A few weeks ago, we all sighed in unison over The Atlantic's piece on the emerging church's supposed connection to Invisible Children, the group behind the viral video Kony 2012.
The piece had many, many problems, but one of the most glaring ones was the description of Seattle megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll as "an Emerging Liberal."
A reader sent us a note that the piece had been updated, a welcome correction after we called for one. But if you go into the piece, you'll see that not much has been changed. This is the paragraph in question:
Contemporary institutional religion, as opposed to "redemption," is "the most disgusting false gospel in the world!" Pastor Mark Driscoll, who identifies himself as an Emerging Liberal, declared in a sermon on YouTube.* "Religious people are the ones murdering Jesus."
You have to go all the way to the bottom of the lengthy article to find the update:
* - This sentence originally identified Mark Driscoll as an "Emerging Liberal" in the Emerging Church movement. According to a spokesperson for Driscoll's Mars Hill ministry, he was once affiliated with other theologians affiliated with Emerging Liberals, but now identifies himself as an "Emerging Reformer."
What a joke. It's like the editor mumbled, "Well, this is what he said, but we don't really believe him." Why even bother updating it if you're not going to completely correct the sentence?
I asked Mars Hill about the correction, and a spokesperson sent me this note:
Their update was a nice gesture, although buried at the bottom of the second page in the "fine print." It would have made more sense for them to change it in the article with a strikethrough or something more obvious. The writer certainly doesn't understand the emerging movement, and doesn't seem to know Pastor Mark very well. However, we are not worried about the quotes they used or how they represent Pastor Mark, other than the liberal label.
This section of the article was enough to set off the alarm bells of many of the commenters that the reporting behind the entire piece. Piece by piece, the article fails to draw clear connections between the emerging church and the organization behind Kony 2012.
Jordan spotted another error I completely missed the first time around. The piece links to an interview by the "Catholic radio station Relevant Radio." Wait, he means the evangelical magazine Relevant? Oh man. Yet another reason why the editors of The Atlantic should consider just pulling the entire piece off the web.
That liberal Mark Driscoll! (No one tell Slate.)
The writer of the Atlantic piece has this bio:
JOSH KRON - Josh Kron is a writer backed in Kampala, Uganda. He covers east Africa and Africa’s Great Lakes Region for The New York Times and has written for Foreign Policy, The Guardian, CNN, and Ha’aretz.
What does it mean by “backed in Kampala”? Is that a typo? Should it be “based”? Is the Atlantic a professional organization?
Mollie responded: "That confused me, too. And set the tone for the entire piece …."
A friend of mine asked if the quality of journalism is going downhill. It's too complicated to say across the board, but at The Atlantic, I wonder if there's a high demand for online content that wouldn't reach the standards needed for print. I still subscribe and enjoy getting the monthly print edition, but leaving a piece like this on its website does at least some damage to its credibility.