was going to do a profile of gay Hollywood. And they decided to find a couple of very overweight women with canes, bad hair and no sense of humor to be the lesbians. Or maybe, they do a story on the Black writers in town, and ask them to come wearing baggy denim shorts down to their ankles with Crips hats and waving Saturday night specials.
Because stereotyping is just harmless fun, right?! Right?
No, no, I know. We bring in the - this is gonna kill ya - Muslim writers - and shoot them with plastic explosives wrapped around their waist - only - here's the slam!!! - there AREN'T any MUSLIM writers! So we use Jews instead dressed like Muslims! What a side-splittin' knee slappin' laugh riot!
Aw, come on, lighten up...
Finally, the magazine photographers had asked to come to producer Steve McEveety's(TPOTC, Braveheart, What Women Want) class to take some pictures. We watched them for nearly two hours as they stood there with their cameras trained on Steve. Steve isn't a demonstrative guy, but it was clear they were waiting for a particular stance to shoot. Then, it happened. At one point in the class, Steve was answering a question and he had his hands folded in front of him. He closed his eyes and bowed his head slightly as he thought. FLASH! SNAP! went the cameras. They hadit - a shot that LOOKED LIKE Steve was leading the class in prayer - but actually, he was just thinking for a second. And they knew it.
I have no idea how the article will come out. It was just amazing to me how, just as with the NY Times reporter a few weeks ago, these photographers had their orders from above, and knew what their story was going to be - and they were going to get it - regardless of whether it was true or not.
In my next life, I am going to start a training and mentoring program to help young Christians start out in journalism...