A couple of days ago I wrote about Darryl Fears' snarky Washington Post story about the independent journalists who have targeted community organizing group ACORN. Their videos show employees of ACORN advising how to set up a brothel with underage girls (who are sex-trafficked!) in the most tax-friendly way. It's not much of a religion story but Fears has been trying to make it one. And with the reticence that much of the mainstream media has had in covering the story, perhaps it's good that the Post is covering it at all. I took Fears to task for his use of the phrase "ultra-conservative" to describe the evangelical church that is run by the father of one of the independent journalists. He reverses that designation in a follow-up story. For what it's worth, I heard from a few people who had dealt with Fears before. They complained that he has a penchant for labeling groups on the right but not labeling counterparts on the left. So in his stories about ACORN, they're described as "community activists" but not liberal or ultra-liberal or what not.
Anyway, let's look at the turn-around in how Fears is describing the Clash Church where journalist Hannah Giles' father is the pastor:
Giles did not respond to phone calls and requests through Townhall.com editor Jonathan Garthwaite for an interview. Her father, Doug Giles of the radical Clash Church in Miami, had complained of what he called the evils of the Obama administration and its alliance with ACORN.
In an online opinion piece last month, titled "What Obama's Town Hall Charade and Pam Anderson's Breasts Have in Common," Doug Giles complained of Obama's "rent-a-mobs" at a health care town hall in New Hampshire. He claimed Obama could "summon a cabal at the drop of a red fez," including "ACORN lug nuts ready to register Mickey Mouse" to vote.
Ron Robinson, director of Young America's Foundation, where Hannah Giles spent the summer learning about how to be a journalist from conservative media experts, said Doug Giles has reason to be proud of how he has raised his daughter.
"She deserves all the credit here," Robinson said. "Certainly, she may have been inspired to some extent by her father, but this was her doing."
Okay, so now the church is not "ultra-conservative" but "radical." Just for reference, the definition of "ultraconservative" is "extremely conservative." And the definition for "conservative" is "disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change; cautiously moderate; traditional in style or manner." And the definition of "radical" would be " thoroughgoing or extreme; favoring drastic political, economic, or social reforms." Extremely conservative and radical aren't typically considered synonyms and rightly so. Based on my limited knowledge of Giles, the new adjective Fears uses is a step up from the previous one he used.
Having said that, in general I think it's a good idea for reporters to show, not tell. Don't tell us that Clash Church is radical. If that's the way you want to play it, go ahead and show us how it's radical.
I looked a bit at the web site of the church and it didn't look terribly radical -- unless you take the view that all evangelical churches of that ilk are radical. I think the reporter is trying to say that the father is radical. He should go ahead and say that if he wants to -- although it's a somewhat odd word choice for a news story as opposed to an opinion piece. Again, show us, don't tell us!
A commenter to my last post on the matter, described Giles' praxis as "in your face." Some pointed to his Ann Coulter-style political views. Others described various theological phases he's allegedly gone through -- including Pentecostal-Charismatic and Christian Reconstructionism. If you're going to describe this guy, there's plenty from which to pick and choose.
Fears should also try to explain what the views of the father have to do with the views of the investigative reporter in question. I'm not saying there's no journalistic reason to dig into those views but it's kind of odd that of all the people in the story, Hannah Giles is the only one whose father's views are mentioned. What, for instance, are the political and religious views of her teammate's parents? What are the political and religious views of the parents of the ACORN employees? Why are we discussing it?
Since everyone in question is an adult, to only look at the religious and political views of the father of one participant smacks of something odd. But maybe I feel that way since I myself am a pastor's kid and somewhat sensitive to the designation. "Preacher's daughter" carries a bit of baggage, it seems.
Anyway, it also seems that the quoting of Preacher Giles could use a bit more context. Now, I happen to remember the story of ACORN employees fraudulently registering thousands of voters -- including Mickey Mouse, the starting line-up of the Dallas Cowboys, a 7-year-old girl and a sandwich shop -- in the run-up to the recent presidential election. But to just drop that Mickey Mouse line in there without explaining that local (to Giles) ACORN employees had registered him to vote in the 2008 election probably isn't fair. (You can read more about some of the fraud in this Economist article from last year).
And a final note on the story above. Did Fears properly set up Robinson's quote? It doesn't seem like it to me. It reads to me like Robinson is saying that Giles should get all the credit for her work investigating ACORN and Fears is trying to set it up as if he was agreeing that Fears discussion of the father was valid.
UPDATE: This story has a correction posted with it at the Washington Post web site. Turns out that the racism that reporter Darryl Fears attributed to the investigative journalists was, as seems to be prevalent these days, in the mind of the accuser.