Religious left in Alabama: Washington Post settles for analysis of Doug Jones' faith

Let's talk about the religion of the U.S. Senate candidate in Alabama.

No, not that candidate.

I'm referring to Doug Jones, the Democrat facing the much-discussed Republican -- Roy Moore -- in Tuesday's election.

The Washington Post's Acts of Faith has an article with an intriguing headline noting that "Roy Moore isn't the only Christian running for Senate in Alabama." The article offers specific details on Jones' faith up high, rather like a news article.

But this is not a news article, even though this is certainly a topic that deserves solid, hard-news coverage. This article is clearly labeled "analysis." A key passage:

Jones belongs to Canterbury United Methodist Church, a 4,000-member congregation in Birmingham’s suburbs. Over the past 33 years, he has been an active participant in Sunday school, even teaching occasionally, and has driven the church bus to bring older members to services.
“It’s fair to say Doug has been a very active Christian,” according to former Birmingham-Southern College president Neal Berte, who first met Jones when he was working at the University of Alabama in the 1970s and attends church with him. “He is a principled leader, but … not in the sense of, ‘You either believe the way I do or there’s no room for you.’”
Through his campaign staff, Jones declined an interview. His spokesman, Sebastian Kitchen, said in a statement: “As a person of deep faith, Doug believes in Christ’s call to minister to all people -- regardless of their background, race, or religion. Unfortunately, Roy Moore instead uses religion to divide people, instead of trying to join together to make progress.”
In an article in the Birmingham News, Jones spoke openly about how his faith commitments drive his professional commitments of justice, fairness and respect.
“I go to church. I’m a Christian. I have as many people of faith that have been reaching out to me about this campaign,” he said. “They want someone who cares about all people, not just a select few. That’s what I think the teachings of religion are, is the caring about the least of these, the caring about all people, and making sure there’s a fairness to everything.”

Good stuff. I'm definitely interested in Jones' faith. Anyone following the Alabama U.S. Senate race should be. As GetReligion has stressed for 14 years, journalists should do more to cover the faith content, the doctrinal stands even, of leaders on the cultural and religious left.

But I have a concern: While the article quotes roughly a dozen sources, it's not a news story. It's an analysis piece.

At the same time, the piece reads much like a news story with the various sources giving it an authoritative air.

My simple question: Why? Why did the Post editors choose to cover such a meaty topic with an analysis as opposed to a full-fledged news story? Why have a progressive writer, an advocate even, cover Jones' faith instead of an impartial reporter?

Is it a matter of resources? Opinion and analysis are, as we've pointed out repeatedly, cheap. Journalists, on the other hand, cost money.

In an actual news story, of course, the Post would need to quote sources besides critics of Moore, even including -- heaven forbid -- Christian supporters of the beleaguered Republican accused of sexual misconduct with teen-aged girls. Undoubtedly, some of those sources would explain why, as a matter of faith, they can't support Jones' pro-choice position on abortion.

Bottom line: Here at GetReligion, we are biased -- biased in favor of old-fashioned journalism that reports facts, shows respect for the views of leaders on both sides and lets readers decide their opinion. That's opposed to analysis pieces like the one in the Post, which blend the writer's opinion with quasi-news-style reporting.

No wonder many Americans can't tell the difference between what's news -- and what's not -- anymore.

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