World

AP covers basics on ISIS killing Ethiopian Christians -- but that Baltimore Sun headline?

AP covers basics on ISIS killing Ethiopian Christians -- but that Baltimore Sun headline?

When major international stories break -- such as the 29-minute video claiming to show the Islamic State executions of Ethiopian Christian laborers -- it's normal for elite organizations to be able to respond relatively quickly with quality work. That is, if the editors have the desire to do so.

Journalists deserve praise when they get the job done. That was the purpose of my quick post noting the early New York Times story by veteran David Kirkpatrick, in particular for his clear presentation of the ISIS language that made it impossible to duck the religious content of this latest blood-soaked media op.

In the end, that led me to a strong analysis quote from John L. Allen, Jr., of Crux about the "silver lining," if there is one, in the rise of ISIS. I repeat the key language here because I think it was brave of him to be blunt about the blind spot that has affected the actions of many American elites -- think journalists and diplomats, primarily -- when it comes to denying the importance of stories about the persecution of Christian minorities around the world.

The point is not that Christians deserve special privileges, or that they’re the only ones at risk. It’s rather that for a long time, the threats they face couldn’t penetrate Western consciousness, where the typical American or European is more accustomed to thinking of Christians as the authors of religious persecution rather than its victims.

Now, most Americans in ordinary zip codes read newspapers and websites that depend on wire-service copy for this kind of report, information that may run a news cycle or even two behind the top global newsrooms (or international papers, in general). Thus, it is crucial to take a look at what moves on the Associated Press.

In this case, AP got the job done. But wait to see the headline that The Baltimore Sun editors went with on a story well inside the newspaper.

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ISIS silver lining: Can our elites (journalists included) still deny persecution of Christians?

ISIS silver lining: Can our elites (journalists included) still deny persecution of Christians?

If you follow issues of human rights and religious freedom abroad, you will surely recall the recent incident in which the Islamic State released that video showing the execution of 20 Egyptian Coptic believers and one Ghanian man whose identity is harder to pin down. All have been declared martyrs for the faith.

Readers may also recall that there was a bit of controversy when the public statement about this tragedy released by the White House, speaking for President Barack Obama, merely condemned the "despicable and cowardly murder of twenty-one Egyptian citizens in Libya by ISIL-affiliated terrorists. We offer our condolences to the families of the victims and our support to the Egyptian government and people as they grieve for their fellow citizens."

Citizens? The Islamic State executions had been very specific in saying that their victims were chosen because of their connection to "crusaders," the "hostile Egyptian church" and the "Nation of the Cross."

Citizens?

Now there is this new vision of martyrdom, as noted in quite a few mainstream reports today. This material comes from the veteran correspondent David Kirkpatrick of The New York Times foreign staff, who is known for "getting religion" in the world around him:

The Islamic State released a video on Sunday that appears to show fighters from affiliates in southern and eastern Libya executing dozens of Ethiopian Christians, some by beheading and others by shooting.

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CNN gets it right (as opposed to Reuters) about Muslim assault on Christians on the high seas

CNN gets it right (as opposed to Reuters) about Muslim assault on Christians on the high seas

There are times when you read an article that is so jaw-dropping shocking that you do a double take.

Then you read it again. And again.

Then you start seeing the same story in other mainstream news outlets and sometimes the facts are there and sometimes they are not. Let's look at several, starting with the CNN report that really grabbed my attention.

I am talking about the CNN piece on the defenseless Christian refugees who drowned Tuesday or Wednesday when Muslims threw them overboard into the Mediterranean Sea.

Rome (CNN) Muslims who were among migrants trying to get from Libya to Italy in a boat this week threw 12 fellow passengers overboard -- killing them -- because the 12 were Christians, Italian police said Thursday.
Italian authorities have arrested 15 people on suspicion of murdering the Christians at sea, police in Palermo, Sicily, said.
The original group of 105 people left Libya on Tuesday in a rubber boat. Sometime during the trip north across the Mediterranean Sea, the alleged assailants -- Muslims from the Ivory Coast, Mali and Senegal -- threw the 12 overboard, police said.

