A handful of religion ghosts (Updated)

You want ghosts? We got ghosts.

As we traded messages the other day, your GetReligionistas enjoyed a casual discussion about the heavy load of cyber-traffic that we direct in our endeavors for this media critique weblog. I noted that, in two years of writing for GetReligion, I had accumulated 2,890 e-mail threads in my GR story possibilities folder. (That's just the ones left undeleted.)

"Wow," Mollie replied. "I have 25,268 e-mail threads in my GR files. And I've only had this email account since 2006."

As I prepare to abandon GetReligion for about 10 days (while I go on a spring break mission trip with my church and my three children), I thought I'd do my part to tackle a handful of recent ghosts in a single post. (Next thing you know, I'll be leaping tall church buildings in a single bound.)

Here goes:

Ghost 1: Last week, I bashed a St. Paul Pioneer Press story that failed to include any opposing viewpoints in a glowing profile of a black minister who endorsed same-sex marriage. Now comes another one-sided Pioneer Press story that falls woefully short of meeting basic journalistic standards:

Here's a new Lenten routine: More than 100 people are gathering on Sundays outside Archbishop John Nienstedt's residence in St. Paul to oppose the constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

On Sunday across from the Cathedral of St. Paul, about 100 people held signs and rainbow flags and marched on the sidewalk. On the first Sunday of Lent, about 80 attended, and about 120 came out March 4, said organizer Michael Bayly of the Catholics for Marriage Equality MN, which supports gay marriage.

Nienstedt's response to the protest? Good question. The Pioneer Press doesn't bother to quote him. The only thing close to an opposing viewpoint is a man who rolls down his window near the end of the short report and shouts, "Read the Bible!"

 Ghost 2: The Yuma Sun in Arizona published a news story introducing Steff Koeneman, the new director of communications for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson. Included in the report is this provocative quote:

“I'm a Democrat, I'm a liberal and I'm a Catholic,” Koeneman said.

Interesting. So what does being a Democrat and a liberal mean in the context of serving as a Catholic diocese spokeswoman? Does she differ with church leaders on doctrine? Do her personal views or beliefs conflict at all with those of the diocese? Unfortunately, readers never find out, as the piece abruptly changes directions after whetting appetites with that quote.

 Ghost 3: The Wall Street Journal reported that Mitt Romney's Mormon faith is "shrinking" as a factor in the Republican primaries, even though he keeps losing in the Deep South.

One section of the story stood out to me (and not just because it seemed to contradict the main claim of the report):

On Monday, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said Mr. Romney's faith remains a potential obstacle. "I think that's a very subtle issue that probably may be a problem in many states, not just in Alabama," he told Fox News.

Mr. Bentley voted for Rick Santorum but didn't formally endorse the former Pennsylvania senator. On Tuesday, Jeremy King, the governor's deputy communications director, emphasized that Mr. Bentley was responding to a question, not expressing personal misgivings about Mormonism.

What's missing? I sure wish the Journal had mentioned Bentley's own well-known faith background.

 Ghost 4: This was the headline on a Los Angeles Times news story:

Man accused of having women strip nude in religious ceremonies

The reader who passed along that link quipped, "Minor point: What religion?"

Go ahead and clink the link, but you won't find the answer. Apparently, the Times did not deem that question important.

 Ghost 5: By now, surely you've heard of the 85-year-old North Dakota journalist whose restaurant review of the Olive Garden has become an Internet sensation. But did you know there's a religion ghost with that story? (Hat tip to Sarah for discovering this one.)

In a sweet, front-page Wall Street Journal piece about the newspaper columnist, Marilyn Hagerty, her son James R. Hagerty offered insight into his mother's life:

Those whom she dubs in her column as "cheerful person of the week" consider it a high honor. She also cleans and maintains her house, cares for an unreliable dachshund, visits her eight grandchildren and volunteers at church.

But again — which church? Inquiring minds want to know. One of the 50 writing tools touted by Poynter Institute writing guru Roy Peter Clark is this: "14. Get the name of the dog."

Can we at GetReligion please request to add 14-A to the list?: "Get the name of the church."

Image via Shutterstock

UPDATED: Oops! In the original version of this post, I included an item that tmatt had already covered. I had read the previous item, but alas, I had a brain lapse when compiling this roundup. Did I mention that we deal with a lot of cyber-traffic?

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