Bye bye holy ghosts! TV station lets faith shine in report on family killed in car crash

Bye bye holy ghosts! TV station lets faith shine in report on family killed in car crash

It's a sad, sad story: a mother and her children killed in a car crash.

The tragedy had reporters camped out at the family's church, as a GetReligion reader noted in an email.

Folks from the church were interviewed, but the "spiritual guts" of what they said were edited out in most cases, the reader said.

Emphasis on "most" because there's a happy ending from a journalistic standpoint.

From the reader:

But then one interview made it to the airwaves intact, allowing the Gospel message to reach anyone who was tuned in to CBS Chicago. Every time I listen to the interview, I'm amazed that they actually broadcast the important part, but God be praised for that! 

Now, let's be clear: It's not a journalist's job to preach the Gospel. 

But it is a journalist's job to reflect accurately the essence of what a source says. That's the point here.

That's why CBS 2 in Chicago gets this reader's — and our — kudos.

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CNN on Clinton's pastor: It's Friday! But Sunday's coming! Or familiar words to that effect ...

CNN on Clinton's pastor: It's Friday! But Sunday's coming! Or familiar words to that effect ...

Once again, I feel the need to respond to some emails requesting my take on a sad, but rather interesting, feature story at CNN.

The headline is certainly a grabber, one that wouldn't be surprising at a "conservative" news outlet or two (or more). But it's news, sort of, when CNN is the prime MSM outlet that goes with this: "Hillary Clinton's pastor plagiarized portion of new book."

This is actually a strong feature story, even though -- as readers stressed -- it includes a sort of "this wasn't really all that big a deal" coda. What is looming in the background is a rarely discussed trend, which is that lots of preachers (past and present) have a tendency to quote all kinds of people without getting into the details about sources. Hold that thought, because we'll come back to it.

So back to that CNN report. Here is the overture:

(CNN) Hillary Clinton's longtime pastor plagiarized the writings of another minister in a new book scheduled to be released on Tuesday.
"Strong for a Moment Like This: The Daily Devotions of Hillary Rodham Clinton," is based on emails that the Rev. Bill Shillady, a United Methodist minister, wrote to Clinton from April 2015 through December of last year. Shillady described his emails as a way to minister to a candidate in perpetual motion.
The pastor and politician formed a spiritual bond after meeting in New York in 2002. Shillady co-officiated at Chelsea Clinton's wedding in 2010, presided over Clinton's mother's memorial service and blessed her grandchildren. Clinton is a lifelong Methodist.
Clinton appears on the cover of "Strong for a Moment Like This," and wrote a foreword for the book praising Shillady and his writings. She is scheduled to appear at an event next month in New York promoting the book. A spokesman for Clinton did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

The key, however, is that Shillady failed to credit the source for some material that ended up in what CNN called an "especially emotional devotion." The source was a March 2016 blog post by the Rev. Matthew Deuel of Mission Point Community Church in Indiana.

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That 'Patriot Prayer' man takes on the anarchists, but reporters forget to ask about God

That 'Patriot Prayer' man takes on the anarchists, but reporters forget to ask about God

Activism is already out in full force in the Pacific Northwest, where the streets are inhabited by a collection of bandana-wearing antifascists, radicals, artists, anarchists, anti-racists, gays and feminists on the left and the neo-Nazis and white supremacists on the vociferous right.

Demonstrations are a staple here and the participants are almost all under 40. For instance, this piece in the Williamette Week told how the Portland (Ore.) police stood by while militia groups, alt-right demonstrators and anarchist counter-protestors beat each other up recently.

So the presence of anyone religious in this messy drama is highly intriguing.

The Vancouver (Wash.) Columbian, whose airy newsroom is across the Columbia River from Oregon, decided to profile one of the most intriguing personalities on the streets today. This passage is very long, but it's essential. Read on.

Vancouver’s Joey Gibson always paid some attention to politics but had little practical interest in the process. Then he took to the streets outside the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last summer.
There, the leader of the Patriot Prayer online community-slash-movement, whose organizing and activism has garnered national headlines after recent clashes on college campuses and the streets of Portland, was caught on camera tearing up a demonstrator’s anti-police cardboard sign. 
“Why would you destroy my property?” asked the man, who was wearing a T-shirt that read “F*** the police.”
Because Gibson, 33, was fired up. But then he felt bad for ripping up the sign. 
He handed the guy a $20 bill, and the interaction ended with a handshake. 
Now, a year later, Gibson said he is still evolving as an activist and organizer. On Facebook videos and YouTube, he preaches “Hatred is a disease.” He counts the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. among his political heroes.

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Patricia Heaton doesn't work for GetReligion; but her Down syndrome tweet is a must-see

Patricia Heaton doesn't work for GetReligion; but her Down syndrome tweet is a must-see

If you know anything about politics in Hollywood, then you probably know that there are few "players" in that scene who are out-and-proud moral, cultural and religious conservatives.

However, if you are left-of-center on most matters political, yet you also oppose abortion or even simply abortion on demand, then you may be aware that Emmy Award-winning actress Patricia Heaton (click here for her many credits) has been bold enough to serve as the honorary chair of the organization Feminists for Life.

