Faithful GetReligion readers will remember the story of William Lobdell, the Los Angeles Times scribe whose first-person account of how covering the religion beat cost him his faith ran on the front page of that newspaper. That was strong stuff and it will, I am sure, surprise few readers to know that Lobdell has now turned that spiritual journey into a book entitled "Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America," which is due out in early 2009.
It is also interesting to read his new account of how he lost his faith in the Los Angeles Times and the modern newspaper, in general. But that's another issue.
However, while visiting his new online home -- he is doing alternative journalism in Orange County -- I noticed his very blunt, very GetReligion-esque take on a recent Associated Press story. The headline: "Media bias against religion."
Take it away, Mr. Lobdell:
In the media, I always thought open and honest debate about religion is healthy for everyone. What I hate is the natural media bias that seeps into news story. Below is a little feature on some parents who were rushing to catch a plane and left one of their five children behind ("Home Alone 6"?). The story gives the basics and then adds, "Israeli media said the parents were an ultra-Orthodox Jewish couple but did not give their names."
Why is it newsworthy to tell the reader that the parents were ultra-Orthodox? Is there a practice within ultra-Orthodox wing of Judaism that orders parents to leave their children behind? What if they were Catholic? Would that make it in the story?
Nope. There's a perception by many that the orthodox branches of any religion are filled with wingnuts. This may or may not be true, but tackle the issue head-on instead of slipping it cynically into news stories.
All I can add is, "Amen." Of course, you see slanted reports about liberal forms of religion in, well, conservative media. Lobdell is right. It's nasty to see that sort of thing in a basic wire-service report. Amazing.
Photo: Well, obviously.