"This Colorado baker refused to put an anti-gay message on cakes. Now she is facing a civil rights complaint," proclaimed a Washington Post headline.
"Complaint: Baker refused to write anti-gay words on cake," reported USA Today.
"Denver baker sued for refusing to write anti-gay slogans on cake," said The Christian Science Monitor.
In a post last week, I characterized The Associated Press' coverage of the latest skirmish in Colorado's cake/culture wars as "less than perfect."
Now comes Marvin Olasky, editor in chief of the evangelical Christian news magazine World, with questions about mainstream media coverage of the dispute:
The top of Olaksy's report, titled "Cake baking and journalistic story baking":
Bill Jack goes on the offensive today in the Colorado cake-baking story that’s received enormous media attention over the past week.
Jack is a founder of and frequent speaker at Worldview Academy summer camps that train students to think and live Christianly. The Washington Post, USA Today, The Christian Science Monitor, and many other media powers have lambasted him for purportedly asking the owner of Azucar Bakery in Denver to decorate a cake with “anti-gay slogans,” particularly “God hates gays.”
But Jack’s account of what he asked for is very different. In an email to WORLD, he wrote that he requested two cakes in the shape of an open Bible. He asked that the first cake show on one page, “God hates sin—Psalm 45:7,” and on the facing page, “Homosexuality is a detestable sin—Leviticus 18:22.” He requested that the second cake have on one page, “God loves sinners,” and on the facing page, “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us—Romans 5:8.”
Later in the piece, Olasky applies a GetReligion-style critique to the coverage:
The Washington Post reported the story this way: “Jack walked into Azucar Bakery last March and asked for two cakes, both in the shape of Bibles. That wasn’t a problem for Marjorie Silva, the bakery’s owner. It was what Jack wanted her to write on the cake: Anti-gay phrases including ‘God hates gays.’”
The Los Angeles Times and other publications similarly accepted Silva’s account as fact.
The Associated Press, though, followed basic journalistic rules by suggesting that this was Silva’s side of things, not necessarily the truth: “Silva said the man showed her a piece of paper with hateful words about gays that he wanted written on the cake.” USA Today added that Jack “wouldn’t let employees make a copy of the paper and would not read the words out loud, Silva claims.”
World doesn't link to the Los Angeles Times account, but I found this article (labeled as an opinion piece) via a Google search.
Olasky discloses that Jack's Worldview Academy advertises with World, and the magazine makes no secret of its desire to report news from a "uniquely Christian worldview."
Those caveats aside, Olasky raises intriguing questions about some news organizations' apparent willingness to accept one side of the story as fact.
That style of reporting, of course, is not journalism. It's advocacy.