Hollywood, Communications & The Church: Interview with Phil Cooke (Part II)


Part II of IV

Part I

This is part two of a four part series based on an interview, conducted by Dr. Richard (Rick) J. Goossen, Chairman, ELO Network, with Phil Cooke, Co-Founder & President, Cooke Media Group. The entire interview can be watched below through YouTube.

Rick Goossen (RG): Should pastors just recognize that the message of Christ as it's applied in the context of various contentious issues is just not going to be popular with the media? 

Phil Cooke (PC): Yes, while it's important to note that reporters aren't necessarily out to get you, I think their view of Christianity is not very positive.

I advise people to be very careful when it comes to engaging with reporters. In fact, I know one ministry leader who got pulled into an interview with a reporter under the guise of a flattering piece. The reporter stated that he felt like the pastor was going to be the next Billy Graham. It hit the pastor’s ego. So, the pastor agreed to the interview. However, when the interview happened the reporter pulled out a bunch of allegations about financial misconduct in the church and a lot of other things. It literally crashed that pastor's career overnight. You have to just be very discerning and careful when you're dealing with mainstream reporters.


RG: Do church leaders need to assume that the mainstream doesn't know that much about churches? 

PC: No question about it. In Hollywood, it's interesting, a number of producers, celebrities, and studio heads don't have a clue about Christianity. They have absolutely no clue. And as a result, a lot of Christian colleges are raising up a generation of filmmakers, writers, and artists to come to Hollywood and try to make an impact.

On the inside, I think the next thing Christian colleges should focus on is journalism departments. If we had a generation of young journalists that were Christians coming up, that could make an incredibly important difference in the way Christianity is covered in the news media. We're not represented very well. They just don't know much about it and so we have to think about that when we engage with them.


RG: How would you say the media has changed over the course of your career?

PC: It’s changed a lot. I did a podcast recently on the fact that from 1898 to about 1914, at the very birth of the film industry, the church made more movies than Hollywood. Early on, the church really embraced movie-making. And there are many examples of how that happened. And it was when the church started to pull away, that the studios really stepped in.

I think anytime there's a void it's probably going to be filled with the wrong elements. And so, the church went from being very pro-movie to being very anti-movie. I try to share with Christians around the US that we should stop viewing Hollywood as the enemy and start viewing Hollywood as a mission field. Have we prayed for the industry? What if we prayed for television networks instead of criticizing them constantly? Maybe we should start thinking about them as a mission field and raising up a generation of missionaries to go out there.

The entire interview can be viewed here: