One of the hardest things to teach journalism students, I think, is to recognize the dangers present in what I called "buried pronouns." What are these little monsters?
Let's say that you have this really important direct quote that you want to use in a story. The problem is that it contains a pronoun, which means that the entire content of said quotation depends on your ability to include a clear reference, in the previous paragraph, to the noun that defines the "buried pronoun." This is not always as easy as it sounds.
Take, for example, the Washington Post story about that recent installation service for Bishop Martyn Minns in Northern Virginia. Here is the passage in the story by reporter Michelle Boorstein -- whose work is often praised on this blog -- that rubbed some conservative Anglicans the wrong way:
The installation, held at a 3,500-seat Christian event center next to the Potomac Mills, was high-profile fuel for the debate in the 70 million-member Anglican Communion over the proper reading of Scripture on homosexuality and other issues. The questions have not only roiled the Episcopal Church but also divided other denominations worldwide over the past decade.
"Our name is now synonymous with discontent," Minns said from a stage lined with large purple-and-yellow banners reading "CANA" -- for his mission, the Convocation of Anglicans in North America. "It is a disaster, but it's not the end of the story. God wants to transform this into a celebration, and CANA is a gift."
You can see the problem. Thus, the Rev. Canon Kendall Harmon and his titusonenine crew (How many people run that omnipresent blog?) urged their readers to check out the Post story, but with a warning:
Read it all but note that Martyn's sermon (available here) is misquoted in the Post. "Our name is now synonymous with discontent" was in reference to the Episcopal Church, not CANA.
The problem, as I read it, is that there is a clear reference to the "Episcopal Church" in the sentence just ahead of the word "our," and to the "Anglican Communion" as well, but it is not clear precisely which noun defines the crucial pronoun. Why? Because the direct quote -- "Our name" -- is followed by that clear description of the banners containing the name of Minns' Anglican network.
One assumes that "Our name" is defined by the reference to the group's name.
Listen to the sermon and see what you think. Do the supporters of CANA have a case? Was Minns misquoted and, if so, should there be a correction?