Longtime readers of this site know that the evolving GetReligionista team has been in the blogging business for a dozen years, which means that we have seen quite a few trends in social media come and go through the years. Yes, I confess that I once thought Twitter was a joke.
Early in the digital revolution, one of the elements of the new medium that excited people the most was the potential for solid, even insightful material emerging through comments from readers, comments that might even result in constructive dialogue between journalists and readers. Then along came the trolls and may online editors lost faith.
Comments have always been a part of what we do here at GetReligion, even though some of the most important comments come in the form of private emails from journalists who, for various reasons, cannot leave public posts on the site.
The problem, from Day 1, has been that the vast majority of comments on our posts consist of commentary -- often very blunt -- about religious and political issues mentioned in our posts, as opposed to commentary about the pros and cons of how mainstream journalists cover these issues. As folks here have stressed many times: This is not a religion news blog. GetReligion is a blog focusing on the good and bad in news media efforts to cover religion news.
Thus, we send about 75 percent of all of the comments we receive into the digital trash. In journalism lingo, we spike them. Frankly, we wish that more people would take the time to read our commenting policy, which began long ago with a memo from GetReligion co-founder Doug LeBlanc.
This is what we expect from our readers who leave comments here.
* Engage the contents of the post. This is a journalism weblog. Please strive to comment on journalism issues, not your opinions of the doctrinal or political beliefs of other people.
* Provide a valid email address or a link to your blog or website. If you’re unwilling to do this, we do not owe you a forum.
* Provide at least your first name. If all you have to offer is a nom de plume, we’re not interested. If you post as more than one person from the same IP address, we’ll block that address.
* Do not engage in ad hominem arguments. We will delete such comments punctually, and will not respond to complaints (whether public or private) about the deletions.
We reserve the right to identify trollish behavior for what it is.
Now, we used to be able to run more comments than we do now.
Why is that? This blog currently is based at SquareSpace and, to be blunt, that company's software does not allow up to edit comments. We used to be able to spike a lot of nasty or rambling commentary and save the one or two thoughts in a comment that actually focused on journalism issues. We can't do that anymore, so lots of valid material is lost.
What makes a great comment? First of all, it is a commentary about journalism issues. Second, comments can actually addsnew information to the discussion -- perhaps pointing readers to a valid URL containing news or information linked to the topic.
What do really good comments look like? Well, that's what this post is actually about.
The other day, our own Bobby Ross, Jr., wrote a post on that heart-tugger in The New York Times about the bride who was walked down the aisle by the man who, in a transplant, received the heart of her late father. Click here to read the original story, or watch this YouTube for more info.
Bobby, to put this in GetReligion terms, thought he sensed the presence of a religion "ghost" in this story. He wrote:
So why do I think that religious faith might be an unspoken -- and important -- factor in this story? Well, one clue is that the wedding occurs in the same church where the bride's parents were married, according to the Times. That hints at a family history with that church.
Another reason is that organ transplants, in general, seem to require a whole lot of faith -- religious or otherwise. As one doctor told me earlier this year, "I truly see miracles every day."
Finally, in the YouTube video above, the bride talks into terms of spiritual and physical beings.
This led to two comments, in response to Bobby's musings, that I found truly fascinating. The first is from Thomas Szyszkiewicz, a professional in the Catholic media.
There is a lot missing from this coverage. I just looked at the CNN coverage and all kinds of questions are popping in my mind:
(1) On the back wall of that church are two portraits of popes, one looks like John Paul and the other like Benedict, though it's hard to tell. If it is Benedict and not Francis, why is there no Francis portrait there?
(2) The priest is in a vestment called a "fiddleback." It's a style of chasuble more likely used by priests who use the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (colloquially known as the Latin Mass). Why is this priest celebrating an Ordinary Form wedding in a fiddleback?
(3) It seems as if I saw an altar girl there. Though allowed, it's an incongruity with a priest in a fiddleback. What's up with that?
(4) If this parish leans more toward the traditional side of things, that probably means Jenny and her new husband have more traditional leanings. Anyone care to find out if that's the case and how much that will impact their new life? Or are we just concerned about the physical heart?
Yes, that commentary has a conservative Catholic slant. However, he really is raising questions about material that journalists could have noticed and, thus, reported.
That comment led to this very relevant -- truly insider material -- from Maureen Rath. I cleaned up a typo or two:
Thomas ... I'm Jeni's mother in law and the groom Paul's mother. I hope to answer some of your questions. ...
There may have been a picture of Pope Francis that the video shot did not capture.
Fr. Potter celebrated a full Mass with the Mass parts sung in Latin. It may also be that his vestments were a donation to the parish. Lastly it was August in Pittsburgh in an church with no air conditioning and the fiddleback was a more practical selection
The little girl who was an altar server has Down's Syndrome and was known by the bride's family. Jeni is a teacher and welcomes all children. She felt it special to have this girl as one of the servers.
My son and daughter in law are of traditional values. Jeni's family had no idea that this story would spread globally. She remains committed to spreading a loving message of how tragedy can be turned into triumph, in this case through giving life to someone who was dying through the gift of organ donation. It has also brought much need closure to a family who suffered a tragic loss. It is about bringing hope, joy, and love -- which is the core our the Gospel message.
Now that is really interesting info, in my opinion. Thus, I thought I'd share it.
More please. At this point, your GetReligionistas are not giving up on seeking solid, valid comments from readers. We're gonna hang in there.