Confession time: I live in Oklahoma City, but I don't read a whole lot of news stories about my local city council's meetings. I try to pay my municipal water and garbage collection bill on time. However, I don't tune in on Tuesdays to see the council debate zoning issues, flood retention ordinances or tax incentive districts. Blame my lamentable lack of interest on too many mind-numbing hours spent in bureaucratic government meetings in my early years as a reporter.
In other words, I'm still overcoming the trauma (kidding, kidding).
However, a friend's tweet about a council meeting this week caught my attention. The post linked to a story by The Oklahoman on the Oklahoma City Council passing a sexual orientation measure and mentioned an inflammatory statement by an opposition pastor. Apparently, the pastor claimed gay people commit more than half of murders in large cities.
Intrigued, I clicked on the story link to see exactly what the pastor said. I was disappointed that the newspaper did not provide a direct quote. Here is the version that appeared in today's newspaper:
Pastor Tom Vineyard, of Windsor Hills Baptist Church, cited a New York judge in saying more than half of murders in large cities are committed by gay people.
Vineyard received the longest standing ovation of the day after his remarks.
That's it!? With that kind of statement, don't readers deserve to know the specific, unedited words that the pastor used? By the way, I am sure that flocks of Southern Baptists would have appreciated the newspaper noting that this is a totally independent and self-proclaimed fundamentalist congregation.
Meanwhile, even more to the point, shouldn't the reporter have provided some context on the New York judge and what the judge said or didn't say? Is there any evidence to back up what the pastor claimed, or is the statement as outrageous as it seems on the surface? Was any consideration given to the actual practice of journalism related to this statement?
Given that I had already clicked on the link, I went ahead and read the rest of the story. Now I remember the real reason why I don't read a whole lot of council stories. If this particular report is any indication, I'm saving myself much weeping and gnashing of frustrated teeth. Speaking of mind-numbing experiences, here's how the story boils down the arguments for and against the measure to protect gay and lesbian Oklahoma City employees from discrimination:
In general, speakers against the measure cited religion and opposition to adding a class not protected by federal or state law to the city's policy as their reasons.
Speakers in favor of the measure generally spoke about a desire for fairness and equality.
Ah, religion. That generic collection of cultural systems, belief systems and worldviews that causes speakers to show up at city council meetings and oppose nondiscrimination measures. No other specific information needed, right? (Please excuse me for a moment while I bang my head against a brick wall.)
The entire story contains not a single direct quote, although the report links to a sidebar of random quotes from speakers, including an inflammatory one from Vineyard but not the one cited in the main story.
Image of a city council meeting room via Shutterstock