- newReligion-beat veteran draws blood while dissecting Penn grand-jury report on clerical abuse
Last weekend was complicated for me, in large part because I needed to get from East Tennessee to New York City for the first half of my Journalism Foundations seminar at The King’s College. Throw in some interesting weather and Sunday was a long day.So what’s the point? Well, the weekend think piece that I was planning was never posted. In this case, that really matters because this Commonweal piece was an important one, featuring a byline — a New York Times scribe from my era on the religion-beat — that offered instant credibility. And the journalism hook was strong, strong, strong — leading to a Religion News Service column from Father Thomas Reese about the massive Commonweal essay.So let’s start with the RNS summary: “Grossly misleading, irresponsible, inaccurate, and unjust” is how former New York Times religion reporter Peter Steinfels describes last August’s Pennsylvania grand jury report in its sweeping accusation that Catholic bishops refused to protect children from sexual abuse. The report from a grand jury impaneled by the Pennsylvania attorney general to investigate child sexual abuse in the state’s Catholic dioceses has revived the furor over the abuse scandal, causing the resignation of the archbishop of Washington, D.C., and inspiring similar investigations in other states. Steinfels argues that it is an oversimplification to assert, as does the report, that “all” victims “were brushed aside, in every part of the state, by church leaders who preferred to protect abusers and their institutions above all.” Writing in the Catholic journal Commonweal, Steinfels acknowledges the horror of clerical abuse and the terrible damage done to children, but he complains that no distinctions have been made in the grand jury report from diocese to diocese, or from one bishop’s tenure to another. All are tarred with the same brush.Here’s a crucial theme: Steinfels noted that the report — which created a tsunami of ink in American media — failed to note the small number of abuse cases that were reported as having taken place AFTER the 2002 Dallas Charter, by clergy who are still in active ministries. The Dallas document radically changed how Catholic officials have dealt with abuse claims — at least those against priests.The Commonweal piece is massive and it’s hard to know what sections to highlight. Journalists (assignment editors included, hopefully) are just going to have to dig in and read it all.
- 9 hours ago 20 Jan 19, 7:00pm -
- Why was Karen Pence's Christian school choice worthy of all those Eye of Sauron headlines?
Let’s play a headline-writing game, inspired by the fact that one of the world’s most important newsrooms — BBC — wrote a blunt headline about You. Know. What.Yes, this week’s “Crossroads” podcast (click here to tune that in) takes another look at the great scandal of the week — that the wife of Vice President Mike Pence returned to her old job teaching at an evangelical Protestant school. This is the kind of small-o orthodox school that has a doctrinal code for teachers, staffers, parents and students that defends ancient Christian teachings that sex outside of marriage is a sin. We’re talking premarital sex, adultery (Hello Donald Trump), cohabitation, sexual harassment, same-sex behavior (not orientation), the whole works.Thus, the BBC headline: “Vice-president's wife Karen Pence to teach at anti-LGBT school.”Now, that BBC report didn’t make the common error of saying that this policy “bans” gay students, parents, teachers, etc. There are, after all, gays and lesbians, as well as people seeking treatment for gender dysphoria, who accept traditional Christian teachings on these subjects. There are some careful wordings here: Second Lady Karen Pence, the wife of the US vice-president, will return to teaching art at a school that requires employees to oppose LGBT lifestyles. The school in Springfield, Virginia, bars teachers from engaging in or condoning "homosexual or lesbian sexual activity" and "transgender identity". … "I understand that the term 'marriage' has only one meaning; the uniting of one man and one woman," the document states.My question is this: For the journalists that wrote this headline, what does “anti-LGBT” mean?If that term is accurate in this case, would it have been accurate for BBC to have used this headline: “Vice-president's wife to teach at anti-LGBT school for Christian bigots”? Is the judgment the same?Now that I think about it, in many news reports it certainly appeared that editors assumed that banning homosexual behavior is the same thing as banning LGBT people. If that is accurate, then why not write a headline that says, “Vice-president's wife to teach at school that bans gays”?Then again, looking at the content of the school policies, journalists could have used this headline: “Vice-president's wife to teach at school that defends Christian orthodoxy.” OK, but that doesn’t get the sex angle in there. So, let’s try this: “Vice-president's wife to teach at school that opposes sex outside of marriage.” That’s accurate. Right?
- 1 day ago 19 Jan 19, 4:00pm -
- This year's March for Life media question: How hard is it to tell 1,000 people from 100,000?
