Hundreds of reporters have written about Bristol Palin's unborn child. Yet few have examined the other unusual child in the Family Palin: Trig, the 4-month-old boy who has Down syndrome. Yesterday the New York Times and Los Angeles Times wrote about the child and the issues he raises. So how did the papers cover the story in terms of religion?
Well, the two papers did not do much. They avoided one obvious storyline: why exactly the Palins decided not to abort the pregnancy given that so many couples in their situation make the opposite choice. As Andrea Useem points out, this narrative is filled with religious possibility. Certainly New York Times editor Bill Keller and his wife struggled with the issue of religion when they decided to have doctors terminate their unborn son Charlie, who was likely to be a special-needs child.
This post won't fault the reporters for avoiding the religious angle; I mean only to point out this fact. In any event, Keller's paper published an otherwise well-done story about Trig. Reporters Jodie Kantor, Katie Zernike, and Catrin Einhorn presented subjective reality well, giving readers the religious point of view of the Palin's:
Later that day, Ms. Palin sent an e-mail message to her relatives and close friends about her new son, Ms. Bruce said. She signed it, "Trig's Creator, Your Heavenly Father."
"Many people will express sympathy, but you don't want or need that, because Trig will be a joy," Ms. Palin wrote. She added, "Children are the most precious and promising ingredient in this mixed-up world you live in down there on Earth. Trig is no different, except he has one extra chromosome."
The only other reference to religion in the stories was incomplete. Dan Morain of The Los Angeles Times wrote about the politics and policy of special-needs children as they relate to the Palin's. His only reference to religion was in the following paragraph:
Palin was aware her child would be born with Down syndrome but did not abort the pregnancy. That decision has endeared her to evangelicals who oppose abortion,
It is true that most Americans support legal abortion in cases of fetal abnormality, a crude term which likely covers Down Syndrome children. Yet it is also true that evangelicals are not the only religious folks, or secular folks for that matter, who cheered Palin's decision. For example, Catholic leaders too embraced Palin's choice.
I can't say that the three stories did not get religion; only that they avoided the possibility of doing so or did so in glancing fashion.