What is this? Concerning that Time anti-news essay on modern nuns

What is this? Concerning that Time anti-news essay on modern nuns

At least once every month or two I get a junk-mail letter -- with spam emails coming more frequently -- from the business office of Time magazine, a publication for which I happily paid good money for several decades. 

Perhaps you get these as well, the messages that say, "We want you back!" urging me to renew the subscription that I cancelled a year or two ago. Apparently these people do not pay attention to return messages or even the people who do their telephone research with former subscribers.

Does Time want me back? If so, why do the magazine's editors keep dedicating oceans of ink -- real and cyber -- to opinion essays about religious, moral and cultural topics that deserve serious journalistic attention? Is this just the spirit of the MSNBC-Fox age spreading over into the old prestige media? I assume so.

Take, for example, the new essay that ran under the headline, "The Great Nunquisition: Why the Vatican Is Cracking Down on Sisters." This piece is the complete anti-news package.

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NYTimes tiptoes around religion angle in UK child sex-abuse story

NYTimes tiptoes around religion angle in UK child sex-abuse story

The front page of today's New York Times offers a sensitively written account of the ordeals suffered by child sex-abuse victims in Rotherham, England, where an investigation has revealed that, between 1997 and 2013, "at least 1,400 children, some as young as 11, were groomed for sexual exploitation while the authorities looked the other way."

Why did authorities ignore the abuse? The article takes its time arriving at the answer, and when it does, the answer it offers is incomplete.

We are first given an account from Lucy, a victim now 25, who tells of how she was targeted by a gang whose members raped her daily from when she was 12 until she was nearly 14:

At night, she would come home and hide her soiled clothes at the back of her closet. When she finally found the courage to tell her mother, just shy of her 14th birthday, two police officers came to collect the clothes as evidence, half a dozen bags of them.
But a few days later, they called to say the bags had been lost.
“All of them?” she remembers asking. A check was mailed, 140 pounds, or $232, for loss of property, and the family was discouraged from pressing charges. It was the girl’s word against that of the men. The case was closed.

The story then shifts to the recently released investigation of Rotherham child sex abuse, which revealed the extent to which local authorities failed to prosecute cases such as Lucy's:

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Paging Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan: The ghost that haunts many urban teens

Paging Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan: The ghost that haunts many urban teens

Two or three paragraphs into this riveting Wonkblog essay in The Washington Post I began having flashbacks, and not the good kind. 

The key thought: Where is the late, great Democrat Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan when we really need him?

The headline opens the door and it's a very important door, if you care about social justice and the urban poor: "What your 1st-grade life says about the rest of it." Here is the opening of the report, which has a Baltimore dateline for perfectly logical reasons:

BALTIMORE -- In the beginning, when they knew just where to find everyone, they pulled the children out of their classrooms.
They sat in any quiet corner of the schools they could claim: the sociologists from Johns Hopkins and, one at a time, the excitable first-graders. Monica Jaundoo, whose parents never made it past the eighth grade. Danté Washington, a boy with a temper and a dad who drank too much. Ed Klein, who came from a poor white part of town where his mother sold cocaine.

They talked with the sociologists about teachers and report cards, about growing up to become rock stars or police officers. ... Later, as the children grew and dispersed, some falling out of the school system and others leaving the city behind, the conversations took place in McDonald’s, in public libraries, in living rooms or lock-ups. The children -- 790 of them, representative of the Baltimore public school system’s first-grade class in 1982 -- grew harder to track as the patterns among them became clearer.

What shaped these young and, quickly, troubled lives?

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Veiled references: Reuters feature doesn't get the hijab done

Veiled references: Reuters feature doesn't get the hijab done

British Muslim women are increasingly wearing head veils, although the faith doesn't require it -- and despite growing attacks targeting them, says a new feature article from Reuters. But the story doesn't prove any of that.

This is the kind of reporting in the lengthy feature on the topic. Starting with 18-year-old Sumreen Farooq, we get:

"I'm going to stand out whatever I do, so I might as well wear the headscarf," said Farooq, a shop assistant who also volunteers at an Islamic youth centre in Leyton, east London.

While just under five percent of Britain's 63 million population are Muslim, there are no official numbers on how many women wear a headscarf or head veil, known as the hijab, or the full-face veil, the niqab, which covers all the face except the eyes. The niqab is usually worn with a head-to-toe robe or abaya.

But anecdotally it seems in recent years that more young women are choosing to wear a headscarf to assert a Muslim identity they feel is under attack and to publicly display their beliefs.

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Yes, this is The Onion: Why do newspapers publish PR pieces for some churches?

Yes, this is The Onion: Why do newspapers publish PR pieces for some churches?

