Every journalist knows this essential truth: It’s very easy to report and write a story that you have already reported and written in your mind — even before you make the first phone call to the first source.
During the week leading up to Christmas, I was bracing myself for one of those stories, focusing — #DUH — on Donald Trump and all of those white evangelicals in Middle America who, in most media coverage, worship the ground on which he walks.
As it turned out, that’s the kind of story that showed up in the spectacular scandal at Der Spiegel, where editors had to face the fact that superstar reporter Claas Relotius had been making up lots of the material reported in his feature stories — including a piece about Trump supporters in the American heartland.
In my post about that media storm, I wrote the following:
The key is that one of the most celebrated newsrooms in Europe decided to probe the dark heart of Middle America in the age of Donald Trump. You know: How do solid, faithful, ordinary Americans in the heartland make peace with their support for a demon? That sort of thing.
Frankly, I have been bracing myself for exactly this kind of feature during the Christmas season, a kind of 'It’s Christmas in Donald Trump’s America' vision of life in some heavily evangelical Protestant town in the Bible Belt.
Well, that hasn’t happened. Yet.
To which, a longtime GetReligion responded: “How about this one, courtesy of NPR?”
Well, the story in question isn’t a Christmas piece. It’s an end-of-the-year feature with this headline: “For Evangelicals, A Year Of Reckoning On Sexual Sin And Support For Donald Trump.” But, as we would say in Texas, it’s close enough for horseshoes and hand grenades.
As always, this NPR story featured the following piece information:
About 80 percent of white evangelical voters backed Trump in 2016, and exit polls from this year's mid-term election showed little or no erosion of that support.
As always, I would have preferred, for the sake of nuance and accuracy, that this sentence have said that these evangelicals “voted for” Trump in 2016, rather than “backed” — since many actually opposed his candidacy and reluctantly voted for him as a painful way to defeat Hillary Clinton. Click here for more poll research on that point.
But the simple fact of the matter is that this NPR piece pushes lots of valid buttons, using a mix of sources — such as evangelicals and, if would appear, former evangelicals. Here is the overture: