Oh ye Baltimore Sun editors, what will I do without your tree-pulp product landing in my front yard every morning?
This morning I picked up the paper and, as I chomped on my bagel, I read a cutline under the A1 featured photograph that showed the Rev. Alveda King, with the Rev. C.L. Bryant of Louisiana looking on, singing as she met with some people gathered near the Billie Holiday Memorial statue here in Baltimore. The photo appeared with a story that ran with this headline: "After unrest, GOP looks to make inroads in Baltimore."
I, of course, wanted to know what the niece of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., was singing. There is a chance that it was, "God Bless the Child," but I would think the odds are higher that she was singing some kind of hymn. Ministers have been known to do things like that, from time to time. However, the content of her song was apparently not worthy of inclusion in the cutline or the story.
Come to think of it, I would also liked to have known something about what Alveda King and Bryant had to say while they were in town. But, alas, almost everything that they said was not relevant to this news story, or, at least, the religious content of their visit was not relevant.
Why? You see, this visit was a political visit -- period. I do not deny that politics was involved, of course, because the story goes out of its way to stress the GOP ties of these two ministers and the political nature of their visit. However, might the significance of their visit have been linked to their ability to speak to African-Americans in pulpits and pews? Might the religious content of their visit have been newsworthy, even as political content?
Apparently not. Here is the top of the story:
Leaders of the Maryland Republican Party went to Pennsylvania Avenue in West Baltimore on Wednesday with a message: Give us a chance.
The party paid for a Republican civil rights activist from the South -- a niece of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. -- to travel to Baltimore this week for events looking at issues highlighted by the death of Freddie Gray. The activities were sponsored by the NAACP, but the Republicans participated.
After years of poverty and high crime in a city led for decades by Democrats, GOP officials say they're hoping Baltimore voters will embrace their message of pro-business policies and personal responsibility.
Now, this story -- as it should -- nails down the "pro-business policies" side of this agenda and the clergy's ties to conservative networks. That's part of the story.
But what about the "personal responsibility" part of the equation, the subject material that was almost certainly linked to moral, cultural and religious issues in family life and the community? No talk about absent fathers? High abortion rates in black neighborhoods? What about religious liberty issues linked to the work of black churches?
Not one sentence of that kind of content made it into my copy of the Sun. Were these ministers completely silent on religious issues, while speaking in a major church? Here's what we got:
On Wednesday, both King and Bryant participated a panel discussion on criminal justice reform at the University of Baltimore. They then met with members of the Pennsylvania Avenue community in West Baltimore before heading to a community gathering at Pleasant Hope Baptist Church in North Baltimore.
"The free-market system is something that folks have not been taking advantage of in this community," Bryant said on Pennsylvania Avenue, before talking with a grandfather and some elementary school students. "You have young men selling drugs. The mentality of entrepreneurship is there. The wrong method is being used."
He said he grew up in the segregated South but thinks the playing field in the country is now even enough that African-Americans can succeed through hard work.
"Yes the playing field was unlevel in this country," Bryant said. "When I grew up, I drank from black water fountains. I've ridden on the back of the bus. In 2015, those things that were not possible for me to do as a black man are indeed possible for me to do right now, if I want to do it. That's the difference."
I have no doubt that this was a major part of what Bryant had to say. But were his remarks totally, well, a defense of capitalism in this day and age? He didn't say anything about the strength of black families and churches in previous generations and how much of that social infrastructure has been lost today? Really?
Instead, the story included paragraph after paragraph of information about the political roots of the visit and the unlikely potential that King and Bryant were able to make many GOP converts. Democrats, of course, focused on King's commentary work with Fox.
Again, that material is at the heart of this story. I get that. But there was no religious and moral content in this outreach effort? None? And what did King have to say? At the end of the story there is this:
In West Baltimore, King and Bryant talked with young people, and King told them about her uncle — donating a book on Martin Luther King to the NAACP's library.
"All police officers are not bad," King said. "Some police officers are your friends."
Don Smith, 49, said he was honored to meet her. "I loved that," he said. "That's good. That's what we need. I hope it brings peace."
But as for voting Republican?
"I'm a Democrat, so I don't speak on that," he said.
Once again we see the gospel of this newsroom: Politics is the only part of life that is real, that truly matters in the long run. Faith does not matter. Moral issues are merely political issues, in the end. Black ministers? They are interesting only to the degree that they affect what happens in voting booths.
What did I miss in this story? Where is the religious content of their presentations?
What was Alveda King singing on page one?