Two days ago, I wrote a post in which I suggested that the ginormous Passion 2013 conference down in Atlanta might have received even a tad more coverage. There were, reportedly 60,000 people there and yet there was almost no coverage. I thought it maybe a bit too much in the lack-of-coverage direction. Reader responses varied. For instance, here's Hemant Mehta:
But what would the story here be? That young Christians exist? That they gather at conferences? That’s hardly newsworthy. Did they do anything at the event that was different from what Christians typically do? (I’m asking that seriously.)
I argued that in this year, with the media focus on "the nones," the existence of these young, motivated Christians actually would be sufficient for a story. But, further, I said it's hard to know what was newsworthy because no one was there to cover it. Various readers agreed with Mehta.
Then reader Daniel said:
Being new on the political scene doesn’t seem to really be a standard used by journalists. If something has been going on for more than twenty years it still gets covered. What gets covered is what reporters advocate, and that’s about as far as we can get from fairminded. Lets use words like cool, trendy, unique! They sell.
The Old Bill had an idea for how to get media coverage:
Maybe if the Nuns On a Bus had been the opening act ...
And journalist Jeffrey Weiss had some thoughtful comments:
Years back, I *was* the Dallas Morning News reporter who wrote long and hard about the Promise Keepers rallies hereabouts. Finding news in the events was always something of a challenge. The question I always asked — there and at other such events — was: How will the world be different because this event happened? Whatever answer I got was a perfectly acceptable answer. But to the extent that the answer was specific, verifiable, and not limited to inside the head of the person offering the answer, that made it more newsworthy. If it turns out that this 60k can, a year from now, point to specific differences in the world as a direct result of this event, that would make for a pretty good news story. (I will bet that such evidence will be hard to come by, based on my experience with such, but I’ve been surprised before.)
The one exception to that question/rule had to do with how unusual the event was, how unfamiliar to readers. So an akhand path, a routine event for Sikhs, became a way for me to introduce Dallas readers to an unfamiliar faith. This meeting is not in that category.
Numbers don’t mean news, either. Here in Dallas we have a couple of churches that pull together more than 10,000 people *every* blamed Sunday. And tens of thousands every Christmas. That’s not news, either
Having said all that, I betcha a good reporter could have found a story there. But the reality is that the weekend crews for many newspapers are down to less than a skeleton. So there’s a practical question to be addressed here, too.
To this, I noted that a few reporters contacted us to say that the first thing they heard of the Passion event was from our blog. It's very difficult to cover an event when you don't know it's going to happen -- and in this environment of tight travel budgets, reporters need advance planning and a super-compelling reason to ask editors for plane tickets.
Anyway, I didn't expect my suspicions that there should be more coverage to be vindicated so quickly, but yesterday I woke up to the news that two prayer-givers had been announced by the inaugural committee. One was Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of civil rights hero Medgar Evers (and resident of the same town my husband is from in Oregon). The other was someone I wasn't familiar with. His name was Louie Giglio.
Who is Louie Giglio you ask? Well, according to the Washington Post:
The inaugural committee Tuesday plans to announce that the benediction will be given by conservative evangelical pastor Louie Giglio, founder of the student-focused Passion Conferences, which draw tens of thousands of people to events around the world.