Pod people: 'Conservative' Baptists spark a conversation

In three and a half years, I've written 439 posts for GetReligion (this makes 440, I believe). That ranks me No. 5 on the all-time GetReligionista list, with tmatt the Hank Aaron of GR at 3,139 and Mollie next at 2,015. That's a lot of posts.

And that's a lot of opportunity to type a quick opinion on deadline and either not express it clearly enough or — in some cases — botch it altogether.

In a post this week titled "AP embraces cliches, labels in seminary prez profile," I questioned the repeated use of the term "conservative" in a profile of Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. I noted that the term appeared seven times in the 800-word story — five times as an adjective.

My criticism drew this response from one reader on Twitter: 

In the comments section of that post, GetReligion guru tmatt himself noted:

But, hey, conservative is accurate. Fundamentalist would have been inaccurate in this case. Smaller sins!

That prompted two replies from me.

The first (typed in defensive mode):

Maybe conservative is accurate.

But it's overused and vague.

Better journalism would be to show, not tell, that someone is conservative.

The second (after a bit more reflection):

But the point -- here and by a few folks on Twitter -- is well taken that conservative is a term used by many Southern Baptists (such as Mohler) to describe themselves.

And in reviewing an SBC story I wrote for AP a decade or so ago, I noticed that I used the term about 11 times myself.

So ...

Mea culpa.

In general, I just found it frustrating that this story used a lot of signposts (such as "conservative") without a lot of actual insight or reporting to provide any real depth to the story or the profile subject.

On our best days, GetReligion provides a venue for open, honest dialogue about media coverage of religion news. I know the comments here often benefit me as much as the posts. So thank you for reading. And for your excellent feedback.

Host Todd Wilken and I discuss the Mohler story on this week's episode of "Crossroads," the GetReligion podcast.

We also spend a few minutes discussing my post on "What NOT to teach a metro reporting intern."

Click here to listen to the podcast. As always, the Oklahoma accent is free.

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