Still talking about it: Chris Pratt zoomed past normal Godtalk in his non-news MTV sermon

Still talking about it: Chris Pratt zoomed past normal Godtalk in his non-news MTV sermon

If you watch a lot of pop-culture award shows (confession: I don't do that anymore), then you know that a certain amount of generic God talk is normal and acceptable.

On sports awards shows, and sometimes the Grammy Awards, you will even hear people offer gratitude to "my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," or similar phrases. 

You will, of course, also hear plenty of political announcements, off-color humor and endorsements of various progressive social causes. Right now, pop superstars seem determined to make statements that will eventually show up in Donald Trump campaign ads, demonstrating what the cultural elites think of lots of folks in flyover country.

This is the wider media context for discussions of Chris Pratt's interesting "Nine Rules For Living" sermonette during the recent MTV Movie & TV awards. You can click here to watch this MTV moment or look at the end of the CNN.com report to read a transcription of what he had to say (or part of it -- hold that thought).

I also wrote a GetReligion post on this topic, focusing on the fact that Pratt's remarks were a red-hot topic on Twitter, but didn't push any "news" buttons in elite newsrooms, especially in the world of print news. Now "Crossroads" host Todd Wilken and I have done a podcast on this topic and you can click here to tune that in.

* The original GetReligion post on this topic focused on the simple, but hazy, question: Were Pratt's remarks newsworthy. It's clear that if Pratt had (a) discussed Trump, pro or con, or (b) discussed LGBTQ rights (pro or con), then it would have been news. If he had discussed to state of his love life and recent divorce, that would have been news. Instead, he offered remarks linked to his evangelical Christian faith. This is not "news," even in an age when explicit faith is supposed to be private?

* It's interesting to note that Pratt pretty much stated what he was doing, in rule for life No. 4., in which he said: 

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Friday Five: BYU conference, border separation, McCarrick scandal, Chris Pratt on MTV and more

Friday Five: BYU conference, border separation, McCarrick scandal, Chris Pratt on MTV and more

I'm filing this edition of Friday Five from Provo, Utah, where I've spent the week attending — and speaking on a few panels — at Brigham Young University's Religious Freedom Annual Review.

In case you missed it Thursday (and based on our analytics, most of you did), GetReligion editor Terry Mattingly and I were part of a diverse group of journalists and attorneys who spoke on "Getting It Right, Media Coverage of Religion Freedom."

Check out my post to watch a video of that presentation, which includes The Atlantic religion journalism superstar Emma Green and other experts. As a bonus, you can see my Twitter thread that includes tmatt's "Seven Deadly Sins of the Religion Beat."

Now, let's dive into the Friday Five:

1. Religion story of the week: The controversy over the separation of families at the U.S.-Mexico border is the easy choice this week. 

Tennessee religion writer Holly Meyer, writing for The Commercial Appeal of Memphis, produced a compelling piece on ministry leaders who say the Bible compels their immigration work.

For more links and analysis, see our earlier posts headlined "Horror on the border: Some journalists starting to spot old cracks in Trump's support" and "Seven can't-miss takes on use of Romans 13 to defend policy on separating immigrant families."

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Despite risks in a time of audience skepticism, anonymous sources can be invaluable 

Despite risks in a time of audience skepticism, anonymous sources can be invaluable 

We live in an ethical epoch when editors at BuzzFeed and Politico have no scruples when a reporter sleeps with a prime source on her beat, after which she lands a prized New York Times job, at the very top of the journalism food chain.

Not that flexible conflict-of-interest standards are anything new. Ben Bradlee, as lauded as any journalist of his era, exploited a close friendship with President John F. Kennedy when he was Newsweek’s Washington bureau chief, giving fits to his competitors at Time. Bradlee was covering events that, one could argue, that he had helped shape in his conversations with Kennedy.

In 2018, such stuff matters more than ever, given the low esteem of “mainstream media” performance. The latest evidence comes in a survey reported June 11 by the American Press Institute, The Associated Press and NORC at the University of Chicago.

We learn that 35 percent of Americans have a negative view of news organizations, and 42 percent think news coverage veers too far into commentary, while 63 percent want to get mostly facts alongside limited analysis. Importantly, 42 percent don’t understand how the use of anonymous sources works and 68 percent say the media should offer more information about story sources.

President Donald Trump’s frequently fake “fake news” attacks on reporters, of course, continually involve complaints about unnamed sources. For sure, the Washington press corps, which makes such lavish use of anonymous sources in coverage critical of the Trump administration, must do everything possible to maintain accuracy and fairness.

Once upon a time -- in 2005 -- the staff Credibility Group formed in the wake of the horrid Jayson Blair scandal advised New York Times colleagues in a report titled “Preserving Our Readers’ Trust [.pdf here].” It warned that the daily should “keep unidentified attribution to a minimum” and “energetically” enforce limits across the board -- in hard news, features, magazine sections, and with copy from the growing number of freelance contributors.