OK, so the graphic over there is wrong. This is a GetReligion post about an alleged religion "news" item from The Onion.

On one level, that makes no sense. We try to critique the mainstream press, so why bother our readers with an item from a satirical, pretend newspaper?

Well, your GetReligionistas also, from time to time, like to write about op-ed page pieces and commentary essays that are clearly linked to life on the religion-news beat. Most of those are pretty serious.

Obviously, that is not the case this time around.

In fact, I am not sure WHAT is going on in this piece of pseudo-news. But I do have some theories and I'd like to know what GetReligion readers think.

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Should media look at Raven Ray Rice and domestic violence through eyes of faith?

Should media look at Raven Ray Rice and domestic violence through eyes of faith?

If you are one of those Americans who care about the little sports operation called the National Football League, then you probably know that one of the biggest stories in the land right now (surf these links) is that America's most powerful sports institution is trying to get its act together on issues linked to its players and domestic-violence issues.

At the center of this storm is All-Star running back Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens. In addition to waves of coverage in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., media, the recent case involving Rice and his then fiance, now wife, was recently the subject of a major story in ESPN Magazine.

Now, this ESPN piece is a first-person essay by Kevin Van Valkenburg, who has professional roots here in Charm City. Thus, it blends opinion and hard-news content. Here is a sample of what that sounds like, in a large chunk of copy that states the thesis: Should NFL fans -- on faith -- forgive Rice?

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Suds in the bucket: More on dirty laundry and faith-based outreach

Suds in the bucket: More on dirty laundry and faith-based outreach

In a post last month titled "Can a laundromat replace the traditional church?" I reviewed an NPR story out of California.

I ended that critique like this:

How exactly is the laundromat an alternative to church? Are there any spiritual aspects to the ministry — such as praying or reading the Bible? Does (organizer Shannon) Kassoff really come to the laundromat instead of going to church, or is the interviewee speaking metaphorically?
NPR does not provide answers to such basic questions — leaving the reader's (or listener's) clothes dripping wet after a half-done wash cycle.

My sarcastic tone drew the attention of my friend Dawn Shelton, who attended Oklahoma Christian University with me and later worked in broadcast media. 

Dawn's basic question to me: Couldn't you be nicer?

"NPR did a faith-based story. BOOM," Dawn wrote in a message that she gave me permission to share. "I loved it when I heard it on the air. I imagine the number of Christians in the entire NPR outfit is close to ZERO."

In other words, people of faith should be happy that NPR attempted a religion story but not expect too much out of it.

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Vermont bacon wars: How much religious info does a news report need?

Vermont bacon wars: How much religious info does a news report need?

One of the most interesting questions my students ask me all the time can be stated like this: In an age of short stories and even shorter attention spans, how do I know how much information is enough when I'm dealing with a complicated topic? 

You can see the relevance to the religion beat, right? How do you know how much the average reader actually knows about a given world religion (think Islam) or even, in an American context, details about different forms of Judaism or Christianity? How do you know when you need to stop and spend a few precious words explaining something that, to some readers, may be perfectly obvious, but not perfectly obvious to others?

Well, I saw an interesting little story the other day from Burlington, Vt., that perfectly illustrated this situation and I stashed it away for later discussion. Reading it a second time I noticed that, well, it was written by a former student of mine, someone with whom I have had this precise discussion.

So, let me clearly state that connection and note that the following is not a slam job. I honestly do not know whether this little story has to have an addition fact paragraph or two. I also don't know if the reporter (hello there, April) write additional material that was removed by an editor. Things happen. This is one reason GetReligionistas rarely mention reporters by name.

So what's the subject here? Well, it's Islam and bacon.

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AP 'chips' away at differences between LDS and 'fundamentalists'

AP 'chips' away at differences between LDS and 'fundamentalists'

Can fundamentalists break with the fundamentals?  (head exploding)

It sounded like that this week when the Associated Press reported two "fundamentalist" Mormon sects practicing polygamy, and one of them getting into winemaking. The real problem, though, was trying to summarize too much.

In both stories, the writer dutifully reports that the "mainstream" Mormon church "strictly prohibits the practice" of plural marriage. But it doesn't say why, or even what the mainstream church is called.

One of the stories deals with a legal ruling in favor of the subjects of that TLC reality show Sister Wives. Kody Brown and his four wives had fled Utah after being threatened with prosecution for their matrimonial tastes. This week, however, a U.S. district judge ruled that the state law against "cohabitation" violated Browns' freedom of religion.

Both sides are now huddling over the prospect of appeals, leaving the rest of us to scratch our heads: Where in the religioverse do the Browns belong? This paragraph doesn't help much:

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