Kellerism

News about 'conversion' therapies for gays? As usual, one side gets to offer its views

News about 'conversion' therapies for gays? As usual, one side gets to offer its views

Several readers have written to ask me what I thought of the recent news stories linked to President Barack Obama's endorsement of government bans on so-called "conversion" therapies for various sexual orientation and behavior issues.

I guess I didn't write about these reports because I assumed, accurately, that the mainstream coverage would be rooted in the new journalism doctrines of "Kellerism," with few if any attempts to explore the views of advocates for secular and religious counselors who support the rights of people to seek out this kind of help.

You may have noticed that, even in these first few lines, I have described these counselors and their work in ways that many readers will consider sympathetic, because I included distinctions that represent the views of some of the people on that side of the issue. In other words, these are subtleties that rarely show up in the news, because mainstream stories rarely explore the views of people on both sides of this fight.

Consider, for example, the lede on the main Washington Post report:

The Obama administration late Wednesday called for a ban on so-called “conversion” therapies that promise to cure gay and transgender people.

What? They forgot to use the phrase "pray away the gay." The key words in that lede are "promise" and "cure." Hang on to that thought.

When it came time to represent the views of these counselors, the Post team used the increasingly familiar tactic of representing the "other side" with a quote from a print source. While story -- as it should -- featured interviews with many experts and activists that backed Obama's action, the "other side" was granted this:

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Jousting with The New York Times: Yes, journalism deserves to be taken seriously

Jousting with The New York Times: Yes, journalism deserves to be taken seriously

This week's "Crossroads" podcast was supposed to be about the Indiana wars, but that's not how things turned out. The more host Todd Wilken and I talked (click here to tune in), the deeper we dug into a related topic -- the power of elite media to frame national debates.

Wilken found it interesting that, in an age in which traditional print circulation numbers are in sharp decline, that these publications continue to wield great power. What's up with that?

Here's what I told him, as a door into listening to the whole discussion. Remember that movie -- "Shattered Glass" -- about the ethics crisis at The New Republic, long before the digital wars felled that Beltway oracle? The reason the magazine was so important, a character remarked during the film, was its reputation (especially in Democratic administrations) as the "in-flight magazine of Air Force One."

In other words, the old TNR had very few readers, relatively speaking, but about half of them worked in the White House and in the office of people who had the White House inside numbers on speed dials.

And what about The New York Times, the great matron of the Northeast establishment? Yes, the on-paper numbers are down and there are financial issues. But does anyone believe that -- to name one crucial audience -- the percentage of U.S. Supreme Court clerks who subscribe to the Times has gone down? How about in the faculty lounges of law schools that produce justices on the high court?

In other words, it isn't how many people read these publications, but WHERE people read these publications. We are talking about what C.S. Lewis called the Inner Ring.

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M.Z. Hemingway unloads on news coverage of 'religious liberty,' while tmatt debates one detail

M.Z. Hemingway unloads on news coverage of 'religious liberty,' while tmatt debates one detail

What we have here, gentle readers, is a take-no-prisoner headline, care of GetReligion emeritus M. Z. Hemingway at The Federalist.

You were expecting someone else?

Dumb, Uneducated, And Eager To Deceive: Media Coverage Of Religious Liberty In A Nutshell

Oh my, and if that isn't enough, there is this rather blunt -- some would say "brutal" -- subtitle to finish the job:

Most Reporters Are Simply Too Ignorant To Handle The Job

Now, if you have not read this long and very detailed piece yet, then head right over there and do so. But as you read it I want you to look for the one very important point in this article with which I want to voice my disagreement. No. It's not the George Orwell quote. That one was on the target, methinks.

Read it? Now, let's proceed.

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Surprise! Herald's Gay South Florida section isn't into balanced coverage of adoption debate

Surprise! Herald's Gay South Florida section isn't into balanced coverage of adoption debate

According to that Gallup LGBT population survey that is getting so much news media attention right now, the population of that long stretch of concrete, sand and palm trees running from West Palm Beach to Miami is 4.2 percent gay. Thus, the greater South Florida area is America's 17th ranking urban zone in terms of percentage of gay population -- 10 slots lower than (who would have thunk it) Salt Lake City.

Is that percentage surprisingly low, in terms of the region's image and clout in gay culture? Quite frankly, speaking as a former resident of West Palm Beach, that No. 17 ranking did surprise me.

The region is also, of course, known as a rather secular region, even with it's large Jewish population. Still an older survey found -- back in 2002 or so -- that just a whisker under 40 percent of people in South Florida were affiliated with a religious congregation, with 61 percent of the affiliated Catholic, 14 percent Jewish and 9 percent Southern Baptist.

So, if you were a newspaper editor in the region's big city, would you be operating a special Gay South Florida news section to serve that slice of the population? Obviously the answer is "yes." But why would you -- in terms of image and clout -- be operating that news operation and not one about, oh, Jewish news? Or, statistically speaking, Latino Pentecostal (Catholic and Protestant) news?

And if you were Miami Herald editor, would you assign basic news coverage of a very hot-button religious-liberty issue linked to gay rights to the staff of Gay South Florida? As opposed to a mythical news section called, oh, Judeo-Christian South Florida?

Believe it or not, the answer appears to be "yes." And if you made this editorial decision, what would one expect the coverage to look like in terms of balance and fairness?

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You have $1.25 million: Who gets that check if the goal is basic, balanced religion-news reporting?

You have $1.25 million: Who gets that check if the goal is basic, balanced religion-news reporting?

Here at the Washington Journalism Center, the full-semester program I lead at the DC center for the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, we have a number of sayings that are repeated over and over that they turn into journalism mantras. I imagine that will be true when we reboot the program next year in New York City at The King's College.

