America’s new secretary of state is a man who admits he didn’t want the job; that he’d planned on retiring this month but that God –- speaking through his wife –- told him to do it.
Knowing that, wouldn’t you want to know a bit more details about how the Almighty delivered that set of instructions?
But then the reporter walks away after delivering that piece of news. The profile on Rex Tillerson appeared in the Independent Journal Review, which identifies itself as a “news platform” majoring on breaking news and politics that delivers its content while being “objective, fair and entertaining” (their words).
Not quite what I picked up in journalism school, but their chatty profile on Tillerson fits their stated goal of “fair reporting delivered in an entertaining fashion.”
Am curious what their read is on traditional news media: That they report but don’t entertain? Somehow, IJR has found a way to entertain folks through news reporting and aggregating and they've done well, according to this New York Times piece. But I digress. Here is how IJR began the Tillerson article:
When it comes to taking on the world, the two words the Trump administration swears by are “America First.”
And the man charged with carrying out that policy around the globe didn’t even want the job in the first place. For Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who until now spent the entirety of his career at ExxonMobil, the challenge he faced on a headline-grabbing trip to Asia was how to translate President Donald Trump’s mandate into a workable foreign policy.
Unfortunately, I have to skip much of this entertaining –- and quite readable -– piece to get to the content that GetReligion readers are sure to interested in.
So why, then, did he want the gig?
“I didn’t want this job. I didn’t seek this job.” He paused to let that sink in.
A beat or two passed before an aide piped up to ask him why he said yes.
“My wife told me I’m supposed to do this.”
After watching the contortions of my face as I tried to figure out what to say next, he humbly explained that he had never met the president before the election. As president-elect, Trump wanted to have a conversation with Tillerson “about the world” given what he gleaned from the complex global issues he dealt with as CEO of ExxonMobil.
“When he asked me at the end of that conversation to be secretary of state, I was stunned.”
When Tillerson got home and told his wife, Renda St. Clair, she shook her finger in his face and said, “I told you God’s not through with you.”
With a half-worn smile, he said, “I was supposed to retire in March, this month. I was going to go to the ranch to be with my grandkids.”
And? And? Can we have a bit more on how the news arrived from On High? Or just even a mention of kind of believer this man is? There are facts linked to this kind of statement that can be reported.
We have to turn to Religion News Service to find out he’s a Congregationalist, a Wisconsin-based church with a mainline Reformed orientation. That’s a denomination more easily found in New England than Tillerson’s domicile in Texas, which is heavily populated with Baptists, Catholics, Methodists and Pentecostals.
Tillerson may be best known for being part of the executive board of the Boy Scouts of America when it decided in 2013 to allow openly gay young men to become members. He was president of the BSA during 2010-2012, which were the years the organization was re-thinking its former policy excluding gay youth. After weathering that storm, the Trump Administration may be a breeze.
Or almost. Here's Breitbart dinging Tillerson with questions about his commitment to religious freedom. Picking up from IJR:
And that may be why the criticism he’s endured hasn’t pushed him to change course. This is not a man who sees a U.S. president in the mirror every morning, which is the kind of personality Washington, D.C., is used to dealing with in such a prestigious and sought-after job. And he does not have patience for the games we’re used to playing here.
Tillerson, who will be 65 on Thursday, senses an opportunity to systematize the State Department and rack up some wins, and he seems intent upon removing emotion from the process. There aren’t likely to be goosebump-inducing, soaring speeches. It’s business.
Will he stick around for the whole term?
In a sign he’s picking up on the lingo, he crossed his arms and said just a little wryly, “I serve at the pleasure of the president.” It doesn’t seem like he regrets accepting the job.
“My wife convinced me. She was right. I’m supposed to do this.”
And … that’s it? The piece doesn’t quite exemplify the “religion ghost” cited so often in GetReligion; that is, the hidden factor in a news story that goes unmentioned but which points to the influence of faith, religion, God, worship, etc. Yes, this story mentions a divine nudge but what form did it take? Remember the dream of Pilate’s wife.
This Media Matters piece goes more into how that article was researched and tells us the writer is a White House reporter. I am guessing she hasn't covered religion very often. Someone more attuned to the beat would have been all over Tillerson with more questions. But a lot of the new online media properties out there like IJR (ie Vox, Quartz) have been slow or reluctant to hire religion reporters.
Those of you wishing to follow the fortunes of IJR should know that its site gets 30 million visitors a month and it targets millennials. It's part of a company that owns a GOP consulting firm (Nieman Lab has more about that here) and Buzzfeed calls it the Upworthy of the right wing. The guy who runs IJR is 29 years old and has 100 employees.
Fox News profiled this four-year-old media organization that seeks to create an experience for news consumers. Thus, when they co-sponsored one of the presidential debates, their cameras gave viewers a 360-degree view, allowing watchers to picture themselves in the hall. Although they excel in videos and heavily used Vine, the six-second video platform, Vine’s demise last fall didn’t appear to stop these guys.
You’re looking at the future of news, folks: Facts served up with entertainment.
Note to IJR: While you’re entertaining us, do try to fill in the gaps; in this case a member of the Cabinet who says God convinced him to take the position. Any organization that is serious about news would have a zillion followup questions on that.