Do you hear what I hear?

How did NPR's Scott Simon make it into this post? Hang on, gentle reader, and all will be clarified.

There's been growing speculation in the media about President Obama's choice for the Supreme Court seat to be vacated when Justice David Souter retires at the end of June. Here's a fun, if slightly speculative article from the New York Times on Republican strategy as regards a pick for the Supremes (of course, there's no name yet from the White House.)

The assumption is, and it might be a safe one, given that the Court only has one member of color and one woman, that the President will go for racial and gender diversity. Possibly a Hispanic. Perhaps an African-American. Even more potently symbolic, someone who is both a minority and a woman, though, as the Times points out, all candidates will piously probably deny that they have any opinions at all.

This weekend, Los Angeles Times' writers Johanna Neuman and Andrew Malcolm reported growing advocacy for a gay Supreme Court nominee, a repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" and various other issues of particular interest to gays and "gay advocates."

We're seeing more and more columns that blend analysis, commentary and reporting, a trend (call me old-fashioned) I find a little confusing. Here's Neuman's and Malcolm's gumbo-like (a dash of this, a hint of that) lede:

With more states enacting same-sex marriage laws, pressure is growing on President Obama to moderate his stance against gay marriage.

Advocates are urging him to appoint a gay man or woman to the Supreme Court to replace retiring Justice David H. Souter. Even if Obama does not name a gay justice, senators are likely to question the nominee about the hot-button issue during confirmation hearings, propelling it to the top of the political agenda this summer.

Two gay women are among the candidates being considered, according to the New York Times: Kathleen M. Sullivan and Pamela S. Karlan, both of Stanford Law School.

Already, Christian groups are lobbying against such a selection by organizing protests in Washington, where the District of Columbia City Council recently voted to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.

Take it from the top -- what do they mean, "moderate" his stance on gay marriage? Errr — what would that look like? We know that the President favors civil unions. "Moderating" his policy beyond civil unions could only mean affirming gay marriage -- what am I missing? Is the word "moderate" now a substitute for the term "progressive"?

Or are the writers implying that Obama's views are, to use a term I loathe, "out of the mainstream"?

Which "Christian" groups are opposed to same-sex marriage? The United Methodists? The ELCA? The Presybterian Church (USA) or the Presbyterian Church in America? The National Baptist Convention? The writers only quote one pastor (actually, they quote the New York Times), and they don't mention whether he's part of a larger coalition.

Am I being too hard on two writers essentially doing a kind of a general round-up? Perhaps -- but if you can't be specific on the fundamentals, why bother to post such an item at all?

Now we get to NPR host Scott Simon's wise and timely Saturday admonition to all of us who think we can approach a topic without bias. Simon takes two statements on marriage from two different speakers, and asks his readers to make a judgement about who said them. I won't spill the beans -- read the piece for yourself. Suffice it to say that it links nicely with a story we've been covering here. But though I cavil with a few descriptors, I love these sentences from the end of his comments:

I play this little exercise this week because it may show how people — especially intelligent people -- hear what they want to ...

It makes it a bit harder, but more important, to do real journalism and sometimes tell an audience, "We know what you think you know. But listen to this."

One of the jobs of a good journalist is to look at his or her assumptions, figure out what she or he thinks they know -- and then go looking for people and situations that test those assumptions. What they find might surprise them -- and us.

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