When reporters attack

sarah palinJudging from my inbox, there are more than a few readers who are disappointed with the mainstream media coverage of Gov. Sarah Palin. You are not alone. Conservative writer Bill Kristol has some theories about why the mainstream media are behaving the way they are. But while most of the hostile mainstream media reaction is dealing with purely political angles, there are also some religion angles that are being handled poorly. Absolutely the worst hit job I saw came from Wired. Normally I love Wired and I think it has some of the best new media coverage out there. But Brandon Keim ran a hit piece that was grossly unfair. Worse, the editors kept it as the top story on the main page throughout the day. Headline? "McCain's VP Wants Creationism Taught in School."

A few of my very angry reporter friends passed this story along to me as evidence of why Palin is unacceptably beyond the pale. References to her "creationism" have appeared in many, many mainstream media reports. Newsweek also had that awkward, awkward bit about the "Assembly of God church, a Pentecostal denomination that believes God created the world at every step." I don't even know what that means.

Anyway, let's look at the evidence to support the claim that Palin is some rabid Creationist. Here's how the first three paragraphs of the Wired piece ran on the front page all day Friday:

Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin wants creationism taught in science classes.

In a 2006 gubernatorial debate, the soon-to-be governor of Alaska trotted out the usual creationist education canard: "Teach both. You know, don't be afraid of education. Healthy debate is so important, and it's so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both."

Teaching evolution and creationism in a scientifically balanced way is simply impossible. Evolution is accepted by scientists as driving the development of life on Earth. Creationism, which puts a (Christian) God in the engine room of life, is unsupported by science. Its arguments have been roundly dismissed by scientists -- many of whom, it should be noted, believe in God. They're just sensible enough to understand where science ends and religion begins.

Yes, that was Wired's attempt at objective journalism.

Oddly, I just went back to check on the story and it has been radically, dramatically changed. Look at the opening three graphs of the new piece:

Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin wants creationism taught in science classes.

In a 2006 gubernatorial debate, the soon-to-be governor of Alaska said of evolution and creation education, "Teach both. You know, don't be afraid of education. Healthy debate is so important, and it's so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both."

Asked by the Anchorage Daily News whether she believed in evolution, Palin declined to answer, but said that "I don't think there should be a prohibition against debate if it comes up in class."

You should go back and read the first one again. It's just embarrassing. I hope that Keim got a good talking to from his editors.

In fact, even his heavily edited/re-written piece is unfair. That Alaska Daily News article he links to provides the context for the discussion:

In an interview Thursday, Palin said she meant only to say that discussion of alternative views should be allowed to arise in Alaska classrooms:

"I don't think there should be a prohibition against debate if it comes up in class. It doesn't have to be part of the curriculum."

She added that, if elected, she would not push the state Board of Education to add such creation-based alternatives to the state's required curriculum.

Members of the state school board, which sets minimum requirements, are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature.

"I won't have religion as a litmus test, or anybody's personal opinion on evolution or creationism," Palin said.

Palin has occasionally discussed her lifelong Christian faith during the governor's race but said teaching creationism is nothing she has campaigned about or even given much thought to.

So, Wired, if that was your sole source for the story -- and it was -- why run that hit piece all day saying that Palin is some big proponent of teaching Creationism in school? I realize the mainstream media is apoplectic over the selection of Gov. Palin as McCain's VP. But yegads, people! Reporters and editors need to remember that their job is to present the news, not their unhinged opinions. Calm down, and give your pieces a reread and a good edit before you publish, mmm-kay?

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