Case in Point

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This blog site will feature essays, columns and musings that deal with the intersection of Christianity and journalism and the American Songbook.

Snow, Russert and WJI (column: WJI Times Observer)

WJI Times Observer

Case in Point column
August 19, 2008

Robert Anthony Snow died on Saturday (July 12, 2008). Mr. Snow, better known to millions of Americans as “Tony Snow” was a commentator, journalist, TV pundit, White House spokesman, and radioman. Tony was also a speaker at a journalism conference co-sponsored by the World Journalism Institute in Washington, D.C., in 2002. While I only chatted briefly with him once (at that conference) his demeanor communicated access to me. So for years I found myself thinking I knew Tony Snow even though we had met once and that only briefly. I began to pursue Mr. Snow earlier this year to speak at a WJI conference but soon realized that his health probably prohibited him from accepting my invitation.

We cancer survivors have a unique bond that is unspoken – we know we live on borrowed time. However, those of us who are Christians have a certain comfort in knowing our final home. Mr. Snow acknowledged his understanding of that in a Christianity Today article in July 2007, when he wrote his cancer was an “unexpected blessing.” I wrote much the same about my cancer in 2001, when I said it was a “gift from God.” Snow’s cancer was the particularly vicious strain of colon metastasizing into liver; mine was the garden variety of prostate. (note: Since writing this column in 2008 I have had a bout with basal cell skin cancer and ependymoma spinal cancer)

My reflection on Tony Snow not only has the personal connection of religious conviction (him a Roman Catholic, me a Presbyterian), the connection of cancer (him liver, me prostate), but also political connection (him a cheerful conservative, me a cheerful conservative).

Finally, both of us also let our theology inform our view of journalism. In September 2000, he wrote a column for the Jewish World Review in which he stated his understanding of the Fall in the garden of Eden and its impact on the practice of journalism: “We are hostage to our shortcomings…. we must contend with our biases and ignorance. Journalists seldom admit these things.” Tony Snow did and was a better journalist for it.

One cannot note Tony Snow’s death at 53 without noting the death of Tim Russert at the age of 58. Both men, serious Christians, were influential journalists with integrity and gentlemanly conduct. One conservative, one liberal, both role models for young journalists now earning their stripes in the newsrooms. I did not know Mr. Russert but on our website, we used him as an example of a fair, honest and relentless interviewer who discovered the truth to the benefit of us all.

It continues to be the task of the World Journalism Institute to equip and encourage Christians in the mainstream newsrooms to emulate the Snows and the Russerts so that American society can better understand the true state of affairs in our country.

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