Every now and then, I hear from a GetReligion reader who asks a variation on the following question: "How come you never write about cases of Kellerism in conservative media?"
Note that -- if you follow the logic of this statement -- the assumption is that we are constantly writing about examples of Kellerism (click here and here for the roots of this GetReligion term) in "liberal" media.
Actually, our goal here is to write about news coverage in mainstream media. So by definition, "Kellerism" is when mainstream newsrooms publish stories about controversial issues -- almost always about issues of religion, morality or culture -- and do little or nothing to fairly and accurately represent the views of one side in the debate, which the editors have clearly decided in advance is wrong.
Thus, you can't have Kellerism in an op-ed column, an editorial essay or a story in an advocacy publication like The New Republic, Rolling Stone or at MSNBC.com (unless they run an Associated Press report, or similar material). The same thing is true on the political and cultural right. When I ask upset readers to send me URLs for their "conservative" Kellerism nominees, they always send me commentary items from Fox News, National Review, the op-ed pages at The Washington Times or similar locations.
I tell them the same thing I tell conservative readers who are complaining about "bias" in editorials on the left: Commentary writers and scribes in advocacy newsrooms are PAID to openly slant their coverage. This is why their organizations exist.
However, the other day I saw a mainstream Associated Press story (origins at The Daily News in Murfreesboro, Tenn.) that covered what I am sure would have been a controversial event for many readers in America. It's safe to say that some readers considered this story offensive, especially since it took place in a Chick-fil-A restaurant.
You have to read the top half of the story to actually find out what happened. Here goes:
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (AP) -- An act of kindness has gone all kinds of viral for a Murfreesboro man and his daughter.
Joey Mustain had taken his young daughter, Stella, to the Chick-fil-A restaurant on Old Fort Parkway Monday afternoon on what he called their "normal daddy-daughter" spot and ended up not only providing a meal, but a life lesson.
While Stella was finishing off an ice cream, the family noticed a scruffy, "homeless traveler" approach the counter and ask for any leftover scraps of food.
"Mud was wet and caked on his well-traveled shoe," Mustain wrote in the Facebook post that has traveled around the world by now. "His hair was matted, and his beard wasn't a statement as much as it was a necessity and a sign that he doesn't get to shave as often as most of us do.
"People near him kept their distance, but that didn't stop him from being kind. He spoke to people who reluctantly spoke back, and he smiled while he waited on a manager."
Instead of running the man off, calling the police, or simply ignoring him, manager Josh Stout did something else.
"All I could pick up on of the conversation was the manager saying that he'd love to give him a full, warm meal -- not just scraps or extras -- and the only thing he required was that the man let him pray with him," wrote Mustain.
Like the story said, a photo of this prayer went viral, attracting comments from around the world.
Trigger warning: The AP story even allowed the manager to explain that this kind of behavior is encouraged by Chick-fil-A leaders.
According to store operator Beau Noblitt, the moment of generosity and prayer by his manager is just the type of person Josh Stout is and the kind of business Chick-fil-A is.
"I think this reflects the heritage of hospitality that this has been built on," he told The Daily News Journal.
In an official media release, Noblitt stated: "It is our privilege to be able to serve each and every individual that visits our restaurant. While this moment was captured on camera, there are many more moments between our team members and guests that may go publicly unnoticed but ultimately make a difference in that person's day.
Now, there are logical questions about what happened here, since we are talking about controversial issues such as prayer, poverty and, well, gay rights (since we are dealing with an event in a Chick-fil-A franchise).
Would this manager have given the man food if he had declined the brief prayer time? Were any customers present offended by this outbreak of prayer in the public square? Was the homeless man an advocate of same-sex marriage and, thus, the victim of a hate prayer (and even a hate sandwich)?
The AP report failed to pursue any of these angles. The story was completely one-sided, in its coverage of those praising the manager's linked between prayer and fried chicken.
Yes, I am joking -- kind of.
Actually, I could understand that editors of some publications might want to call sources (the ACLU, perhaps) on the cultural left to see if they found this event offensive or even somewhat disturbing, from a legal point of view.
What if this had happened in the massive (and controversial) new Chick-fil-A franchise near the New York City Public Library?
Kellerism? Just asking.