As much as we here at GetReligion like to prod mainstream local newspapers to do a better job of covering religion news, we really should pause, every now and then, to discuss an even bigger problem. Hardly anyone in television news, national or local, has created a religion beat. Thus, GetReligion reader John I. Carney dropped us a note to point out that WKRN-TV in Nashville -- home of the Southern Baptist Convention headquarters and many other major religious institutions (not to mention more than a few musicians who mention faith from time to time) -- has created a religion and ethics beat. Not only that, but reporter Jamey Tucker at News 2 has created a blog on which he discusses journalistic issues linked to his beat and, well, football. Football is a religion in parts of the South and Southeast, so this makes sense.
Anyway, Tucker just posted an interesting question and asked his readers for feedback before his coverage of a controversial issue. In fact, he asked for input on whether to cover the event at all. (By the way, thank you Mr. Carney for sending us a full URL for the Tucker blog item. This makes blog work much easier on our end!)
Here is the blog item in question:
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
I've got mixed feelings about a story this week. The God Hates Fags folks are picketing another funeral at Fort Campbell. Now I don't want to give these nimrods a second of attention or publicity. But, I would love to go and find out what part of the Bible they find that God hates anyone. I'd also like to talk to them about the overall negative opinion of Christians that others might have because of their words, their actions and their lack of compassion.
So, what do you think? Should I take a camera to Kentucky and talk to them? Or would ignoring them be better?
What we are talking about, of course, is the fundamentalist (he embraces the term) preacher that leaders in the gay and lesbian movement love to hate and, well, he feels the same about them, I think. His name is Pastor Fred Phelps and his church is Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas.
Now, personally, I think News 2 ought to cover the story -- in large part because Nashville is an amazingly diverse religion town and it has a solid opportunity to cover this group on the radical, way-out-of-the-mainstream right, from a wide variety of perspectives including the sane left (lots of interesting voices in Nashville) and the truly mainstream right, which would be the SBC leadership and others. There is more than one way to reject Phelps and what he has to say.
I say quote Phelps and his folks, within reason, and then let other people respond. It's journalism. Don't settle for the same old crazy photos. Do the news story. When you visit Tucker's blog, you'll notice that his readers are all over the map on this question.