Journalism

'Bucket list baby' inspired prayers, compassion and sensitive coverage

'Bucket list baby' inspired prayers, compassion and sensitive coverage

Shane Francis Haley's life lasted less than four hours, cut short by a birth defect. Yet he and his parents reached hundreds of thousands of people through social media -- people who were first touched by the "bucket list" of experiences they gave their son before he was ever born.

That's one marvel of the drama that played out in Media, Pa., as Jenna and Don Haley updated their 700,000 Facebook friends over the prenatal months. Another marvel: the simple news narratives -- including Reuters and the Christian Science Monitor -- that told the story without adding some religio-socio-politico-economic payload.

With a story about a doomed infant, it's almost too tempting to resist the urge to add tear-jerking prose. Remarkably, the writers of these stories do resist. In the best tradition of journalism, they let the details carry the emotional weight. Closest to any gimmicky writing is the headline on the Monitor article: " 'Bucket list baby' inspires thousands. Here’s what his parents did."

When the Haleys heard the diagnosis of anencephaly -- in which the baby lacks part of its brain and skull -- they knew it was a death sentence for Shane. Yet instead of planning an abortion, or sinking into grief or rage at God, the parents went through a "nine-month bucket list," as the Monitor dubs it: giving their son the time of his life before he was even born.

From the Monitor's account:

Please respect our Commenting Policy

'Where's the beef!?' in TV station's report on Oklahoma petition asking Muslims to 'go home'

'Where's the beef!?' in TV station's report on Oklahoma petition asking Muslims to 'go home'

"It certainly is a big bun."

"It's a very big bun."

"A big, fluffy bun."

"It's a very big, fluffy bun."

Readers of a certain age will remember the old Wendy's commercial in which two gray-haired ladies admire the size of a hamburger bun, while a third woman asks the obvious question about the tiny patty: "Where's the beef!?"

I was reminded of that question when I saw an Oklahoma television station's report on a purported petition in my home state asking Muslims to "go home." I avoid as much local TV news as I can, so I came across the story link via Tennessee-based Godbeat guru Bob Smietana's Twitter feed.

The top of the story:

DEL CITY, Okla. – A metro woman says fear about her religion led to an unusual encounter this week.
The Muslim woman says a woman asked her to sign a petition asking that all Muslims “go home.”
The run-in took place this week outside a gas station in Del City.
“Muslims are a peaceful people,” said Deb Beneta. “I wish people would see us as humans and not this mythical Muslim monster.”
Unfortunately for Deb, fear of the religion may be near an all-time high.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Why the press silence about persecution by radical Islamists in the West?

Why the press silence about persecution by radical Islamists in the West?

The harassment of Christians of Middle Eastern extraction in the West by immigrant Muslim extremists appears to be one of the unexplored angles in the unfolding Islamist story.

While the press is quick to run stories warning of a backlash against Muslims in the West in response to the actions of their coreligionists here and abroad, we seldom see serious reporting on incidents that are happening in Europe, America and Australia.

A wire service story from the AAP (Australian Associated Press) run by the Guardian last week left me frustrated by its lack of detail. The story entitled “Two teens charged after death threats allegedly screamed at Christian school” reported:

Two teenagers have been charged after death threats were allegedly screamed at a Christian school in Sydney’s west. A 14-year-old was in the front passenger seat of a red hatchback when he allegedly began yelling abuse outside the Maronite College of the Holy Family in Harris Park on 16 September. Onlookers said the boy and the car’s driver threatened to “kill the Christians” and slaughter their children while brandishing an Islamic State flag out the window.

The article goes on to say the two were arrested, but offers no further details. What is the Maronite College of the Holy Family? Who attends this school? Who made these remarks? 

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Big scoop for Sarah: Former GetReligionista scores exclusive on Mark Driscoll resignation

Big scoop for Sarah: Former GetReligionista scores exclusive on Mark Driscoll resignation

We're proud to say we knew you way back when, Sarah Pulliam Bailey.

The former GetReligionista scored a major scoop Wednesday with her Religion News Service report on the resignation of Mars Hills Church pastor Mark Driscoll:

(RNS) Mark Driscoll, the larger-than-life megachurch pastor who has been accused of plagiarism, bullying and an unhealthy ego that alienated his most devoted followers, resigned from his Seattle church Tuesday (Oct. 14), according to a document obtained by RNS.
The divisive Seattle pastor had announced his plan to step aside for at least six weeks in August while his church investigated the charges against him. Driscoll’s resignation came shortly after the church concluded its investigation.
“Recent months have proven unhealthy for our family — even physically unsafe at times — and we believe the time has now come for the elders to choose new pastoral leadership for Mars Hill,” Driscoll wrote in his resignation letter.

Other major news organizations quickly jumped on the story, including CNN.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Kasper, the friendly religion ghost? Progressive cardinal's dismissive words on Africans go unreported (updated)

Kasper, the friendly religion ghost? Progressive cardinal's dismissive words on Africans go unreported (updated)

Editor's note: Dawn is away from her keyboard today and I have been on the move, as well. Yes, we know that all holy heck has broken loose on this story. For updates, check out this timely note from Deacon Greg Kandra, formerly of CBS News, and this commentary from Elizabeth Scalia at The Anchoress. (tmatt)

******

When German Cardinal Walter Kasper speaks in favor of communion for the divorced and remarried, the Associated Press calls him "a pre-eminent theologian." But when he speaks about how African bishops participating in the Vatican's Extraordinary Synod on the Family "should not tell us too much what we have to do," the AP, and U.S. mainstream media outlets at large, respond with ... crickets.

