A Religion Dispatches blog post this week noted that CNN Godbeat pro Eric Marrapodi will receive the first annual Vine & Fig Tree Award for excellence in reporting on religious liberty issues. The post questioned whether Marrapodi (an often-praised journalist here at GetReligion) should accept the award from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty:
According to Time Warner's Standards of Business Conduct (CNN is a Time Warner subsidiary), employees are to avoid conflicts of interest. While they do not address the particulars of journalists being honored by an advocacy group, The New York Times' "Policy on Ethics in Journalism," for example, offers clear guidelines for such circumstances: "Staff members may not enter local, national or international competitions sponsored by individuals or groups who have a direct interest in the tenor of our coverage."
The question of whether Marrapodi should accept the award sparked some Twitter responses — some humorous, some serious — from fellow religion writers.
Michelle Boorstein of the Washington Post said:
It depends, does he get a huge amount of money? #kidding
That actually is a good question. Based on my reading of the award news release, I don't see that the honor carries a cash prize.
Becket is not primarily an anti gay rights group as that report claims
Former GetReligionista Sarah Pulliam Bailey of Religion News Service said:
As long he wouldn't decline some ACLU award don't know why it's surprising. cc@GetReligion
Hey, did you see where Sarah let GR in on the conversation? Thank you, Sarah! By the way, if you don't follow GR on Twitter already, why not?
Religion Dispatches editor Evan Derkacz replied:
ACLU not exactly religion beat, but not surprising. would violate NYT rules tho.
(Meanwhile, in "not exactly religion beat" news beat this week, the ACLU filed a lawsuit in my home state of Oklahoma challenging a Ten Commandments monument at the state Capitol.)
I don't know if Marrapodi is being honored for a specific report or overall reporting on religious liberty. I did a quick search in the CNN archives and came across a December 2012 report that he wrote headlined "Hobby Lobby faces millions in fines for bucking Obamacare." My quick reading of that story indicated that Marrapodi quoted all sides, provided important context on the issue and, to put it in the most basic terms, produced an excellent piece of journalism.
Does Religion Dispatches or anyone else have any links to indicate that Marrapodi has done anything except report fairly and fully on the religious liberty issue? If so, I'd love to see them.
In the meantime, it's your turn, kind GetReligion readers: Should Marrapodi accept the award or not? Please focus your responses on journalism and media ethics.