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At a religious freedom conference in Utah, a diverse panel explores how to get news media coverage right

At a religious freedom conference in Utah, a diverse panel explores how to get news media coverage right

Whew!

A diverse panel of journalists and attorneys — including GetReligion editor Terry Mattingly and myself — just wrapped up a panel discussion on "Getting It Right, Media Coverage of Religion Freedom."

The 90-minute exchange occurred at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, as part of the Religious Freedom Annual Review. BYU's International Center for Law and Religion Studies hosts the event each year. 

You can watch the entire discussion via this Facebook Live feed.

Hannah Clayson Smith, senior fellow at BYU's International Center for Law and Religion Studies, moderated the panel. 

Besides tmatt and me, other panelists included:

• Sahar Aziz, professor of law and Chancellor’s Social Justice Scholar at the Center for Security, Race at Rights at Rutgers University Law School.

• Emma Green, staff writer covering politics, policy and religion at The Atlantic.

• Holly Hollman, general counsel and associate executive director for the Baptist Joint Committee.

Earlier today, Green gave an excellent keynote address on the legal and political landscape of religious liberty. I don't see that talk online yet, but if I come across it, I'll add a link.

On a lighter note, I loved Green's response when asked about the polarization caused by social media:

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One year later: BuzzFeed feature gets the 'miracle' details in GOP baseball shooting

One year later: BuzzFeed feature gets the 'miracle' details in GOP baseball shooting

Did you notice that Rep. Steve Scalise returned, to the best of his abilities, to the annual Congressional Baseball game the other night?

It has been a year since that stunning mass shooting, when an angry liberal Democrat came close, close, close to gunning down most of the Republican leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives. Here is a link to a nice NPR update on how Scalise is doing, using the 1-year anniversary as a news hook,

Sure enough, the word "miracle" is a key part of the story.

The anniversary reminded me of a magazine-length piece at BuzzFeed that has been buried deep in my GetReligion folder of guilt for several weeks. This happens, sometimes, with long, long stories. They are hard to critique in a short post and, well, they rarely draw responses from GetReligion readers. We are all rather busy, aren't we?

Anyway, the BuzzFeed story focused on two primary angles of the near massacre -- one political (and rooted in journalism) and the other is religious. This is the rare case in which the religion angle was handled better than the political one. The massive headline on this piece proclaimed:

THE 9 MINUTES THAT ALMOST CHANGED AMERICA

How The Congressional Baseball Shooting Didn't Become The Deadliest Political Assassination In American History

The political angle?

Why wasn't this bizarre and troubling event a bigger deal -- a bigger news story -- than it was? Why did the story slide on A1 so quickly? This story almost, almost, almost was one of the biggest events in the history of American politics. BuzzFeed noted:

What is certain is the disquieting way June 14 slipped beneath the news so quickly. The shooting felt much further away by July, August, September than mere months. If people joke about how the weeks feel like years in the current era, there’s an unsettling truth behind the joke -- the way anything can lose scale and proportion. Two dozen members of Congress were nearly killed one morning last year, and the country didn’t change very much at all.

Was the problem blunt politics, including bias in newsrooms?

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The scandal of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and why no major media outed him

The scandal of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and why no major media outed him

On Election Day 2008, I was not following the historic election of Barack Obama to the presidency.

Instead, I was meeting up with a priest. At the time, I was religion editor for the Washington Times.

The documents he gave me were sensational. At first I thought it was about a priest who’d been forced out of the priesthood because he’d been caught fondling two teen-aged boys. Then I read why the priest had done this. In layman’s terms: He said he was an emotional and spiritual mess after having been sexually assaulted in 1987 by none less than then-Newark Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.

Now, perhaps many of you have read yesterday’s news about McCarrick, who went on to become cardinal for the see of Washington, D.C., a most prestigious post. This UPI story describes the bare-bones of the matter:

Retired Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Newark, N.J., and Washington, D.C., announced he was stepping down from the ministry Wednesday amid allegations of sexual abuse.

In a statement, the Archdiocese of New York said the Vatican secretary of state, at the direction of Pope Francis, asked McCarrick to step down from the ministry.

Rocco Palmo, the blogmeister for the Vatican-insider blog “Whispers in the Loggia” announced yesterday that McCarrick is the highest-ranking U.S. prelate to be charged with sex misconduct to date. He has some other important details that are a must-read.

More from UPI:

The allegations against McCarrick stem from the abuse of a teenager nearly 50 years ago, while the former archbishop was a priest of the Archdiocese of New York ...

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Italy’s new government and Catholic Church increasingly at odds over migrant crisis 

Italy’s new government and Catholic Church increasingly at odds over migrant crisis 

EDITOR'S NOTE: This religion-news piece ran recently at the website of The Media Project, the global network that supports GetReligion. It was written by veteran New York City journalist Clemente Lisi, who is now one of my journalism faculty colleagues at The King's College in lower Manhattan.

