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FINDING GOD IN THE EVENING NEWS: A Broadcast Journalist Looks Beyond the Headlines
Jody Dean
Revell/Baker Book House Company
Christian Living
ISBN: 0800759729

Emmy Award-winning journalist Jody Dean has worked in broadcast news long enough to dispute the notion that "the devil is in the details" of the events of our day. God is in the details, he counters, including those details that often lie hidden in plain view on the nightly newscasts. "We're used to looking for the huge," he writes about newscasters and viewers alike. "But tiny things can have more weight than we can imagine. I think a lot of the stories we cover are like that…We miss the 'still small voice' when we focus on the thunderstorm."

Yes, he admits, most of what you see on television news is negative or sensational or depressing. That's what makes it the news --- the anomalies, the disasters, the tragedies. But Dean believes observant viewers --- those who have eyes to see and ears to hear --- can discover God in the same stories that others have labeled negative.

Few would disagree, for instance, that the abduction and murder of a child makes for a horrific story, the kind that causes your heart to hurt like nothing else can and tempts you to swear off television news forever. Even seasoned reporters found themselves at a loss for words in 1999 when young Amber Hagerman's body was found near Arlington, Texas. "We've just got to give this one to God," a fellow journalist said to Dean at the funeral. As senseless and heartbreaking as the girl's murder was, her death proved not to be in vain. The tragedy resulted in the institution of the now-nationwide Amber Alert System, which immediately notifies law enforcement agencies, broadcasts outlets, and motorists (via electronic highway signs) whenever a child is reported missing or abducted. God was indeed a part of the story, and the lives of countless children have been saved as a result.

Throughout the book, Dean shows God at work in the details of many of the major stories he has covered in his 30 years as a Dallas-area broadcast journalist --- stories of such magnitude as the Oklahoma City bombing and the breakup of the space shuttle Columbia in the skies over Texas, and of such poignancy as human-interest pieces on an inner city soup kitchen and a man whose ministry to others is played out in the role of Santa Claus.

Among the most compelling is his account of the 1999 shootings during a midweek service at Wedgewood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. During his murderous spree, Larry Gene Ashbrook killed seven people and injured seven others before turning the gun on himself. In an interview with the pastor following the tragedy, Dean asked about the seven who died. Pastor Al Meredith immediately corrected him. "There were eight who died," he said, including Ashbrook in the tally and thereby speaking volumes about grace, compassion and forgiveness.

In each chapter, Dean's writing reveals his skill as a storyteller --- an often overlooked talent shared by the best journalists in the country, whether in print or on the air. One of his best tales is the must-read account of a woman named Rose whose story never appeared in or on the air in her lifetime, at least not in so much detail that it would have brought unwanted publicity to her "hole-in-the-wall" burger joint. It's stories like this one that prove Dean can handle human-interest pieces as masterfully as he handles hard news.

If you're a news junkie like I am, you're bound to love this book, if for no other reason than it gives us an arsenal of ammunition to defend an addiction that others cannot comprehend. Fortunately for Dean and Revell, FINDING GOD IN THE EVENING NEWS should appeal as well to the general Christian public --- a public that has become increasingly disenchanted with the media and disturbed by their negative excesses. By showing God at work in the stories he has covered, Dean offers viewers a reason to tune in and discover God for themselves.

   --- Reviewed by Marcia Ford (misfit@marciaford.com)

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