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Concerning Donald Trump, Billy Graham, Joe Biden and the political ties that bind

Concerning Donald Trump, Billy Graham, Joe Biden and the political ties that bind

It's a comment that I have heard several times from historians who specialize in the history of American religion, especially Protestantism in the 20th Century.

The Rev. Billy Graham has not had a spotless career, and he would be the first to note that. In particular, there were the revelations in the Richard Nixon tapes about some of the evangelist's private opinions, which led to a season of public repentance. When you look at Graham's work, it's clear that the Nixon-era train wreck led him to focus more on Christianity at the global level and less on America, America, America.

However, stop and think about this question: Can you name an American in his era who had a higher-profile public career than Graham, becoming -- literally -- one of the most famous people in the world, yet who was involved in fewer scandals linked to morality, money or ethics? Turning that around, as one historian did, and ask yourself this question: If I had been in Graham's shoes, would I have done as well?

This brings us to Donald Trump. 

To be specific, if brings us to the new Crossroads podcast, in which host Todd Wilken and I -- spinning off my Universal column this past week -- dug into mainstream press claims that the F5 category Trump (talking media storms) has become the GOP candidate with the most appeal to "evangelical" voters.

Why bring up Graham in that context? View the start of the video at the top of this post. That was where I started in my column:

When it became clear that normal venues were too small, Donald Trump met his Mobile, Ala., flock in the ultimate Deep South sanctuary -- a football stadium.
"Wow! Wow! Wow! Unbelievable. Unbelievable," shouted the candidate that polls keep calling the early Republican frontrunner. "That's so beautiful. You know, now I know how the great Billy Graham felt, because this is the same feeling. We all love Billy Graham. We love Billy Graham."

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Time to tackle a question: Does BuzzFeed do basic, hard-news religion news or not?

Time to tackle a question: Does BuzzFeed do basic, hard-news religion news or not?

This past year, I had a student in Washington who was really into BuzzFeed, for many reasons, including lots of valid ones.

Like it or not, she said, the mainstream press was going to have to come to terms with key elements of the BuzzFeed business model, especially the idea of breaking stories down into humorous and entertaining listicles that force profitable mouse clicks. This concept, she added, could save the news industry by helping young readers develop habits of news consumption.

I asked: But what about basic news? How do these digital-era concepts apply to the coverage of daily hard news about topics that, like it or not, are essential to life and public discourse? Her reply was blunt: That doesn't matter since young readers won't read those kinds of news stories anyway.

I was also worried about continuing efforts to erase the line between news coverage and editorial writing, in the snarky new listicles, first-person features and in the waves of "reported blogging" pieces that are spreading through the websites of conventional newsrooms. Oh yes, and things like the Twitter blast at the top of this post.

Then there was that famous statement by BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith (see my post "From old Kellerism to new BuzzFeed") that bluntly stated:

“We firmly believe that for a number of issues, including civil rights, women’s rights, anti-racism, and LGBT equality, there are not two sides.”

Smith later said, in a Hugh Hewitt interview (transcript here) explained his newsroom's open celebration of the 5-4 Obergefell decision:

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Concerning that clip-art howler with International Business Times poo-attack report

Concerning that clip-art howler with International Business Times poo-attack report

One of the hardest things that your GetReligionistas do, day after day, is search for non-copyrighted art to illustrate our posts.

Most of the time we strive for art -- such as YouTube links -- that adds actual content to the piece or some kind of graphic device linked to the topic. Sometimes, we pick art that makes an editorial comment, an ironic one even, about a particular story, like using a "delete key" close-up with a post about an alleged news report that we think shouldn't have been written in the first place.

Long ago, I spent several years laying out the inside pages of a small daily newspaper and, trust me, I know what it's like to struggle to find logical file art to illustrate a story.

Want to see a great example of now not to do this sort of work?

Brothers and sisters, I am in total agreement with faithful reader Thomas Szyszkiewicz on this OMG International Business Times howler.

Step 1: Click here to see the Reuters photo used to accompany a story with this headline:

Inmates of 'Hey Dad…!' actor Robert Hughes attack him with poop and urine on his first day of prison

Step 2: Read the top of this "news report" (scare quotes because it actually appears to be mere aggregation). Here is a sample.

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Back to the Islamic Caitlyn Jenner and the man behind the Planned Parenthood videos

Back to the Islamic Caitlyn Jenner and the man behind the Planned Parenthood videos

On this week's episode of "Crossroads, the GetReligion podcast, " host Todd Wilken and I discussed the Sacramento Bee's less than sparkling coverage of the man behind the Planned Parenthood videos (who grew up in their back yard, making this truly a local-angle story) and the Los Angeles Times's discovery of a Muslim woman who has become a man. Please click here to tune that in.