Another year, another mini-storm linked to media coverage of the March for Life in Washington, D.C.As always, the controversial issue is how to describe the size of the crowd. That’s been a hot-button topic inside the DC Beltway for several decades now (think Million Man March debates) Authorities at United States Park Police tend to turn and run (metaphorically speaking) when journalists approach to ask for crowd estimates.March For Life organizers have long claimed — with some interesting photo evidence — that the size of this annual event tends to get played down in the media.That is, if elite print and television newsrooms bother to cover the march at all. For more background, see this GetReligion post from 2018: “A brief history of why March for Life news causes so much heat.” And click here for the classic Los Angeles Times series by the late David Shaw focusing on media-bias issues linked to mainstream coverage of abortion.So, what about 2019? Writing mid-afternoon, from here in New York City, let me note one bad snippet of coverage, care of USA Today, and then point to several interesting issues in a much more substantial story at The Washington Post.I received a head’s up about the lede on an early version of the USA Today story about the march. Alas, no one took a screen shot and it appears that the wording has since change. However, several sources reported the same wording to me, with no chance for cooperation between these people. Here’s a comment from the Gateway Pundit blog: USA Today, the first result when you search for the march in Google News, began their story by saying, “more than a thousand anti-abortion activists, including many young people bundled up against the cold weather gripping the nation’s capital, gathered at a stage on the National Mall Friday for their annual march in the long-contentious debate over abortion.”Wait. “More than a thousand?” During a bad year — extreme weather is rather common in mid-January Washington — the March for Life crowd tops 100,000. Last year, a digital-image analysis company put the crowd at 200,000-plus. During one Barack Obama-era march, activists sent me materials — comparing images of various DC crowds — that showed a march of 500,000-plus (some claims went as high as 650,000).
- 2 days ago 18 Jan 19, 10:00pm -
- Friday Five: March for Life, Protestant prodigals, dementia and faith, Tiffany Rivers' child No. 9
It’s another busy week in the world of religion reporting. Once again, I’m having trouble keeping up with all the headlines.Today is the March for Life, and the Washington Post’s Julie Zauzmer had an interesting preview piece, exploring how political polarization is leading some to view the anti-abortion gathering as a Republican event.Meanwhile, The Tennessean’s Holly Meyer offered insightful coverage of a Lifeway Research survey. Gannett flagship USA Today picked up the story. The key finding: Large numbers of young adults who frequently attended Protestant worship services in high school are dropping out of church. And with those headlines, we’re just getting started.Look dive into the Friday Five:1. Religion story of the week: Religion News Service published an important, compelling three-part series on dementia and religion by national reporter Adelle M. Banks.You really need to check it out.Also, read my GetReligion commentary on the project.
- 2 days ago 18 Jan 19, 6:00pm -
- The Intercept: The mix of hijabs and high fashion do Muslims no favor
In this age of bare-bones journalism, a number of private investigative websites have sprung up to report on news that’s important to their owners. One is The Intercept, an online news site dedicated to “adversarial journalism” and funded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.Such sites tackle education, politics, the environment and more — but surprisingly not religion, even though huge percentages of Americans are involved in some kind of faith. Recently, The Intercept made its religion debut with a piece on Islamic fashion and its relation to capitalism.Its main point was that although the hijab and the flowing robes of the Saudi abaya may be glamorized on the world’s catwalks, actual women who wear them are vilified. NIKE RELEASED ITS first sports hijab last December, heralded with sleek, black-and-white photographs of accomplished Muslim athletes wearing the Pro Hijab emblazoned with the iconic swoosh. The same month, TSA pulled 14 women who wear hijab out of a security check line at Newark Airport; they were then patted down, searched, and detained for two hours. From February to March, Gucci, Versace, and other luxury brands at autumn/winter fashion week dressed mostly white models in hijab-like headscarves. Around that time, two women filed a civil rights lawsuit against New York City related to an incident in which the NYPD forced them to remove their hijabs for mugshots. Gap, a clothing brand known for its all-American ethos, featured a young girl in a hijab smiling broadly in its back-to-school ads this past summer. Meanwhile, children were forced to leave a public pool in Delaware; they were told that their hijabs could clog the filtration system. Muslim women and Muslim fashion currently have unprecedented visibility in American consumer culture. Yet women who cover are among the most visible targets for curtailed civil liberties, violence, and discrimination in the anti-Muslim climate intensified by Donald Trump’s presidency.Then comes an utterly clueless paragraph. By selling modest clothing or spotlighting a hijabi in an ad campaign, the U.S. clothing industry is beckoning Muslim women to be its latest consumer niche. In order to tap into the multibillion-dollar potential of the U.S. Muslim consumer market, large retailers have positioned themselves as socially conscious havens for Muslims, operating on a profit motive rather than a moral imperative.Now when has Gucci, Prada, Nike, Gap or all the other brands out there ever had a moral imperative?
- 3 days ago 18 Jan 19, 3:00pm -