How to write a sensationalistic headline: 'Can these Texas churches survive Ebola?'

"Daily Beast stupidity," said the email's subject line.

"I realize this headline might just be dramatic on purpose, but seriously: The church is not a business or something," the tipster wrote to GetReligion.

The headline in question (cue the dramatic music):

Can These Texas Churches Survive Ebola?

And the subhead:

The virus appears to be contained within a Dallas hospital for now, but concerns are spreading fast through local parishes, where congregants may have personal experience with Ebola’s deadly toll.

Clickbait, anyone?

Granted, we at GetReligion have acknowledged our struggle to determine the dividing line between The Daily Beast's progressive advocacy and its news coverage. In this case, the story — unlike the headline — is actually pretty informational and even-keeled.

Ironically, at the end of its report, the Beast quotes Bishop Nathan S. Kortu of the New Life Fellowship Church in Euless, Texas. Kortu voices concern about potential irrational fears about Ebola harming the Liberian immigrant congregation:

“We don’t want it to become a stigma for us,” he said. “We don’t want people to find out that we’re from Liberia and [then decide] that we must have Ebola. That’s a very big deal for us. That’s a concern.”

It was very nice of the Beast, don't you think, to fan the flames with its straight-from-the-clickbait-factory headline and a subhead that erroneously gives the impression that church members have come into personal contact with the disease? 

Meanwhile, The New York Times has a must-read story on the Ebola crisis from the actual center of the crisis. Attention, Beast: This is what real journalism looks like.

Back in Texas, other news organizations highlighted the same churches referenced by the Beast but did so in a much more responsible manner.

From The Dallas Morning News (where the accurate, appropriate headline read "Liberians in Euless congregation saying prayers for Ebola's victims"):

EULESS — New Life Fellowship Church’s service Sunday centered on faith amid the afflictions of Ebola.
The congregation, which includes many Liberian immigrants, is no longer focused only on the struggles of Africa. Members are now praying for their new homeland.
“Even in the midst of this Ebola crisis, God is still in charge,” Bishop Nathan S. Kortu told his congregation. “He will have mercy.”
Kortu came to the United States from Liberia in 1985 to attend seminary in California. He started New Life Fellowship about 20 years ago and now ministers to about 200 people.
With its membership growing, the church is raising money for a new building.
“About 90 percent of our members are from Liberia,” Kortu said. “And about half have family members who are affected by the disease.”
At the service, several members made prayer requests for their relatives in Liberia.

And from Reuters:

DALLAS (Reuters) - It was like any other Sunday morning worship service at Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, where Louise Troh, the quarantined girlfriend of the first patient in the United States diagnosed with Ebola, is a member of the congregation.
Greeters passed out bulletins and shook hands at the church entrances. Members hugged each other in greeting shortly before the service began. A couple hundred people sat in the pews of the church and began to pray for the patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, and for Troh and both of their families. 
Associate Pastor Mark Wingfeld led the opening prayer and encouraged members not only to focus on the family in Dallas but also on those stricken with the deadly virus in West Africa who don't have the same access to medical care. At least 3,400 people have died in the outbreak worldwide, predominantly in West Africa.
"Although this disease has become personal to us, we realize we're not the first to know its devastation and we are not the ones most desperately affected," Wingfeld told parishioners.
"We pray that you calm the anxious hearts of so many in our city. Help the ignorant understand the truth." 

Help the ignorant understand the truth.


Please respect our Commenting Policy