LA Times settles for Biola clip job

farewell1 01Today is Holy Saturday and, for Orthodox Christians around the world, the great feast of Pascha is only hours away. The key is to get some rest, between the many long and stunningly beautiful services. I am still trying to catch up with things that slipped by during the tidal wave of work when the pope was in town (and events linked to the end of the semester here at the Washington Journalism Center). Several people dropped me notes to let me know that the Los Angeles Times finally did a short obituary about the life and death of President Clyde Cook, who led Biola University for a quarter century and was a major player in Christian higher education at the national level.

I wrote a tribute to Cook here at GetReligion, which included a link to a New York Times Magazine story that seemed to grasp some of the important issues linked to his work. The Los Angeles Times piece appears to have been written straight out of the online files -- a clip job, nothing more.

So late and, yet, rushed. You get a sense of that early on:

During his tenure, enrollment at the university in La Mirada nearly doubled, to about 5,750 students. The campus grew by 20 acres, and the school's endowment went from almost zero to $43.5 million.

After Cook assumed the presidency in 1982, one of his first acts was to add women to the board of trustees. Some trustees thought the Bible prohibited female leadership of a Christian institution, but Cook "just thought it was healthy" to include the perspective of women on the board, he said in a 2007 Biola publication.

The move caused an exodus of older, conservative faculty members, which energized the university as new professors with fresh ideas were hired, according to a 2007 profile of Biola in Los Angeles magazine.

Cook insisted that academic rigor was essential to spiritual commitment. "The truth can never harm faith," he told the magazine.

I cannot find a single piece of original research in this. Not even a telephone call.

I don't think the newspaper "got" Clyde Cook. This is sad, since more than a few journalists seem to be interested, right now, in evangelicals who are hard to label and have a strong independent spirit. The Los Angeles Times missed a chance to study the impact of just that kind of man.

Meanwhile, the Orange County Register did a short, short story, too, and got it into print quicker.

Two big disappointments. Please let me know if you see a delayed feature story of some kind, and I miss it. I'm not holding my breath.

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