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Peace with the aging prog-nuns: Who gets to correct them and about what?

Peace with the aging prog-nuns: Who gets to correct them and about what?

So one of the big stories of the day is this: Did the progressive nuns on the buses win or not?

I would argue that the key to reading the coverage today is linked to two other questions. The key, looking at the stories in the elite publications, is whether these other questions are even asked.

First, what was the dispute actually about? Do the stories contain any reference to the doctrinal issues involved and, especially, was any attempt made to describe them?

Second, did the discussions about what to do with women religious actually move back into the shadows of Vatican and episcopal oversight life, rather than being out in the glare of mass-media who were openly cheering for the progressives? In other words, do the stories mention the small hints in the Vatican actions -- aside from the glowing Pope Francis photo-op -- that this story is not over?

OK, third question: Did some Vatican officials simply decide that these religious orders are aging and dying anyway, so why have a war when demographics will settle the issue?

The Los Angeles Times story is a good place to start, in that it signals its bias right up front, ignores the doctrinal substance, yet also -- by quoting candid liberals -- signals that some prog-nuns are still worried. What does that look like? In the lede, note that the investigation was "controversial" while the content of the orders' theological innovations were not.

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Baltimore Sun editors: All news is local and when covering Middle East think 'Orthodox'

Baltimore Sun editors: All news is local and when covering Middle East think 'Orthodox'

There is this old-school saying in journalism that I have, on occasion, been known to quote to the editors of The Baltimore Sun, the newspaper that currently lands in my front yard: "All news is local."

In other words, when major news is happening somewhere in the world, it is perfectly normal for journalists to seek out ways in which this news is affecting people in the community and region covered by their newsroom. If a tsunami hits Southeast Asia, journalists in Baltimore need to find out if anyone from their city was killed or if anyone local is gearing up to take part in relief efforts for the survivors.

All news is local. Thus, I was not surprised when the Sun team produced a story focusing on local relief agencies that are active in the regions being affected by the brutal rise of the Islamic State.

Alas, I was also not surprised when the Sun newsroom -- as it has done in the past -- missed a major local angle in the story, and a very intense, emotional angle at that. Hold that thought.

The story starts off with the giant relief agency that simply must be covered:

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Connecting dots between Santo Daime and blurring lines between religions

Connecting dots between Santo Daime and blurring lines between religions

I attended a Bob Dylan concert in Baltimore some years back where I fell into conversation about Mr. Robert Allen Zimmerman and his music with a high-schooler sitting next to me. Suddenly, it hits this kid: "Wow! You're from the '60s!" I smiled. But the kid had it right. I felt like an archeological artifact.

Yes, I lived as a college student and as a working journalist, when I wasn't just hanging out, in New York's East Village and San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury. I covered Jerry Rubin's Yippies and Berkeley's People's Park. And despite the cliche, I remember that period of my life quite clearly. I know what I did.

By which I mean that in addition to a lot of brown rice and mung beans, I consumed a fair quantity of psychedelic drugs, natural and synthetic, in, shall we say, non-clinical settings. I do not recommend that anyone follow my example. But I was fortunate and avoided trouble. Moreover, I experienced altered states of consciousness that provided my first hint that there was more to life than the every-day material world, and that spirituality and religious tradition would be profoundly real and important to me.

Why this confessional now? To grab your reading attention, of course. It's called a lede.

Now that I apparently have it, let's discuss a recent story in The New York Times about an experimental Brazilian prison program that provides select maximum-security convicts with a plant-based psychedelic brew in the hope it will mitigate their anti-social behaviors. In short, it's meant as psycho-spiritual therapy.

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New York Times team attends one of the first funerals in Kenya, with eyes open

New York Times team attends one of the first funerals in Kenya, with eyes open

The massacre at Garissa University College in Kenya is now fading into media memory, which is not the case for those of us who continue to be haunted by photos and stories that circulate on Twitter and Facebook among human-rights activists who are growing increasingly concerned about the persecution of the church in Africa and the Middle East.

