Doughnut holes: Story on Christians targeting Naughty Girls pastries is all sugar and no spice

In the northwestern corner of Virginia — about 70 miles west of Washington, D.C. — the Naughty Girls Donut Shop is making headlines with accusations of harassment by conservative religious types.

Among other media outlets, Fox News 5 in the nation's capital picked up the tantalizing story:

Likewise, the Northern Virginia Daily ate up the story like a tasty pastry:

FRONT ROYAL -- Tiana Ramos, 17, said she opened Naughty Girls Donut Shop to give all outsiders a place to go. But not everyone is happy with her message.
Tiana and her mother, Natalie Ramos, have dealt with backlash from some members of the community claiming the business promotes promiscuous behavior.
Natalie Ramos issued a news release Tuesday in which she referred to Front Royal as "the Footloose town." The release stated "a strong Conservative Alliance group" in the community was protesting Naughty Girls' name, calling the shop a "bikini barista."
"I wanted the chance for Tiana to be able to defend herself," Natalie Ramos said Wednesday. "It's becoming too much. It's time for her to say, 'listen, this is what I'm doing, this is what I stand for, these are who we stand for, and we want your support."
Natalie Ramos said the harassment has been an ongoing issue.

The Pew Research Center — in its extremely helpful daily religion headlines email — linked to the story today and gave it this headline:

Va. teen's Naughty Girls Donut Shop criticized by local Christians

But here's the problem with the breathless news coverage on this story so far: It's full of (doughnut) holes.

As best I can tell, no media outlet has found, much less quoted, an actual Christian critic. (If I'm wrong, by all means, share the link.)

In the news release cited by the Northern Virginia Daily, the doughnut shop complained of a "manufactured controversy." Alas, the "controversy" certainly seems to be generating plenty of free publicity for Naughty Girls and bad press for unidentified alleged conservative critics. It's not doing much, though, to promote responsible journalism.

More from the newspaper story:

Recently, Natalie Ramos also received a letter that was sent to several area businesses.
The letter states a group, identifying itself as "Local Catholics of Front Royal," would boycott the shop if it does not stop advertising with an area newspaper. A representative with St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church said the parish did not send the letter.
That was not the first time Natalie Ramos said she was told about a boycott -- she has a friend who was also asked to participate. As was the mother of an employee, who said she was asked to boycott because the logo features a devil's tail.
"I never even noticed the devil's tail," Natalie Ramos said. "I thought it was just a curve."

And so on and so on.

The doughnut shop owner and her mother enjoy carte blanche freedom to make accusations, and the newspaper never attempts to verify or debunk them. The unnamed Catholic representative is the only church source (almost) quoted.

On a different note, where is the logic in the idea that "Local Catholics of Front Royal" are going to boycott Naughty Girls if the shop doesn't stop advertising? Does that mean that they'll keep partaking of Naughty Girls pastries if the advertising stops? I'm confused.

If the goal is quality journalism and if this sticky situation is indeed newsworthy, here are three ways to improve the story: 

  • In light of the "bikini barista" claim, some details on what the employees actually wear would be helpful. (According to the news release, both male and female staff members "are dressed in modest rockabilly-style outfits.")
  • If conservative religious types in town are going to be painted with a broad, negative brush, the newspaper needs to give a few of them an opportunity to weigh in. Who knows, but perhaps some church leader would be willing to explain why he or she both (1) doesn't approve of idiots (allegedly) throwing garbage at business owners and (2) believes there are more wholesome names for teen-owned doughnut shops than "Naughty Girls." (A quick Google search of nearby churches finds New Hope Bible Church,  First Baptist Church and Rockland Community Church, among others. The phone numbers are listed.)
  • For journalists, a healthy dose of skepticism goes well with a box of glazed doughnuts. But to this point, the reporting on this story has been all sugar and no spice.
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