The Medium Isn’t the Message

Back in 1998 I was hired to come to Texas and teach students how to be a book, newspaper and magazine editor and how to write books and magazine articles. I had 25 years experience in doing that very thing, and I figured that would be my claim to fame from that point on.

But time marches on and technology changes. Now hardly any of my students read a newspaper or magazine. They all get their news from the Internet, and more specifically, they get it off their smartphones, rather than computers. They don’t watch TV; they watch YouTube and Netflix. They don’t listen to radio; they listen to Pandora. The whole world is changing, and we as teachers have to change with it.

We spent this past weekend surrounded by 100 high schoolers making films for our soon-to-be annual 48-hour film challenge. It was exhausting but a lot of fun too, and they ended the weekend excited about the possibilities. And so have we. For we started this school year realizing that our jobs have simply become to prepare students to become storytellers, in whatever shape or form that takes them.

That’s the essence of it: telling a story. Jesus set the example in the New Testament by calling crowds to him and simply telling stories that would be repeated in multiple forms for centuries to come. It’s not about the medium: TV or radio, magazine or newspaper. It’s not about whether you are self-published or picked up by a traditional publisher. It’s about getting the story out. More importantly, it’s about your ability to tell the story in a way that communicates the message.

And let me back up even further: It’s about having a Message that’s significant, singular and memorable enough that it will be remembered. We are deluged today by media with thousands of messages vying for our attention. How many of them do we pay attention to? And of those, how many do we remember? And of those, how many of those are we willing to act on?

Jesus was the master storyteller, but He was much more than that, I tend to believe that it was because the stories He told were founded on Truth that is meaningful no matter when or where you are living. There’s a lot to be said for that kind of communication, and I hope that I can find in myself those same abilities.

More than anything, I just need to remember, it’s not the medium that’s important.

It’s the story.