Try seeing the mirror image

mirrorChurchA reader who is, at the moment, rather upset with the GetReligionistas sent me a story the other day that he wanted us to critique. It's from the Los Angeles Times and briefly tells the story of the LA police chief's decision to donate money to the organization that is fighting the ballot initiative against the legalization of gay marriage. It's a short story and very positive, as one would expect. This particular reader used this as an opportunity to knock this weblog's support for balanced coverage on this hottest of today's hot-button political and, yes, religious issues. Clearly, said the writer, we would be upset claim that the "author doesn't 'get religion' because she doesn't quote the pope or conservative Christians to the effect that homosexuals are horrible."

Once again, that is straw man language. But still, there is the question of what to do with this little Los Angeles Times news report. Here is the top of the piece:

LAPD Police Chief William J. Bratton has come out -- in favor of gay marriage.

As a wedding gift to friend and celebrity publicist Howard Bragman and his longtime partner, Chuck O'Donnell, Bratton made it official: He and his wife, former Court TV diva Rikki Kleiman, strongly believe that gays have a right to marry. And in honor of Bragman and O'Donnell, who wed this past week in Norwalk, the chief and Kleiman have made a donation to Equality California, a group seeking to stop a state ballot measure this November that would ban same-sex marriages.

"The Constitution guarantees life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," Bratton said this week. "I see no reason why gays can't pursue happiness through marriage."

After learning of the Bragman-O'Donnell union a few days ago, Bratton and Kleiman asked the couple what they would like as a wedding present. Bragman was direct: No gifts -- instead, make a donation to Equality California to help stop Prop. 8. And please make it public.

There isn't that much more, in this day of shorter and shorter news reports. There are no voices quoted from the other wide of the issue, of course. Perhaps there wasn't room.

This is an important story. The chief's donation is, of course, totally legal and the newspaper knew a good, little, story when it saw one.

But here was the question that lingered for me. What would have happened if his donation would have gone the other way, if this important public figure had dared to back the traditional marriage camp in this bitterly divided state? Would that mirror-image story have received the same type of coverage? A short cheery piece of what, as of late, people on our comments board have been calling "fluff" news?

I think not. You see, that would be a huge, controversial story. I imagine that it would have ended up on A1 or the metro front, at the very least.

That important and controversial story would needed a wide variety of voices, in order to be complete. The reporters would have needed quotes from both sides, including plenty of solid, well-informed, sympathetic voices from the Religious Left. And that is precisely what the story would deserve.

It's called journalism, in the classic American model that requires reporters to seek balance, fairness and accuracy. Here at GetReligion.org, we like journalism. We really do.

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