In Ferguson, Mo. — dubbed "Baghdad, USA" by The Huffington Post and labeled a "A CITY ON EDGE" in a banner headline by today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch — Wednesday's arrests of two prominent journalists for the apparent crime of doing their jobs caused a Twitterstorm.
The social media outrage produced some, um, religious overtones.
Those of us who write for GetReligion are religion journalists. But first of all, we are journalists. As such, I can't help but say "Amen!" to the question by McBride, a leading expert on media ethics at the Poynter Institute.
Seeing photos like the one below, it's difficult to imagine that the scene unfolding in suburban St. Louis is actually happening right here in the United States of America:
Wednesday's developments prompted this tweet from journalist Dave Gustafson:
As the nation's attention focuses on Ferguson, Post-Dispatch religion writer Lilly A. Fowler — who took over the prominent St. Louis Godbeat earlier this year — has been busy at work on the faith angle.
In fact, as a veteran of all-consuming stories such as the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, I identified with her tweet early this morning:
Earlier, Fowler lamented:
Before that, she shared a link to her story:
Fowler reports on an angle of the Ferguson story that may go unnoticed amid all the protests, tear gas and displays of police power inside McDonald's: faithful volunteers making a difference:
FERGUSON • On the fourth morning after Michael Brown’s death, residents from different parts of the region came together in Ferguson, trying to pick up the pieces.
Some were young, some old. The majority arrived as part of the faithful. Others trickled in after spotting volunteers marching up and down West Florissant under the hot sun. Carrying brooms and large garbage bags, they collected whatever they could find: rubber bullets, broken glass, liquor bottles, tear gas grenades.
“I needed to come out today just to get some stability,” said Gary Park, 34, an auto mechanic who lives near the area in Ferguson where Brown was shot and protests erupted. Close by is the looted and burned QuikTrip that sits as a symbol of the severity of the unrest that has resulted from an unnamed cop fatally shooting an unarmed 18-year-old.
“I wanted some encouragement,” Park said.
Park is a member of Passage Community Church in Florissant, which together with a few other local congregations, organized the Wednesday morning cleanup. Pastor Joe Costephens said that although the trash-collecting effort was a last-minute plan, more than 100 people joined the endeavor.
Later in the story, she quotes another volunteer:
Another volunteer, Derrick Spencer of St. Louis, said in an attempt to inspire compassion, he planned to return a sign to his truck’s windshield that recites a line from the New Testament: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
“We can’t take justice into our own hands,” Spencer said.
Since this is a media criticism website, I'll quibble with the "line from the New Testament" wording. That wasn't just any "line from the New Testament." Those were among Jesus' final reported words on the cross, and I wish the Post-Dispatch had been more specific, which I believe would have given more meaning to the interviewee's statement about not taking justice into his own hands.
Alas, the volunteer story is just one of several that Fowler has tackled this week as news keeps breaking in her home community.
Be sure to check out her other reports: