on communication – “topics” vs “news”

I listen to sports radio. I am a guy. I like sports. Ergo, I listen to sports radio.

One of my favorites is Colin Cowherd, host of “The Herd” on ESPN radio. It comes on at 9am in Houston. I love Colin because he’s the frat guy who you think at first is just listened to because he’s funny and says things other folks won’t say. But the more you listen, the you more you realize that he’s smarter than that first impression you had of him. Oh, he’s still the frat guy being funny, but now you realize, “hey, this guy’s take on things ends up panning out pretty often.” The key to that is a lot of practical wisdom, which Colin offers regularly.

So, today I was on my way to meet a colleague for lunch when I heard Colin sounding off a little in response to emails and text messages upset with him for not talking about the current winning streak our NBA team, the Rockets are on, which I think is tied for second all-time at 20 straight games.

Colin said that he has not covered it because it is news only–a nice story but without—and this is what has me thinking—“a second gear.”

He said he does topics, not news. If we want to hear the current state of the streak, check the news. But he is going to cover “topics,” that is, items that have plenty of intriguing questions, possibilities, and story lines that continue to stick with us after the initial news story fades away—stuff with potentially ongoing significance, a “second gear.” The original event and its initial reporting is plenty, according to this view. What comes next? How intriguing are the implications? What possibilities arise from this? These are the questions for a story with a “second gear” to it.

I’m reflecting on this in two main veins:

1. What, if anything, does this distinction between “news” and “topics” and its assessment of conversation have to say about our practice of preaching and teaching the gospel? I wonder if we are attuned to hearing the difference in regular discourse. How, if at all, might we appropriate this concept to the way we preach and communicate?

2. Is this not related to the spread of the gospel and the ongoing theological project of the Church that continues to this day? The original witnesses and writers had been personally encountered the risen Christ and so were working out the implications of that event in communities that gathered for worship, study, and service in the world. Talk about a “second gear” to the story. Jesus died, was buried, and then resurrected from the grave and later ascended into heaven. Yes, implications indeed. Continuing significance–check! Everything was changing and there was plenty to talk through and work out. There still is.

Published by Guy M Williams

Christian | Husband, Father | Pastor | 8th-Gen Texan | Texas A&M ‘96 | Asbury Seminary ‘01 | Enjoy family, reading, running, golf, college football

2 thoughts on “on communication – “topics” vs “news”

  1. This all makes me think of the difference between issues and rhetoric in political campaigns. Rhetoric is the reason why incumbents enjoy a better than 90% re-election rate; issues are the reason why the approval rating for the Congress is in the cellar. Somehow, it just does not mesh.

    Good thoughts!

  2. Thanks for the comment, Michael. Interesting connection to the world of politics–a place as rife with various and sundry types of communication as any.

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