Kasper's comments to veteran Vatican reporter Edward Pentin, published in ZENIT (since taken down), have set the Catholic blog world aflame. But although they were noted in Italy by the AP affiliate ASCA, and in the U.K. by Damian Thompson at the Spectator, as of last night there was not a peep from Stateside mainstream-media outlets, which until now have seemed to hang on the "progressive" cardinal's every word regarding the Synod. In other words, so long as liberal journalists see Kasper as a "friendly," Pentin's interview is going to disappear into the ether like the proverbial "religion ghost."

The cardinal raised the topic of African bishops to Pentin after the reporter asked him about the five bishops Francis chose to join Cardinal Peter Erdo in composing the Synod's much-discussed midterm report, none of whom were from Africa. The omission is significant since, as the AP's Nicole Winfield notes, African bishops tend to be more "conservative" (i.e. doctrinally faithful) on family issues. Here is the relevant part of Pentin's interview: 

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Houston, we have a church-state controversy: Sermons, subpoenas and the First Amendment

Houston, we have a church-state controversy: Sermons, subpoenas and the First Amendment

So, the other rocket blasting off in the news this week?

It's social media in the wake of the City of Houston subpoenaing pastors' sermons. Twitter, not for the first time, is abuzz with outrage and opinion.

Amid all the noise, the challenge for a journalist is to present the key facts and details in a fair and unbiased manner — and to help readers understand the relevant legal and constitutional questions.

For example, is a sermon about the moral issues involved in a law (the Houston equal rights ordinance, in this case) a political statement or an application of life to faith? 

On a national level, two former GetReligionistas — Sarah Pulliam Bailey of Religion News Service and Mark Kellner of the Deseret News National Edition — are among the Godbeat pros seeking to bring clarity to the issues involved.

The Houston Chronicle gave the story front-page treatment today, albeit not a banner headline.

 

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Prayers in Liberia: One strange note in riveting WPost trip inside Ebola zone

Prayers in Liberia: One strange note in riveting WPost trip inside Ebola zone

I have said this many times, but I have nothing but admiration for the reporters who work in war zones and in lands ravaged by disasters of all kinds.

It's hard enough for reporters, when covering complex issues, to do adequate background research and keep their facts straight -- even under the best of circumstances. My church-state issue file folder (yes, materials on dead tree pulp) is almost 40 years old. I have hundreds of similar files and I need them.

So imagine that you are in Liberia and trying to cover the Ebola outbreak, with all of its scientific, political, medical, ethical and legal implications. Yes, and issues of racial equality and economic justice. Yes, and there are religion ghosts, as well. Oh, and let's not forget the risk of face-to-face reporting at scenes in the heart of the crisis?

Thus, the first thing I want to say about a recent Washington Post report (headline: "Liberia already had only a few dozen of its own doctors. Then came Ebola") is that it is stunning and a must-read look at the lives of those with the courage to walk the halls of hospitals and treat the sick and dying in Monrovia, Liberia. How, exactly, does one take careful interview notes when wearing a full-protection hazmat suit?

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Flaws in new LATimes abortion piece revealed -- by old LATimes study

Flaws in new LATimes abortion piece revealed -- by old LATimes study

Whoaaa. This article in the Los Angeles Times on the "abortion wars." So much bias and tagging and cherry-picking.

If only there were some guide to help us spot the various ploys. Oh, wait, there is one -- from the L.A. Times itself.

It's a four-part study of media bias and abortion written by the late David Shaw of the Times, back in 1990. His 18-month study marked several ways that media push the abortion cause rather than just report. (Thanks to tmatt for finding this study.)

But first to the new Times story, which ran on Sunday. It's mainly on the resurgent pro-life movement, which has scored several legal victories in several states. Among the new laws are a requirement for abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, and making abortion clinics conform to the same "stringent" requirements as hospitals. Some states also require pre-abortion ultrasounds or ban abortion clauses for government insurance.

From there, the story centers on Texas and especially Louisiana. The basic enemy, unsurprisingly, is that evil axis -- religion and conservatism:

A conservative juggernaut has sprung to life here along the Gulf of Mexico, where Bayou State politics work hand-in-hand with Christian churches, where some conservative pastors condemn abortion as a sin and tell parishioners that voting for a Democrat is too.
Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal has been so consistent in his opposition to abortion that the state is celebrated as the most "pro-life" in the country by Americans United for Life. The antiabortion lobby's annual scorecards are closely watched by legislators here.
"Abortion until recently was not a front-burner issue in Louisiana," said JP Morrell, a Democratic state senator. "Religious groups have made it a front-burner issue. The grass-roots movement here is as organized and effective as anything you've ever seen."

Please respect our Commenting Policy

For those paying close attention: 'Tone' of this Vatican rough draft may sound familiar

For those paying close attention: 'Tone' of this Vatican rough draft may sound familiar

Let's pause for a second and think of the many different Catholic camps -- we will leave the secular world out of this for a moment -- that exist when discussing a subject as complex as the moral status of sexual activity outside of marriage. I hope that this will help us dissect the celebratory coverage of the current Vatican talks on family issues.

This typology is my own (reminder: I am Eastern Orthodox, not Catholic) based on my observations of Catholic debates and media coverage of them.

* First of all, there are Catholics who believe that the church has been far too quiet in defense of its own teachings on sexuality. They note that, at the crucial level of local pulpits, Catholics hardly ever hear controversial teachings discussed, let alone defended. People need to hear the bad news before it becomes the Good News, in other words.

* Then there are Catholics who truly believe that, when viewed as a whole, the church's teachings are fine, but that the hierarchy has done a terrible job of presenting them in public. Bishops have talked only about sin, with little to say about confession, repentance, grace, mercy, forgiveness, healing and salvation (in other words, the entire world of the Sacraments).

Let's pause for a second and look at what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says in its specific language about homosexuality (and read it all, not just the "intrinsically disordered" part).

Please respect our Commenting Policy