Kellerism

Yes, I saw the New York Times piece on Marvin Olasky and World magazine

Yes, I saw the New York Times piece on Marvin Olasky and World magazine

It's interesting -- "ironic" may be a better word -- how many people sent me emails asking if I saw the New York Times "Beliefs" column this week focusing on the work of Marvin Olasky and World magazine, the one with the headline: "A Muckraking Magazine Creates a Stir Among Evangelical Christians."

"Ironic"? We'll get to that.

Columnist Mark Oppenheimer later noted, on Twitter, that many readers didn't seem to realize that the word "muckraking" is -- among real journalists -- a word that can be used as a compliment. That was the point of his column, in a word.

Before we go further, please understand that Olasky is I friend of mine, yet a friend with whom I have enjoyed many years of debates over very important questions about faith and journalism. You could not ask for a more interesting man with whom to have a meaningful and productive argument.

It is very old hat that many people on the political and religious left (liberal evangelicals, in particular) really, really, do not like Olasky's brand of advocacy journalism, which is interesting since he is a convert to Calvinist Christianity who was once a Jewish atheist and a member of the Communist Party. Oppenheimer focused -- note the headline -- on the fact that Olasky also gets under the skins of many people on the political and religious right because he is not a PR man for the Republican establishment. Ditto for the evangelical establishment, come to think of it. The typical World issue contains few, if any, ads from evangelical book publishers.

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Yo, demographics: About that solid New York Times advance story on church closings

Yo, demographics: About that solid New York Times advance story on church closings

GetReligion readers may have noticed in recent months that I have been praising quite a bit of the metro-desk religion coverage at The New York Times

Something is clearly going on there, when it comes to basic news about religion trends that are not linked to gay rights and other Sexual Revolution issues that lead to the application of "Kellerism" principles (as in former editor Bill Keller) that negate the need for balance, fairness and sometimes even accuracy.

Take, for example, the recent advance story about a church-closings announcement that will shake New York City's Catholic community this Sunday. Here is the top of the story, which does a fantastic job of offering an overview of a complex and emotional topic.

List the hot-button issues in your mind as they flow past.

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CNN continues ratings countdown to the death of young Brittany Maynard

CNN continues ratings countdown to the death of young Brittany Maynard

Let's face it. At this point CNN owns the Brittany Maynard "death with dignity" story. At this point, we are watching the final steps by in her pilgrimage to Nov. 1.

As always, when the rules of "Kellerism" journalism are being followed (click here for background on this salute to former New York Times editor Bill Keller), there is no need for any other point of view on this highly divisive issue. It would be hard to do otherwise, when the story literally began with the 29-year-old Maynard writing an exclusive essay for CNN.

This short update is the latest:

Brittany Maynard, the terminally ill woman who plans to take her own life, has checked the last item off her bucket list. She visited the Grand Canyon last week.
"The Canyon was breathtakingly beautiful," she wrote on her website, "and I was able to enjoy my time with the two things I love most: my family and nature."
Photos showed her and her husband standing on the edge of the canyon, hugging and kissing. 

But in real life, there is pain on the other side of these kinds of moments.

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Another Kellerism case? Or a priest refusing to violate the seal of confession?

Another Kellerism case? Or a priest refusing to violate the seal of confession?

Every now and then, a longtime reader sends your GetReligionistas a note that, in addition to the URL to a mainstream news story, includes their own commentary that almost writes a post for us.

That was the case with a note about a recent report from The Billings Gazette about yet another clash between a Catholic priest who is attempting to defend the doctrines of the church and one or more progressive Catholics who see themselves as loyal, practicing Catholics, even though they openly reject one or more specific teachings of the faith.

At first glance, this story looks like a classic "Kellerism" case of advocacy journalism, with a team of journalists doing everything they can to stack a story with materials that back the brave, faithful Catholics who want to see doctrines changed or ignored, while turning the orthodox side of things into a small circle of grim canon lawyers and literalists. 

Thus, the opening of the story:

LEWISTOWN -- The first thing you need to know about Tom Wojtowick and Paul Huff is both are lifelong Catholics.

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NYTimes (surprise) covers Mormon sexual ethics, without talking to Mormons

NYTimes (surprise) covers Mormon sexual ethics, without talking to Mormons

There are people out there in cyberspace (and in our comments pages from time to time) who think that, here at GetReligion, "balance" on stories about moral and cultural issues is all about finding the right number of voices on the right to say nasty things about the views of people on the left side of things.

Well, I would prefer to say it this way: When journalists cover controversial moral, cultural and religious issues, the journalistic thing to do is to talk to informed, representative voices on both sides of these hot-button debates. Of course, this journalistic approach assumes that journalists are willing to concede that there are two sides in these debates worth covering with respect.

This brings us once again to the term "Kellerism," a GetReligionista nod to those famous remarks by former New York Times editor Bill Keller. The Times ran a story the other day -- "Social Worker Spreads a Message of Acceptance to Mormons With Gay Children" -- in which it was crucial for readers to understand the moral doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as the view of those who disagree with them.

A GetReligion reader offered this critique:

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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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10 years at GetReligion: Why we are still here, part II (refreshed)

10 years at GetReligion: Why we are still here, part II (refreshed)

Overture: Anyone who has ever worked anywhere as a reporter has had this experience.

With deadline on the near horizon, you turn your story into your editor and then wait at your desk for the verdict. After a few moments, the boss or the assistant boss shoots you a tired glance and says, "Get over here."

The editor then adds a few words that reporters dread hearing: "There's a hole in your story."

These journalism "holes" come in all shapes and sizes, of course. Some of them take minutes to patch. Some, however, may delay the story for a day or two while you chase new information. But what the editor is saying is that you left something essential out of the story, some voice or piece of information that readers really need to have if they are going to understand what is going on in your story.

In a way, this is what GetReligion is all about -- those religion-shaped holes in way too many mainstream news reports about what is going on in the world around us.  

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This 'Kellerism' term is catching on, methinks

This 'Kellerism' term is catching on, methinks

It appears that this new GetReligion term -- "Kellerism" -- is catching on among people who have, for years or decades, been close readers of the cultural bible that is The New York Times.

What is "Kellerism," or the journalism gospel according to former New York Times editor Bill Keller? Click here for a primer.

Now, Rod "friend of this blog" Dreher linked to our Kellerism term in one of his posts explaining his recent decision to cancel his Times subscription. Friends and neighbors, Rod is a cultural conservative who has, as a mainstream journalist, been defending the essential integrity of the Times for a long, long time.

Before we get to his remarks, I want to put them in some context.

Two years ago, Arthur S. Brisbane signed off as the reader's representative for the Times with a column entitled, "Success and Risk as The Times Transforms." He defended the world's most powerful newspaper, yet also made the following observation linked to the hot-button subject of media bias:

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