As soon as I heard about SBS’s Struggle Street I thought of Jon Owen, Minister-at-large, who has a long term commitment to Mt Druitt as part of Urban Neighbourhood of Hope (UNOH).
Unlike the makers of this program, he lives within the community he works with, has local people coming and going from his family’s home and is in every way an integral part of the neighbourhood.
Here’s a bit of what he had to say about Struggle Street in his regular email newsletter, called The Huddle. It is not only insightful commentary on this program, but also on the opportunity, more broadly, for journalists to either hurt or heal, to reveal people or problems:
‘Journalists have the power to heal or to hurt.
‘There is no doubt that there is some satisfaction to be gained (and perhaps ratings) by unfolding a story that invites ridicule on the part of the wider community who knows little or nothing of the neighbourhood I call home.
‘There is a dark side through our whole culture that seems to enjoy feeling a bit better because there is always someone else to look down upon.
‘We ought to be wide awake to any attempt that looks like it might be concerned for the community that might really be inviting disgust on a large scale.
‘Journalists can investigate and reveal “problems” or “people”. If they take the time to ask why someone might be living in a deplorable state, they can show a story that explains the circumstances that reveal the person.
‘The effect of such a exercise in journalism would be to cause the viewer to discover a neighbour in need.
‘The effect of revealing mere “problems” will cause a viewer to recoil in judgement and disgust.’
Someone like Jon has earned the right to speak on a topic like this because he has done the hard yards of ‘incarnational life’ in the community where he longs to see life and hope flourish. It’s a good model of ‘sharing our lives’ that the New Testament exhorts us to (and that Jesus modeled) in preference to a distant preaching…
Let’s hope we all learn something from this process. Read more from Jon Owen on Struggle Street