Over at the Bible and Interpretation, Thomas S. Verenna has written an article entitled “Artifacts and the Media: Lead Codices and the Public Portrayal of History.” This well-researched piece addresses the way news organizations failed to serve their readers in the recent “discovery” of the lead codices.
I appreciated his conclusion, which begins (emphasis added):
What this treatment illustrates, more than the deception behind the lead codices, is the hijacking of history and the Bible by the media. This isn’t a new problem; it is one that has existed for decades. Some might say this problem dates back to the Roman period, wherein historians like Tacitus and Suetonius used the Acta Diurna which, as far as other sources are concerned, was not nearly as useful except perhaps for those who preferred gossip and rhetoric to factual information. But with the internet, the media has the ability to spread memes much more quickly than it had before and those memes are likely to last longer and remain available longer than inaccuracies presented in the past. While deceptive persons might try to pull the wool over the eyes of others, it is really the media that must be held accountable. It is accountable for giving these individuals a pedestal to stand on and an audience of eager readers who have no idea they are about to be conned into believing a false portrayal of the past.
More scandalous is the complete lack of journalistic integrity, honest research, and thorough fact-checking. These codices might never have been heard of if the authors of the reports for BBC and Fox News (among others) had just checked with the academic community before publishing the “find”. At the very least, the journalists might have used less authoritative language, expressed more caution, and exposed the controversy rather than simply stating, as if doing so made it fact, that these codices were “the earliest Christian texts” and that they held “early images of Jesus.”
The full article is worth reading, as are the comments (especially #3).