She also has a fairly large following on Twitter, although nothing by Kardashian standings.

So, this progressive pro-lifer is taking on CBS. Why?

Because of a report which, in its online form, has this provocative headline:

"What kind of society do you want to live in?": Inside the country where Down syndrome is disappearing

This long feature opens like this:

With the rise of prenatal screening tests across Europe and the United States, the number of babies born with Down syndrome has significantly decreased, but few countries have come as close to eradicating Down syndrome births as Iceland.
Since prenatal screening tests were introduced in Iceland in the early 2000s, the vast majority of women -- close to 100 percent -- who received a positive test for Down syndrome terminated their pregnancy.
While the tests are optional, the government states that all expectant mothers must be informed about availability of screening tests, which reveal the likelihood of a child being born with Down syndrome. Around 80 to 85 percent of pregnant women choose to take the prenatal screening test, according to Landspitali University Hospital in Reykjavik.

Now, in the world of Twitter push promotion materials, that translates into this:

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Not a dying trend: This is why cremations — and religion — keep making headlines in the U.S.

Not a dying trend: This is why cremations — and religion — keep making headlines in the U.S.

If you read my last post on the subject, you know that my wife, Tamie, wants to be cremated when she dies.

I, on the other hand, prefer to be dressed in my Sunday best and await the resurrection with what's left of my skin and bones fully intact.

I bring up this issue — once again — because the rising number of cremations in the U.S. again has sparked a wave of headlines.

The New York Times is among major news organizations covering the trend, with a story headlined "In a Move Away From Tradition, Cremations Increase":

An envelope was in Carmen Rosa’s desk in her apartment in Co-op City in the Bronx — an envelope that she had instructed her son not to open until after she died. Inside were more instructions, and they left her son, Alfredo Angueira, flabbergasted.
Ms. Rosa, the longtime district manager of Community Board 12 in the Bronx who died in March 2015 at age 69, directed that she was to be cremated and her remains placed at Woodlawn Cemetery. Mr. Angueira called that “a shocker.”
“Never in a million years would I have thought that this is what she would have wanted,” he said, explaining that he had expected her to say she wanted a traditional burial at St. Raymond’s, a Roman Catholic cemetery near the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge where celebrities like Billie Holiday and Frankie Lymon are interred. So are at least four of Ms. Rosa’s relatives, including her mother.
But cremations are quickly becoming the choice for more and more families. And now, for the first time, more Americans are being cremated than having traditional burials, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. The cremation rate in 2016 achieved a milestone, edging past 50 percent to 50.2 percent, up from 48.5 percent in 2015, according to a report issued recently by the funeral directors’ association.

Right away, the Times hints at a strong religion angle (read: changing beliefs) behind this trend.

And later, the story notes:

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Guardian's 'Church of Cannabis' puff piece makes reader jones for ... context and critique

Guardian's 'Church of Cannabis' puff piece makes reader jones for ... context and critique

I suppose I should thank The Guardian, one of Britain's more-upscale dailies, for giving me the opportunity to post an iconic moment from U.S. television history: A performance of "One Toke Over the Line" from "The Lawrence Welk Show."

Not even Pavarotti singing Meat Loaf's greatest hits could surpass it. Believe me.

The occasion for my diversion into the valley of camp comes from a news story about one of Denver's newest congregations. Get ready for LOTS of puns and clever phrases, even if my longed-for staple, context, is sadly lacking.

Let's visit the scene of the journalistic "crime," entitled "Holy smoke! The church of cannabis" to separate, er, joint from marrow:

It started, naturally, with a group of friends smoking a joint. Steve Berke, a graduate of Yale University, was temporarily living in an old church in Denver, Colorado. His estate agent parents had bought the 113-year-old building with the plan to turn it into flats. He and Lee Molloy, as well as a few friends, had just moved from Miami to capitalise on Colorado’s lucrative marijuana market. But then, in the words of Lee: “We started having these stupid, fantastical conversations. What if we kept it as a church?” So Steve convinced his parents to give him the building and, nine months later, on 20 April 2016 – 4/20, as it’s known in the United States, the unofficial pothead’s holiday (because it’s 4.20pm somewhere, right?) – the International Church of Cannabis opened its doors with its own chapel, theology and video game arcade.
From the outside all appears normal: red-brick towers, blocky turrets, a classic city church in an otherwise leafy suburb of Denver. But there are giveaways. The three front doors and arched window facade have been spray-painted with silver galaxies and bright, happy-face planets. The work of legendary painter and graphic artist Kenny Scharf, who has exhibited in the Whitney and New York’s Museum of Modern Art, it looks more like the backdrop for an illegal 90s rave than your typical parish church. But it’s indicative of the coup that Elevation Ministries, the non-profit company that Steve and Lee co-founded to set up the Church of Cannabis, has managed to pull off.

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Connect dots: After Charlottesville, journalists should cover anti-Semitism as distinct from 'racism'

Connect dots: After Charlottesville, journalists should cover anti-Semitism as distinct from 'racism'

The past week once again underscored for me the connectedness of earthly phenomena -- including, most decidedly, what's happening in the news business.

