Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 18, 1961

Could This Be Journalism?

Reuel Lemmons

On Sunday, December 4, 1960, an article appeared in one of the Los Angeles area papers with the headline, "Downey Lass Pepperdine Princess." In the first paragraph it was stated that this young lady was "one of the Homecoming princesses, and was honored at the Homecoming Dance, where she met singer Pat Boone.

Very little time elapsed until this story found its way to Texas and began its "overflow" into dozens of church bulletins charging that M. Norvel Young and Pepperdine College were sponsoring dances and brother Pat Boone was present. Hundreds of honest Christians who have been praying for Pepperdine College were slapped squarely in the face by irresponsible journalism.

Evidently no attempt was made to contact brother M. Norvel Young, brother J. P. Sanders, brother Bill Teague, brother Howard Horton or any other member of the faculty or administration of Pepperdine College to verify the story. The same worldly newspapers which insist on printing "Reverend" in front of preachers' names was law and gospel as these journalists were concerned. Perhaps it never occurred to them to check the story with their brothers in Christ, or could it be that they had found what they were looking for and did not bother to check it?

This worldly newspaper, desiring to be honest in its reporting ethics and not desiring to be unjust to anyone, printed the following in the same newspaper on February 26, 1961:

Pepperdine College Story Correction

We goofed sometimes it happens, but we try to to be accurate (emphasis mine). On December 4 we carried an item about the Pepperdine College Homecoming festivities in which Pat Hatchel of Downey was princess. Our story indicated a dance was held as part of the festivities.... but Pepperdine College does not allow campus dances at any time. The program was held on the stage of the school auditorium at which time Pat Boone crowned the Homecoming queen and greeted the four princesses.

We cannot blame this worldly newspaper for assuming that every college must crown its queen at a dance, but was it not noble of them to give space to retracting the story? They were under no obligation to retract and were certainly not threatened with libel. But dozens and perhaps by this time hundreds of church bulletins have printed this lie for the truth. Will brethren have the integrity of this worldly newspaper and likewise retract the story?

The more I see of irresponsible journalism, the more I respect Pontius Pilate. At least he did not convict Jesus on the hearsay of the Pharisees without giving Jesus a chance to defend himself. Would that Christian brethren could practice as much spirituality as this pagan governor of Rome.

I have no connection with Pepperdine College except as its friend, but through several stormy years Pepperdine College was part of my prayers. A sound Christian college is needed on the West Coast where boys and girls can receive an education with Christian influence. Three years ago I came to California and found many faculty members and approximately ninety percent of Pepperdine College were not members of the church. "Now 77.3% of the students living in the dormitories are members of the church. I have observed brethren M. Norvel Young and J. P. Sanders and other faithful brethren in the College patiently and prayerfully win one battle after another. Last night I stood in the midst of 7,000 Christians who gathered in Los Angeles Shrine Auditorium for the closing lecture the Pepperdine Lecture series and sang, "My Faith Looks Up To Thee." I heard brother George Pepperdine say with trembling voice, "This is the greatest moment of my life." Just four years ago one could not make a crowd to fill the College auditorium in honor of the College, but during the lectures this year $118,000 was contributed to the support of this institution.

I am sure that much is lacking at Pepperdine College, but they are making an honest effort and are backed by a host of Christian friends who stand ready to help them make it a first rate Christian college in every sense of the word. Do we really want to see a strong Christian college on the West Coast?

I have been praying for Pepperdine College, Abilene Christian College, David Lipscomb College, Florida Christian College, and all of the others here and abroad. If in journalism as well as in the church we do more praying and less prying, we will move closer to the fellowship and love our Lord intended that we have.