In coverage of evangelical conference on homosexuality, why's it all about the protesters?

Is it just me, or does media coverage of that evangelical seminar on homosexuality and transgenderism seem to be all about the protesters?

In fact, USA Today — for a while — had this whopper of a headline:

What's wrong with that headline? It's totally inaccurate.

Gay therapy is not the focus of the seminar, and organizers spoke out against that approach, as we noted the other day. 

The seminar drew 2,300 church-based counselors, but are they the focus of USA Today's lede (the report is an edited version of a story that first appeared in the Louisville Courier-Journal, a Gannett sister paper)?

Nope, it's all about the protesters:

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — About 40 people gathered in front of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary here to protest a three-day conference on homosexuality and transgenderism.
Organized by the Fairness Campaign, protesters prayed and held signs Monday opposing what they call misguided efforts at counseling based on the belief homosexuality and transgenderism are wrong or sinful. It prompted horn honks and shouts of support from drivers passing by the bucolic seminary grounds.
“This is absolutely and utterly wrong,” the Rev. Maurice Blanchard, a gay-rights activist, said of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors' work. “It’s spiritual abuse, that’s what it is.”

Apparently, the conference is only news because a few people showed up to protest it.

USA Today did change its headline to this:

Activists protests Baptists' seminar on homosexuality

Meanwhile, Religion News Service provides coverage with no shortage of scare quotes:

(RNS) Evangelical leaders spoke out against “reparative” mental health therapy for LGBT people Tuesday (Oct. 6) but still called on them to “change,” saying that only through faith in Jesus could they find “wholeness and holiness.”
The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors and the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, meeting this week at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention, have been under fire from LGBT activists for failing to condemn reparative therapy, sometimes also called “conversion” therapy. ...

Dozens of activists from the Fairness Campaign, a Louisville LGBT advocacy group, have been demonstrating near the campus, saying reparative therapy increases the rate of depression and suicide in the LGBT community and objecting to religious calls to “change.”

In a joint press conference Tuesday, the Rev. Albert Mohler, president of the seminary, and Heath Lambert, ACBC executive director, said psychological therapy, including reparative therapy, is a “superficial” response to the “struggle” people face in dealing with same-sex attraction and transgender identity. 

A joint statement later released by Mohler and Lambert still used the language of “change” and “repair” for LGBT people who, Mohler said, can only find “wholeness and holiness” through faith in Jesus.

While referencing the "dozens of activists," RNS neglects to mention the thousands of seminar attendees.

In response to inquiries from GetReligion, James A. Smith Sr., the seminary's chief spokesman, lamented:

(O)nly because 40 people showed up to protest a gathering of more than 2,000 did the news media regard the meeting as news worthy — even with 2,000 people gathered to deliberate on already controversial issues of transgenderism (a first-ever evangelical conference on such) and homosexuality (explicitly rejecting the reparative therapy approach). This, in microcosm, is what's wrong with religion news coverage.

What say ye, GetReligion readers? Agree? Disagree?

As always, please remember that this website is focused on journalism and media coverage, so focus your comments on those areas, not your beliefs concerning homosexuality or transgenderism.

Please respect our Commenting Policy