Could The Topeka Capital-Journal do better than the following story on how local families balance church and sports? Check out the introduction:
Involvement in team sports requires hours of regular practice, games and tournaments.
Balancing schedules when a child's team's schedule conflicts with the family's worship and church fellowship becomes a juggling act for some.
Daren and Debbie Nigus, of Topeka, have made special arrangements to permit their two sons, Seth, 11, and Jesse, 14, to play Ken Berry baseball.
A reader who kindly brought the story to our attention thought the story was "lousy" and "dull." (See Mark's fine post here on another "unedifying" story). Here is more from our reader on heartland religion news:
So the headline caught my eye. But the article is a disappointment. It is a story without a plot: "Some families balance faith and sports by not playing the Sunday games, which is fine."
I agree that this is not the most interesting work of journalism and likely won't win awards, but let us consider the options the reporter had in deciding how to spice the piece up.
There is always the controversial angle. Instead of focusing on the fact that everyone generally seems to be getting along, why not focus on the fact that these sports organizations dare to schedule activities on the Sabbath Day! Doesn't that potentially discriminate against those who take the Lord's Day seriously?
Not exactly, at least how this story was reported. However, this rather non-controversial story is an example of how a journalist could have taken a seemingly mundane topic and work everyone up into a fit of steam. Perhaps it's better that the reporter told what seems to be a rather straight-up story?
What happens when an athlete is not allowed to participate in a tournament or a league because of his or her personal or family commitment to attending church? That type of story seems to end up on page A1 in The Washington Post when it involves a high school athlete being disqualified from a track meet for wearing clothing intended to be modest for religious reasons.
In general, I hope this is not the Capital-Journal's one religion news story of the week. I should note that the article seems to have appeared in the "Life & Leisure" section on a Saturday. A brief exploration of the Web site shows that the newspaper published on the same day a column on a Muslim physician, a religion calendar and religion briefs. There is even a searchable devotional directory.
A July 2000 article notes that the newspaper launched a weekly news section (in color!) that was intended to cover "the wide variety of faith groups active in and around the Topeka area, focusing on how faith and spirituality affect people's lives" and stories featuring "ethics and values."
Eight years is a long time in the newspaper business. Here is hoping that these articles represent a vibrant religion section that gets into the heart of the community's religious issues.