Houston, we have a problem (with AP)

victoria osteenAt all costs avoid the Associated Press's coverage of the lawsuit against Victoria Osteen. The article the AP has distributed is full of examples of poor journalistic practices that damage the reputation of the profession. CNN.com did it's best to make things worse with an equally terrible headline to the story:

Mega-preacher's wife sued over loss of faith

HOUSTON, Texas (AP) -- She's the wife of a renowned evangelical pastor and one of the leaders of a Houston megachurch, but Victoria Osteen is being accused of behavior that wasn't very Christian.

For some energetic analysis of the AP coverage, see what a reader had to say:

Nothing shows up in the story supporting this statement until the final paragraph, and even then the support is as vague as possible. The woman suing Victoria Osteen said her faith was affected. Her faith in what? God, Christians, Christianity, the Osteens? Pastors? Churches? Spirituality? Religion? Texas? And when did an affected faith become the same thing as a lost faith? Perhaps these terms become synonymous when you want people to read your story, expecting they're getting something other than what you're offering. It sounded like a story involving a pastor's wife and a member of the pastor's church.

For another perspective, see the ABC News headline and lead, which seems to be tilted towards Osteen's side of the lawsuit:

Osteen's Wife on Trial for Temper Tantrum

Can a crankiness land you in court? The case of Sandra Brown v. Victoria Osteen is the story of a chance encounter on an airplane that turned into a nasty legal battle.

For a more balanced perspective, and one that does a much better job at placing accusations in the context of a civil lawsuit potentially involving millions of dollars, see the Houston Chronicle's coverage from Thursday here, here and here. The newspaper even had a column on the subject.

The big story out of yesterday's proceedings had to do with an accusation that a witness for the plaintiff's played the "race card."

An earlier lighthearted mood in the civil trial of Victoria Osteen took a decidedly serious turn Thursday afternoon when a witness implied that the Lakewood Church co-pastor acted racist during an incident on board a Continental flight three years ago.

Flight attendant Maria Johnson said Osteen sought her out instead of two black attendants, leading to a confrontation in which the co-pastor is accused of assaulting one of the black flight attendants.

In afternoon testimony and under redirect from Reginald McKamie, the attorney who is representing flight attendant Sharon Brown, Johnson said that she felt Osteen singled her out because she was "the only white girl."

When Osteen's attorney, Rusty Hardin, then questioned Johnson, he accused her of playing the "race card," prompting an audible gasp from the gallery overflowing with onlookers.

The article has the extended back-and-forth conversation between Osteen's attorney, the flight attendant, and the plaintiff's attorney. What the article rightly makes clear is that Osteen's attorney attempted to use the witness's suggestion that race was involved in the situation to his advantage. See here the last time accusations of playing the "race card" were used as an attempt to gain an advantage.

For those of you who want to follow this lawsuit, The Chronicle seems to be the place to go for thorough balanced coverage of the proceedings. Coverage of the theological side of this religion story has yet to make it into many stories yet, but hopefully once the day-to-day coverage of the trial winds down we will see more coverage of the "prosperity gospel" movement and whether or not someone's faith can really be impacted as alleged in this lawsuit.

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