Imitation flattery ... or journalistic ripoff?

NPR featured a meaty, intriguing religion story this week on what might be considered old news but really is not. The top of Godbeat pro Barbara Bradley Hagerty's piece on evangelicals questioning the existence of Adam and Eve:

Let's go back to the beginning — all the way to Adam and Eve, and to the question: Did they exist, and did all of humanity descend from that single pair?

According to the Bible (Genesis 2:7), this is how humanity began: "The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." God then called the man Adam, and later created Eve from Adam's rib.

Polls by Gallup and the Pew Research Center find that four out of 10 Americans believe this account. It's a central tenet for much of conservative Christianity, from evangelicals to confessional churches such as the Christian Reformed Church.

But now some conservative scholars are saying publicly that they can no longer believe the Genesis account. Asked how likely it is that we all descended from Adam and Eve, Dennis Venema, a biologist at Trinity Western University, replies: "That would be against all the genomic evidence that we've assembled over the last 20 years, so not likely at all."

That sounds like a relevant, newsworthy story, right?

Christianity Today certainly thought so.

The prominent evangelical magazine delved into the exact same topic in a June cover story by Richard N. Ostling, a former Associated Press colleague of mine who needs no introduction to most GetReligion readers. But to the chagrin of some GR readers who passed along the link, NPR paid no homage to Christianity Today in its report. One GR reader complained:

It's really, really strange that almost every one of her sources was cited in CT's story except for Al Mohler (and that's an obvious source).

No one's claiming plagiarism here. It's obvious that NPR — even if the story idea came from CT — did its own reporting. The question is: When a media organization essentially duplicates another journalistic entity's work, should the follow-up story at least mention the original report?

In the age of aggregation, it seems to me that reporters and editors today are much less reluctant than they used to be to cite sources, even if they happen to be other media. I'm torn on whether NPR should have cited Christianity Today, if in fact that's where the story idea came from.

I'm Facebook friends with Ted Olsen, Christianity Today's managing editor for news and online journalism. (By way of full disclosure, I regularly write freelance stories for Christianity Today.) Olsen linked to the NPR piece on his Facebook page this week and referenced two other recent CT cover stories:

I'm looking forward to NPR's upcoming profile of Jim Daly and an in-depth look at what Americans really think about evangelicals.

I couldn't help but chuckle. I e-mailed Olsen to see if he'd mind me quoting his comment here. He replied:

You can quote it, but I was joking. Look, the reality here is that there was no real need for Barbara to cite CT. We covered it, yes. We put it on our cover, yes. But we didn't own the story, and we weren't the story. World magazine had it on its cover recently, too. BioLogos and Al Mohler have been going around and round on their blogs for a while. And of course there all these new books on it. Am I mad that Barbara didn't mention CT's cover story? Not at all. It would have been nice, but we're not the story. I only would have been mad if she (or World) had done the story earlier or better than we did.

I'd love to know what GR readers, and particularly Godbeat pros, think: When is a citation of another media source appropriate? When is it necessary?

Should NPR have given a nod to Christianity Today?

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