Good journalism? Slanted journalism? Readers disagree on story out of Cornhuskers territory

Your GetReligionistas don't venture into Nebraska Cornhuskers territory all that often.

However, two readers called our attention to a Lincoln Journal Star story on the Alliance Defending Freedom, the religious liberty law group. 

"This is good journalism," one reader said.

The other reader was not as impressed: "Having read the recent post discussing the lack of equal media usage of 'left-wing groups' to match the profligate use of 'right-wing groups,' I was surprised to see the Lincoln Journal Star characterize the critics in this story as 'left-wing.' Further, the criticized group in question is given surprisingly deferential treatment. You may be thinking, 'Midwest paper — of course they skew conservative,' but that would be inaccurate. Lincoln, Neb., is a university town with a well-deserved reputation for sympathy with liberal cultural and political views. But I would concur that there is a substantial enough traditional religious community that a savvy editorial staff is unlikely to indulge in unfettered Kellerism."

Me? I'm going to be contrary and disagree with both readers. More in a moment, but first, the story's opening:

Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said Wednesday his attendance at a meeting last month sponsored by a controversial Christian legal advocacy group was by invitation and not paid for with state money. 
Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian nonprofit organization, has the stated goal of advocating, training and funding on the issues of religious freedom, sanctity of life, and marriage and family. It has been criticized for taking aggressive stands against gay marriage and LGBTQ rights. 
People in left-leaning organizations have said the group's endgame is to have the law and the culture reflect its religious views, including weakening the separation of church and state. 
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke at the July meeting Peterson attended, but news organizations were not allowed to attend his talk or initially get a written version of his speech. 
It was published several days later, however, on a conservative media outlet, In the speech, Sessions talked about religious freedom, saying the "inside-the-beltway crowd has no idea how much good is being done in this country everyday by our faith communities. ... But the cultural climate has become less hospitable to people of faith and to religious belief." 
Sessions said: "Under this administration, religious Americans will be treated neither as an afterthought nor as a problem to be managed."
Peterson said he was asked to serve on a panel on federalism to talk about how specific cases affect states. The panel was moderated by attorney Hugh Hewitt, a conservative and Catholic MSNBC talk show host who comments on society, politics and media bias. 

My assessment:

1. I don't think this is "good journalism" per se.

I mean, it's not terrible journalism. It certainly treats the Alliance Defending Freedom more fairly than a lot of news reports we've highlighted here at GetReligion. But it's pretty much a one-source story quoting only the attorney general. That's mediocre journalism.

2. While I'm not a fan of labels (see that earlier post), I think the labeling is equally problematic on both sides of this report. 

The Alliance Defending Freedom is characterized as "controversial" and "conservative." 

Yes, the report refers to "left-leaning organizations." But to me, that has a different connotation than the "far-right conservative groups" description that we discussed in a previous post. Moreover, it's difficult to argue with the factual accuracy.

My preference, though, would be not to label either side. Show me, don't tell me that a group is conservative or liberal by reporting what specific stances they take or have taken on particular issues. Then I as a reader can determine if they are right or left — or even far right or far left.

I do appreciate both the readers who took the time to write and all of you who took the time to read. Disagree with my take? By all means, join the discussion by commenting below. Please remember that GetReligion is focused on journalism and media issues, not your political or theological opinion on the Alliance Defending Freedom.



Please respect our Commenting Policy