A few days have passed since I first read it, but a weekend story from the Detroit Free Press keeps nagging at me.
The story concerned "Christian missionaries" — get used to that terminology — taunting Muslims at an Arab-American festival in Dearborn, Mich.
The top of the 500-word news report:
Tensions flared Friday evening at the annual Arab International Festival in Dearborn as members of some Christian missionary groups — including one called the Bible Believers — taunted Arab Americans with a pig’s head and signs that promoted hatred of Islam.
“You’re gonna burn in hell,” one missionary shouted at a group of young Arab-American boys listening to him speak on Warren Avenue, where the festival takes place.
The festival continues today in Dearborn, but the members of the Bible Believers won’t be there because they’ll be protesting a gay festival in Ohio, said Arab Festival organizers.
The three-day festival is the largest public gathering of Arab-Americans in the U.S.; it has drawn Christian missionaries for years, but in 2009, some become more aggressive, leading to arrests and legal feuds. Dearborn has the highest concentration of Arab-Americans in the U.S., many of them Muslim, making it a magnet for some Christian missionaries.
Here's what bugs me about this story: the repeated vague references to unidentified Christian missionaries.
In all, the report makes 15 references to the term "missionary" or "missionaries." Yet not a single missionary is identified. Apparently, not a single missionary was interviewed. Maybe there's a reason for that. Maybe the police kept the reporter from contacting them, but if that's the case, shouldn't the story say so?
To be fair, the story is equally vague in reference to other sources. "Arab Festival organizers" are quoted, but not by name. "Young Arab Americans" are referenced, but none is identified.
The only name in the entire story appears in this paragraph:
In his Friday sermon, the imam of the mosque, Hassan Al-Qazwini, warned parents that some missionaries at the Arab Festival could target their children for conversion: ''Be careful. ... They could be taken (spiritually) from us.''
The reference in the lede at least ties some of the vague missionaries to a group called the Bible Believers. That's an improvement from the original version of the story that I read. It did not even mention that group. Of course, it would be nice for the story to provide a little context on who the Bible Believers are and maybe quote one of them.
Have I totally lost my mind? Do news stories not require named sources anymore? Should a reporter not ask the protesters and counter-protesters who they are (please spell your name, please), why they're there, what they believe and what group, if any, they represent? Are readers in Detroit — or anywhere, for that matter — really satisfied with vague references to "Christian missionaries?"
Please, somebody help me out here. Explain why this story is not as bad as it seemed to me.