Comments made in Washington -- or Bedminster, N.J. -- reverberated in Panmunjom. An ugly and disconcerting clash in Charlottesville produced global bulletins, with good cause.

So excuse me if this post strays from my assigned GetReligion role, which is to focus on analysis of international stories and trends, and instead zig-zags between the foreign and the domestic.

Call it connecting the dots -- in a very personal way.

The week saw a plethora of screaming headlines (and shouting cable talking heads) going on about the threat of nuclear war with North Korea and -- incredibly -- the threat of U.S. military intervention in hapless Venezuela. And then, at week’s end, came Charlottesville, the consequences of which will surely keep the news media engaged for some time, or at least until the next all-engulfing story comes along.

President Donald Trump finally got specific Monday about the underlying cause of Saturday’s clash between an assortment of alt-right white supremacists and their fellow travelers, and a large number of counter demonstrators, one of whom was killed when a man identified as a white supremacist and new-Nazi sympathizer is alleged to have driven his car into the crowd of counter demonstrators.

North Korea surely has potential consequences that are far greater formore people in Asia and elsewhere than do Venezuela (a non-story born out of another thoughtless remark by our commander in chief) and Charlottesville.

But I'm going with Charlottesville here, because, as I was told in Journalism 101, all news is local and personal. And I happen to be an American and a Jew and what I learned a half-century ago in journalism school remains true.

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Is SCOTUS case as simple as baker's refusal to make same-sex wedding cake? Here's why it's complicated

Is SCOTUS case as simple as baker's refusal to make same-sex wedding cake? Here's why it's complicated

Is there a difference between (1) making a generic cake and selling it to anybody willing to pay for it and (2) using one's artistic talents to create a special cake celebrating an occasion such as a wedding?

That's a key question in a religious liberty case headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

But that question gets short shrift in a Washington Post overview of the case.

The Post's high court reporter — not a Godbeat pro — wrote the piece headlined "The spurned couple, the baker and the long wait for the Supreme Court."

To begin, the newspaper presents the basic facts of the case involving a baker who declined to make a cake for a same-sex wedding celebration. The details will be familiar to GetReligion readers who have followed this case for years:

The incident took only moments.
The journey through the Colorado legal process lasted years.
And then the Supreme Court took its own sweet time. Almost a year passed from the date the court was first asked to review a dispute between a gay couple and a baker who refused to make them a wedding cake and the justices’ announcement that they would do just that.
When the Supreme Court hears the case this fall, it has the potential to be a major decision worth the wait.
Scattered across the country, florists, bakers, photographers and others have claimed that being forced to offer their wedding services to same-sex couples violates their rights of religious liberty and free expression.
Courts have routinely turned down the business owners — as the Colorado Court of Appeals did to cake shop owner Jack C. Phillips in this case — saying that state anti-discrimination laws require businesses that are open to the public to treat all potential customers equally.

Keep reading, and the Post quotes both sides (which we applaud!).

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Question for journalists: Where does this hellish Charlottesville story go next (other than Trump)?

Question for journalists: Where does this hellish Charlottesville story go next (other than Trump)?

So you are a journalist and you think there is more to the Charlottesville tragedy than political word games. Where to you think this story will go next?

Oceans of ink will, of course, be spilled covering news linked to President Donald Trump and what he does, or does not, say about that alt-right and white supremacy. Political reporters will do that thing they do and, in this case, for totally valid reasons. Please allow me to ask this question: At what point will major television networks -- rather than sticking with a simplistic left vs. right strategy -- spotlight the cultural conservatives who have been knocking the Trump team on this topic from the beginning?

In terms of religion angles, our own Julia Duin wrote an omnibus piece that this this morning and I would urge readers to check it out. Lots of people in social media urged pastors to dig into issues of hate and race in their sermons. Now I'm looking for coverage of that angle. Has anyone seen anything? Just asking.

The latest report from The New York Times -- "Far-Right Groups Surge Into National View in Charlottesville" -- raises some very interesting issues about this event. I came away asking this question: Who were the marchers and where did they come from (and get their funds)? Once reporters have asked that question, they can then ask: Who were the counter-protestors and where did they come from (and get their funds)? I think both angles will be quite revealing, in terms of information about the seeds for the violence.

I thought the following was especially interesting:

George Hawley, a University of Alabama political science professor who studies white supremacists, said that many of the far-right members he had interviewed did not inherit their racism from their parents, but developed it online. Many of them had never heard of, say, David Duke, the former Louisiana politician and former leader of the Ku Klux Klan. ...

The counterprotesters included members of the local Charlottesville clergy and mainstream figures like the Harvard professor Cornel West. As the rally erupted into violence Saturday morning, the First United Methodist Church on East Jefferson Street opened its doors to demonstrators, serving cold water and offering basic medical care.
Dr. Hawley said he believed the far-left activists, known as antifa, were welcomed by the white nationalists. “I think to an extent the alt-right loves the antifa because they see them as being the perfect foil,” he said.

That drew a response from one of the local organizers -- Laura Goldblatt, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Virginia:

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