For the most part, journalists around the world spotted the religious themes in this hellish drama -- with stunning exceptions like the early coverage in The Washington Post.

I was left asking one question: Would this story have received more coverage in television news if someone, early on, had accurately called this the "Holy Week massacre"? There was, after all, evidence that the al-Shabaab gunmen specifically targeted a pre-Easter worship service that had been announced on campus. The bloodbath took place on Maundy Thursday, for Catholics and Protestants in the churches of the West.

Sometimes, all reporters have to do to cover the religion angles in this kind of story is open their eyes and ears and take notes.

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ESPN probes Jeremy Lin's 'inner life,' while paying little or no attention to his soul

ESPN probes Jeremy Lin's 'inner life,' while paying little or no attention to his soul

I think it's time for a short break from the Indiana wars, at least for a day. So what do you remember about "Linsanity"?

I am referring, of course, to those crazy weeks in 2012 when an unheralded point guard from Harvard University took over professional basketball, which is the kind of thing that can happen when you start playing out of your mind in Madison Square Garden wearing a Knicks jersey.

Jeremy Lin also received attention here at GetReligion because of the role that his Christian faith played in his life. Two headlines capture the tone  -- Sarah Pulliam Bailey's "Jeremy Lin, the Knick's Tim Tebow?" and a piece that I wrote, looking ahead, called "So, is Jeremy Lin a good fit in New York City?" One quote from the New York Times coverage says it all:

If Lin’s storybook week captured the imagination of New York City and the wider sports world, it hit the community of Christian Asian-Americans like a lightning bolt.

You get the picture. The world is not full of over-achieving evangelical Christians from Harvard who are also Asian-Americans and play point guard in New York City. So what happened? First he was traded to a city where, to be blunt about it, he was not as unusual -- playing for the Houston Rockets. But then he was shipped to one of the darkest black holes in the current NBA universe, the rebuilding with little to build with Los Angeles Lakers.

This brings us to the current ESPN: The Magazine feature on Lin, that ran under the massive double-decker headline: "Isolation Play -- It isn't Kobe's taunts or humiliating viral videos that have made this the toughest year of Jeremy Lin's life. It's the feeling that, as hard as he tries, he just doesn't fit in."

So while examining this young man's dark night of the soul, want to guess which part of the Lin story ESPN all but ignored?

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Hey Washington Post editors: Did al-Shabaab say its goal was to kill Christians in Kenya?

Hey Washington Post editors: Did al-Shabaab say its goal was to kill Christians in Kenya?

Sad, but true. Mainstream European newspapers, as a rule, pay much more attention to foreign news than their American counterparts (unless, of course, a particular story involves Americans who are overseas). In recent years, it also seems that European newspapers are being much more candid about the role that religion plays in many international stories.

Want to see an example? Let's contrast two examples of coverage of the hellish Holy Week massacre at Garissa University College in Kenya, one from England and one from America. Let's start with The Telegraph, and then look at the main story in The Washington Post, which seems to have buried some key details.

At least 147 people have been killed after Islamist terrorists attacked a Kenyan university, singling out Christian students to murder.
A five-man cell of the Somali-based al-Shabaab group stormed into halls of residence at Garissa University College, 200 miles east of the capital Nairobi, Thursday morning, shooting at students before taking others hostage. ...
Many of those who had been killed had their throats cut, according to one source who had spoken to morgue workers. The report could not be immediately verified.
Security analysts feared that the gang intended to keep their remaining hostages overnight ahead of further violence on Friday, to maximise attention for their attack during the Easter holidays.

That is terribly blunt stuff. I thought it was crucial that -- consistent with the vast majority of reports in world media -- the Telegraph editors made the decision to put the word "Christian" in the lede and also, within a few paragraphs, to note the rather obvious Easter-holiday timing factor in the attack.

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