ROME -- The soap opera that is Italian politics has taken a dramatic turn in recent weeks as two populist parties on opposite ends of the spectrum have decided to join forces as the Catholic Church opposes the wave of anti-immigrant sentiment that has engulfed the country over the past year. 

While the outcome of the hotly-contested March 4 election was a victory for populism, there was no clear winner that day. A coalition that included Matteo Salvini of the right-wing League party featured Trump-style campaign promises such as deporting thousands of undocumented immigrants out of the country. The party -- formerly the Lega Nord that had called on the wealthy northern provinces to break off from the rest of Italy -- largely appealed to Catholics. 

Another populist party, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, founded by comedian Beppe Grillo in 2009, also won big. The party’s platform, which leans left, also included campaigning against the European Union and anti-immigration. With no party reaching the 40 percent threshold needed in parliament to form a ruling government, the deadlock caused three months of negotiations and backroom dealing that resulted in the recent appointment of Giuseppe Conte as prime minister. A relatively unknown to the political scene, Conte, a law professor, is now tasked with leading a divided country. 

The League has faced widespread criticism for its xenophobic policies -- primarily from the Catholic Church -- after vowing to deport 500,000 illegal immigrants from Italy. An estimated 600,000 people have reached Italy by boat from Africa in the past five years. As part of the compromise over Conte’s appointment, Salvini was sworn in as Italy's new interior minister, while Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio will serve as labor and economic development minister, a position that allows him to fulfill his campaign promise of giving Italians universal basic income. 

One of the battles to emerge from all this is between the League and the church.

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Chris Pratt uses MTV as pulpit for his faith: Were his 'nine rules for living' news or not?

Chris Pratt uses MTV as pulpit for his faith: Were his 'nine rules for living' news or not?

There are many ways to calculate who is a "player" in Hollywood and who is not.

However, Chris Pratt has to near the top of any current list of performers whose name on a marquee will inspire millions of ordinary Americans to shell out cash for movie tickets. Where would Hollywood be, in the summer of 2018, without his clout at the box office?

Now, Pratt made some comments the other day that lit up Twitter, but not conventional news outlets -- especially print sources. For me, this raised a variation on an old, old question that I hear all the time from readers: Why are some unusual public statements or events considered news, while others are not?

So what are we talking about, in this case? Well, CNN did offer a short report on what Pratt had to say. Here is the top:

(CNN) Preach, Chris Pratt.

The actor received the Generation Award at the MTV Movie & TV Awards on Monday night and used his speech as an opportunity to share some wisdom with the event's younger viewers.

"I'm going to cut to the chase and I am going to speak to you, the next generation," Pratt said. "I accept the responsibility as your elder. So, listen up."

What followed was a list of Pratt's nine rules for living. 

The choice of the word "preach" in the lede hints at what happened here.

Basically, Pratt -- mixing toilet humor with understated theology -- served up what seemed like at rather crass sermonette by a church youth pastor. A few lines were certainly not pulpit-safe material, but Pratt also was surprising blunt when expressing some of his views as a rather outspoken evangelical Christian (at least in the context of Hollywood).

So here is my question: Were hi remarks "news"?

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Muslim reporter helps the Seattle Times grasp the complexity of Ramadan in schools

Muslim reporter helps the Seattle Times grasp the complexity of Ramadan in schools

While zipping through the Seattle Times website for stories about religion, which are usually scarce, what should appear but a piece about how local schools are adapting to students who observe Ramadan while playing sports and attending graduation ceremonies.

The article showed an insider knowledge of local Muslims, a group most reporters would not have access to. It's pretty obvious when you are dealing with a reporter who is getting the details and facts right.

Investigating further, I saw one of the writers, Dahlia Bazzazz, is not only Muslim herself, but her family was from Iraq. She was born in Oregon, grew up close to my alma mater (Lewis & Clark College in Portland) and was editor-in-chief of the Daily Emerald, the student newspaper for the University of Oregon.

More recently, she’s been covering the education beat for the Seattle Times, which is how she came to write this:

As Renton High School seniors walked across the graduation stage on Wednesday, fellow graduate Sawda Mohamed stayed home with her family.

The 18-year-old had purchased her cap and gown, but earlier in the school year decided to skip the ceremony. Despite her mother’s protest, Mohamed described her choice as a fitting end to years of frustration she experienced in a school system she felt had little respect for her Muslim faith.

“Honestly, because everything I’ve dealt with in the past, just let it be,” Mohamed said earlier this week. “I bought the cap and gown for memories of the hard work and everything I accomplished, but it’s just not worth it at this point.”

This year, the most stressful time of the school year coincided with the holiest time for Mohamed: Ramadan, when Muslims abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset for a month in order to focus on spiritual growth, family and charity.

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