Not surprisingly, the key figure in the trans Muslim story lives in San Francisco, which is where I -- as I write this -- have been for the past few days attending a conference of journalism professors known as the Association of Educators in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC). 

Today I moderated a panel of scholars who were discussing how journalists used to put scare quotes about "Islamophobia" and how increasingly they are not.

This is, of course, a sign that they believe such a phobia is real and not something dreamed up by Muslim apologists. It also implies that this is not a subject worth debating. That's how "scare quotes" work, after all. 

One Muslim professor listening in said that no matter what the story, Muslims -- like Mormons -- are always treated as the "other" -- part of a group that's not quite normal.

My problem with the Los Angeles Times story (which hasn't attracted any comments as of yet) wasn't about fear of Muslims, it more had to do with handling a transgender Muslim with such kid gloves that she/he was spared the normal tough questions a reporter should be asking.

Sound familiar?

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Win for M.Z. New York Times issues late, late correction on Planned Parenthood

Win for M.Z. New York Times issues late, late correction on Planned Parenthood

So how many of you assumed we would never, ever see a New York Times correction on the Planned Parenthood video-story error that GetReligionista emeritus M.Z. Hemingway has been protesting for several weeks? 

GetReligion has been seconding her motion over and over, too. We are talking about the original David Daleiden video of the encounter with a Planned Parenthood leader named Dr. Deborah Nucatola.

Now, the Times has a reputation for having one of the best correction desks in all of journalism (GetReligion folks used to get actual calls from real, live human beings there all the time), so this correction is, on one level, not surprising. The error was clear, after all.

As M.Z. wrote, using the Times online correction form:

Phrase in Question: "Mr. Daleiden released what he called the full recording last week after Planned Parenthood complained of selective, misleading editing."

Your Concern (please limit to 300 words): –- This is completely in error. The full recording was released 21 seconds after the edited version, according to YouTube records, many hours before Planned Parenthood tried the public relations spin accepted by some reporters. ...

So now, late, late, late -- after most readers have surely moved on -- we can see that the following text has been added at the end of the online story.

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Do journalists (and the public, for that matter) still separate news and opinion?

Do journalists (and the public, for that matter) still separate news and opinion?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Yes, we know that it is now August. However, there is no Aug. 1 in the calendar of the SquareSpace software we use to publish this blog. Think "Twilight Zone."

 

Pick a poll, pretty much any poll, and you will see that public trust for the work of journalists today is lower than low.

OK, how about Gallup in 2014, a poll indicating the key trust number -- for newspapers -- was at 22 percent and dropping below previous records? You don't want to know what the numbers were for television news and the Internet.

Of course, there is a degree of public hypocrisy in those numbers. Postmodern Americans claim they want balanced, accurate news and then there is strong evidence that what they really want is opinion and news that backs their own views. It is rare to see a deep, balanced, nuanced news story trending on Twitter.

So should journalists stop trying? Should mainstream news outlets simply let their freak flags fly and stop trying to do fair and accurate coverage of causes they believe are, using this phrase in as nonsectarian a way as possible, of the Devil? Using terms from journalism history, should journalists give up on the American model of the press and go back to a European, advocacy model?

That was the topic of this week's "Crossroads" podcast chat with host Todd Wilken (click here to tune that in), spinning off my recent GetReligion post about a New York Times article in which gay-rights activists reached out, through a formal letter, to Pope Francis seeking a face-to-face media event during his upcoming visit to the media centers of the American Northeast. As always in the Kellerism age, there was zero evidence that the world's most powerful newspaper made any attempt to seek the input of pro-Catechism Catholics when reporting this story, even when discussing events and doctrines on which there are myriad points of view to consider.

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Life after the DUI bishop: Deseret News listens to Episcopal voices talk alcohol

Life after the DUI bishop: Deseret News listens to Episcopal voices talk alcohol

I imagine that faithful GetReligion readers noticed that in the past I have paid very close attention to the story of the DUI Episcopal Bishop in Maryland -- now simply Heather Elizabeth Cook, after she was defrocked.

It was, after all, a local story since I was living in Maryland at the time. This was also a story with the potential to have a strong impact on regional and national leaders in the Episcopal Church, even if Baltimore Sun editors didn't seem all that interested in that side of things.

With the trial ahead, it is also clear that this story is not over. Several Maryland Episcopalians and former Episcopalians kept raising an interesting question: If it is true that Cook was drunk AND texting, might she have been doing church business on a work cellphone when she struck and killed that cyclist? If so, what are the implications for the shrinking Maryland diocese?

Then there is the issue of the Episcopal Church and its love/hate relationship with alcohol. This is the stuff of cheap humor (insert joke about four Episcopalians here), but it is also a serious topic linked to substance abuse and people in power looking the other way. 

So during the recent Episcopal General Convention in Salt Lake City, the Cook case made it impossible for church leaders not to talk about alcohol. To their credit, it appears that they took this issue fairly seriously. With gay-marriage rites in the news, however, the coverage of the topic was light.

Thus, I want to point readers toward a major feature story on this topic that ran in The Deseret News. It is somewhat awkward to do this because it was written by former GetReligionista Mark Kellner, who now works on that newspaper's national religion desk. But sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Besides, how can you pass up a story with an anecdotal, on-the-record lede as devastating as this one?

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UPDATED: MZ's requests for a Planned Parenthood related New York Times correction

UPDATED: MZ's requests for a Planned Parenthood related New York Times correction

The Planned Parenthood fetal-tissue story rolls on in alternative media, with a second undercover video (unedited version here) offering some interesting headline hooks, for those with the stomach to use them.

One key word is "Lamborghini."

The hot phrase for the day is "less crunchy."

Will journalists be willing to interview Planned Parenthood defectors on some of these issues?

A day or so after the first David Daleiden video production surfaced, featuring a Planned Parenthood leader named Dr. Deborah Nucatola, I asked a basic question. If the first reports, mostly in conservative media, were based largely on the press materials circulated by the Center for Medical Progress, I wondered to what degree the mainstream news stories that were eventually published would center on the public-relations DNA of Planned Parenthood.

Now, a website called (C.S. Lewis trigger alert!) TheWardrobeDoor.com has noted an interesting problem at the end of a New York Times report in which Planned Parenthood leaders warn their supporters in Washington, D.C., that more videos are on the way. This passage, featuring Planned Parenthood lawyer Roger K. Evans, is at the very end of the report.

A Biomax representative at least once was admitted by Planned Parenthood employees to “a highly sensitive area in a clinic where tissue is processed after abortion procedures,” Mr. Evans wrote. Another time, a Biomax representative asked about the racial characteristics of tissue provided to researchers; anti-abortion activists have often alleged that Planned Parenthood engages in “genocide” of African-American babies. And Biomax proposed “sham procurement contracts,” offering one clinic $1,600 for a fetal liver and thymus, Mr. Evans said.
In the video, Dr. Nucatola says that clinics charge $30 to $100 for a specimen. Mr. Evans, in his letter, noted that she also said 10 times during a two-and-a-half-hour lunch that the charges were for expenses, not profit. But, he added, those statements were not included in the initial nine-minute video. Mr. Daleiden released what he called the full recording last week after Planned Parenthood complained of selective, misleading editing.

So what is the problem?

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Washington Post essay: Yo! You fundamentalist wackjobs! No quotes for you!

Washington Post essay: Yo! You fundamentalist wackjobs! No quotes for you!

As faithful readers of GetReligion know, the Associated Press has a very sane and logical stance on the use of the explosive word "fundamentalist."

We have quoted this Associated Press Stylebook policy so many times here that I really feel like there is no reason to print this again. Right?

But, just to be careful, let's look at that once again. Journalists, let us attend:

“fundamentalist: The word gained usage in an early 20th century fundamentalist-modernist controversy within Protestantism. In recent years, however, fundamentalist has to a large extent taken on pejorative connotations except when applied to groups that stress strict, literal interpretations of Scripture and separation from other Christians.
“In general, do not use fundamentalist unless a group applies the word to itself.”

Before we get to an amazingly candid recent use of this term in The Washington Post, let's pause once again to reflect on the following wisdom from one of America's top scholars on religion and philosophy, drawn from one of my "On Religion" columns ("Define fundamentalist, please").

Trust me, this material will be relevant a few paragraphs from now. Why do journalists misuse this term so often?

The problem is that religious authorities -- the voices journalists quote -- keep pinning this label on others. Thus, one expert's "evangelical" is another's "fundamentalist." ...
Anyone who expects scholars to stand strong and defend a basic, historic definition will be disappointed. As philosopher Alvin Plantinga of the University of Notre Dame once quipped, among academics "fundamentalist" has become a "term of abuse or disapprobation" that most often resembles the casual semi-curse, "sumbitch."

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