One of these sayings goes like this: Everybody in this city knows more stories than you do. I also like to stress this: The most important skill in journalism is the ability to accurately state the views of someone with whom you disagree. And then there's one that is discussed here frequently, in this Keller-istic, Twitter-driven age in which the digital line between newswriting and editorializing is often quite faded and hard to spot: Opinion is cheap; information is expensive.

Then there is another WJC mantra that moves us closer to some news sure to intrigue those interesting in religion-beat coverage in the mainstream press. This one isn't very snappy, but it's a concept that is crucial for young journalists to grasp. Here it is: In the future there will be no one dominant business model (think newspaper chains built on advertising, mixed with the sale of dead-tree pulp) for mainstream journalism, but multiple approaches to funding the creation of information and news.

I warned you that it wasn't short and snappy.

Obviously, one of the crucial emerging models right now is the growing world of non-profit and foundation-driven journalism.

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The New York Times (surprise) offers saint-free coverage of St. Patrick's Day Parade in Boston

The New York Times (surprise) offers saint-free coverage of St. Patrick's Day Parade in Boston

If you have, through the years, followed the legal and cultural wars about gay rights and the New York City and Boston St. Patrick's Day parades, you know that these battles have often included discussions of a very interesting question.

That would be this question: Do these St. Patrick's Day events have anything to do with one of the greatest missionary saints in Christian history, the bishop now called St. Patrick? The saint associated with these words:

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ in breadth, Christ in length, Christ in height,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.

As is often the case, fair-minded journalists should note that this is an emotional story about a debate that has, at the very least, two sides.

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How bad can the Pope Francis vs. Pope Benedict XVI frame game get? Check this out!

How bad can the Pope Francis vs. Pope Benedict XVI frame game get? Check this out!

Several months ago, your GetReligionistas created our "What is this?" logo to salute a question that we have found ourselves asking over and over during the past decade.

Here's the deal. So you are reading something in a newspaper or online source that is supposed to be producing old-school hard news. Then you hit a passage or two that, simply stated, are wildly opinionated or built on what appears to be secret information, without a source that is shared with readers. In other words, you hit a patch of blatant opinion in the middle of a "news" article, like a patch of black ice on a highway that at first glance appears to be safe.

So you look at the top of the "news" article, trying to find evidence of a columnist logo or an "analysis" tag line. But it's not there. That's when you say (all together), "What is this?" There should probably be "!!!!" marks in there, too, or worse (as in What *& %^ #* is this?!).

Want to see an instant classic? Here's one, from an Agence France-Presse story -- drawn from Yahoo! -- sent to team GetReligion by an stunned reader (who thought some of the adjectives were way over the top). Let's look at the passage in context. Remember, this is drawn from a news report about the second anniversary of the election of Pope Francis, not a commentary or analysis piece:

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Catholic school teacher's blunt Facebook post turns into media free-for-all

Catholic school teacher's blunt Facebook post turns into media free-for-all

When a Catholic high school theology teacher posted some thoughts on her Facebook page, she never expected that two Hollywood actors and an online lynch mob -- including professionals at several newspapers -- would make her take it down.

So here are the basics. Note that much of the reporting turned into cheerleading for one side of the debate.

Patricia Jannuzzi teaches at Immaculata High School in Somerville, N.J.  When she read an article on theyoungconservatives.com web site about an obscene tweet by gay activist Dan Savage -- posted about presidential hopeful Dr. Ben Carson -- she saw red. She posted a jumbled response on her Facebook page that said in -- in part -- that homosexuals have an “agenda” and “they argue that they are born this way and it is not a choice to get the 14th amendment equal rights protection … bologna.” And that gays “want to reengineer western civ into a slow extinction. We need healthy families with a mother and a father for the sake of humanity!!!!”

 A 2001 graduate of Immaculata saw her post and created a change.org petition calling it “hate speech” and asking for “action” to be taken at Immaculata. One of the 953 people who supported the petition was Greg Bennett, an openly gay 2004 alumnus of the school who once acted in “Real Housewives of New Jersey” and had Jannuzzi as a teacher. He signed the petition and asked his 165,000 Twitter followers to do the same.

Another gay alum, Scott Lyons, got his aunt, actress Susan Sarandon, to weigh in on her Facebook page:

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Lesbian pastor makes FDNY history (on edge of Reformed Church in America)

Lesbian pastor makes FDNY history (on edge of Reformed Church in America)

So, The New York Times recently ran a profile of the Rev. Ann Kansfield, the first female chaplain and the first openly gay chaplain in the New York Fire Department. As GetReligion readers would expect, the doctrines of orthodox "Kellerism" were in effect (click here for background on that term), with the Times team making no attempts whatsoever to explore any points of view other that those of people thrilled about this event.

So what else is news? Well, this time around the story did manage to contain a few hints that the denominational history behind this woman's ministry is a bit more complex, and interesting, than the culture wars triumph on the surface.

First, there is the rebel-with-a-cause lede:

Maybe it is her short, spiky hair, or the cigarettes, which she gives to the men repairing the wiring in her Brooklyn apartment. Maybe it is because she swears. For whatever reason, the Rev. Ann Kansfield does not fit the stereotype of a minister.
Not that she is worried about meeting anyone’s expectations for what a clergywoman should say or do.
“We shouldn’t have to hide ourselves or worry about being judged,” Ms. Kansfield, who ministers at the Greenpoint Reformed Church, said.

Now, remember the name of that church and the "Reformed" reference.

You see, this story is pretty predictable -- when it comes to New York City culture. However, if you read between the lines, it's offers interesting glimpses into the state of life in the Reformed Church in America, a small, declining flock that is perched right between the world of liberal, oldline Protestantism and the rapidly evolving world of evangelical culture. RCA leaders are trying to figure out which direction to fall.

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