Yes, we'll keep defending journalism essentials, even when faced with 'so-called' impartiality

Apparently, the Los Angeles Times got Julia Duin's memo. Finally.

My fellow GetReligionista questioned last week why the news media seemed "to be ignoring a bill going through the California state legislature that would have a huge impact on dozens of religious colleges in the state and, eventually, the nation as a whole":

Julia wrote:

The matter has enormous implications for the rest of the country because, as we all know, what goes on in California doesn't stay in California.
If religious colleges lose their heads here – financially and doctrinally speaking – they can lose elsewhere too. So where the MSM in this debate? Are they simply unaware of how important religious higher education is in this state or don't they care?

Nearly a week later, the Times has the story:

Here's the opening paragraph:

Dozens of faith-based colleges in California are objecting to legislation that they say would infringe on religious freedom by allowing lawsuits from gay and transgender students who feel discriminated against because their sexual orientation conflicts with church tenets.

Not a bad lede: It accurately characterizes the concerns on both sides. And it avoids scare quotes on "religious freedom." 

But don't get too excited. You haven't seen the second paragraph yet:

The dispute is a new slant on a debate that is roiling other parts of the country where states have sought to adopt so-called “religious freedom” laws, which allow businesses to decline service to same-sex couples if such service violates their religious beliefs, or restrict the use of restrooms by transgender residents to facilities designated for the gender of their birth.

Welp. How's that for a daily double? The Times manages to editorialize both with its use of the adjective "so-called" and with scare quotes on "religious freedom." So much for our hopes for a fair, impartial news report ...

If you need background on the journalistic problems associated with either part of the daily double, please check out our previous posts on the subject:

This post, of course, is not a whole lot different from the one I wrote yesterday on a Reuters story on a gay rights vs. religious liberty battle in Mississippi:

Yesterday's post prompted this comment from GetReligion reader Darrell Turner:

GetReligion keeps fighting the good fight for traditional journalism, but is it accomplishing anything? The same examples, with the same subject matter, keep arising. The same people agree, and the same people disagree. Meanwhile, the media that report only one side keep doing so. Is all this just an extended example of preaching to the choir?

I'd be lying if I said I didn't sometimes wonder the same thing.

But here's the best response I can offer to Darrell's comment: We remain committed to basic journalism. We will keep trying to defend the basics.  

Toward that end, I noticed another editorialized adjective in the Times story that I'll point out. This one involves how the newspaper describes the religious affiliation of Anthony Villarreal, a gay student who claims he was expelled from an evangelical Christian university because of his sexual orientation:

Villarreal, a self-described Christian, supports the Lara bill.

Self-described? Is that really the best way to characterize someone's faith in a news story? Is there a more neutral approach that doesn't sound like editorializing which would allow the newspaper to be more specific about Villarreal's religion — such as reporting where he worships? 

Just asking. (And we'll keep asking.)

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