My "big news report card" this week on media coverage of the Mormon church acknowledging that founder Joseph Smith had up to 40 wives drew a humorous response from Daniel Burke, editor of CNN's "Belief Blog":
Peggy Fletcher Stack, the Salt Lake Tribune's Godbeat pro, replied:
But most news organizations jumped on the story only after The New York Times published the story on its front page earlier this week:
Over at Religion News Service, the delayed media bandwagon also perplexed Mormon blogger Jana Riess, who wrote a very GetReligion-esque post about it (there's a lot of that going around this week):
Laurie Goodstein’s coverage was well-researched and well-written. It’s clear she has been working on it for some time (and I have heard through the grapevine that the Times wanted to hold the story until after the election so that it wouldn’t get lost in the shuffle of all the political news last week).
The Times polygamy story was also front-page and above-the-fold.
It’s interesting to learn that in this age of digital media, those three golden nuggets of old-school media (major news outlet, front page, above the fold) still matter. A lot.
I'm not a big fan of grapevines on news organization websites (even on their blogs), but I am intrigued by the notion that the Times held the story until after the election. A friend suggested, "I would like to know how many people voted in the election vs. how many were probably in a house of worship that weekend." It appears that about 83 million voted. Somewhere between 63 million and 118 million attend church on any given Sunday.
Riess wrapped up her post this way:
Several journalists have asked me in the last 48 hours why the Church released its polygamy statements now. What was the catalyst?
It’s a good question. However, the bureaucratic reality of it, which I tried to explain to NPR, is that these Gospel Topics essays are all the products of lengthy incubation. The Church has had experts researching these issues . . . and then writing about them . . . and then having their products go up and up and up the food chain for approval.
So, other than the ongoing catalyst of the widespread availability of potentially damaging information (and misinformation) about Mormonism online, I don’t see any particular new event that the Church is responding to.
A more interesting question for me to gently lob back to the journalists is this: Why did almost all of you only jump on this bandwagon when the New York Times said there was a news story?
Hey, good question.
If you still haven't had enough of this discussion, host Todd Wilken and I discuss the media coverage on this week's episode of "Crossroads," the GetReligion podcast.
As always, the smooth, relaxing Oklahoma accent is free.