Once again, it's time to venture into the sad world of mainstream media cranking out click-bait pop news in search of social-media action.
On top of all that, this "Morning Mix" mini-feature at The Washington Post -- which appears to involve zero original reporting -- is topped by a headline that doesn't even match the contents of its quickie, URL-driven text.
We will get to the headline. But first, the "news."
It should be said right away: Mark Salling, the former “Glee” cast member arrested on child pornography charges in Los Angeles on Tuesday, has not been convicted of a crime. That, however, did not prevent legions on social media from dissecting the 33-year-old’s career as though it were little more than a fresh corpse just arrived at the morgue. ...
Crime Watch Daily, which broke the story of his arrest, said police used a battering ram to break down Salling’s door and found hundreds of images. Salling has yet to comment on the arrest.
Then a key early hint of what is to come:
... The list of celebrities who recover from child porn scandals is not long. And it’s worth remembering that Salling, a Christian musician who once rocked in the name of the lord, wasn’t even supposed to be here.
Salling’s love affair with music began with the piano, which he took up at age 5. However, growing up evangelical in Dallas, some genres were verboten.
“Madonna was considered the she-devil,” he said in 2010.
Once again we face questions that, these days, loom over a wide variety of subjects -- from acts of terrorism to, well, the fall of pop stars. The headline on this story is very clear about a subject that, even in the thin click-bait feature, is rather complex:
The fall of Mark Salling, ‘Glee’ star and Christian songster, arrested on child porn charges
The key question: To what degree is -- present tense -- Salling a "Christian songster"? Would it be more accurate to say that he started off in the niche world of contemporary Christian music and then wandered way, way, way off the born-again reservation?
Let's take another example. If, tomorrow, there was some horrible scandal involving Katy Perry -- the former contemporary Christian artist known as Katy Hudson -- would Post editors serve up a headline that identified her as a "Christian songstress," present tense? I think it's safe to say the answer is "no."
As always, it's important for journalists to ask some basic questions before linking faith and the actions of a person in the news, whether they are Muslim, Mormon or Methodist or some mishmash of various religions (here's to you, Madonna). Most of all, you need to know if there are solid facts indicating that they are practicing their faith and if there is evidence that it influences their life in measurable ways.
As I like to say, follow the money and the details of their daily lives.
Who is this person's minister? Where do they worship? Are they active in that congregation? Do they donate to religious causes? Is the content of their work (or other actions) influenced by any particular writer, thinker or speaker?
So what does the Post tell us about Salling? Here is a key sample or two:
... Salling’s pre-“Glee” efforts proved less than radio-friendly. Recorded under the very Christian-rock name Jericho, one of Salling’s tracks, “Yoked Equally,” appears to slight those unwilling to embrace Christ. Chorus lyric: “The heavenly father shines down on me until the day I am yoked equally.” (Those seeking more information on the Christian concept of being “equally yoked” with a partner in faith can begin their exploration here). Suffice it to say, Salling contemplates a cross on a hilltop in the video.
There had to be something more accessible to the masses.
Then later on:
Though Salling rocketed to fame -- performing Motown at the White House, for example -- he did not leave his faith behind. One track released under his own name in 2010, “Higher Power,” tread familiar sacred ground, urging listeners: “You should make your peace with God.”
All did not go well, however. “Glee” soon hit ratings trouble -- not to mention the upheaval caused by the 2013 death of cast member Cory Monteith. That year, Salling appeared in fewer episodes as the show wound down. He was also hit with a sexual battery lawsuit from an ex-girlfriend, who alleged he had unprotected sex with her despite her request he use a condom, and was eventually ordered to pay $2.7 million, according to the terms of a settlement agreement he entered into in order to resolve the case.
So what was going on this man's life between, oh, 2010 and 2013? Did his move to Hollywood include strong ties to a faith community or did he take a walk on the wild side? Come to think of it, "Higher Power" sounds like it could be a singalong ditty for a recovery group. Take a listen.
So is that Post headline an accurate statement about Salling in the present tense or simply a cheap shot, linking a fallen pop star to his former roots in evangelical Christianity?
"Christian" songster or former Christian songster?