Las Vegas shooting

Your Thanksgiving think piece: How did 'prayer shaming' become a news media thing?

Your Thanksgiving think piece: How did 'prayer shaming' become a news media thing?

So it's Thanksgiving.

Has anyone heard whether it's OK to offer "thanksgiving" on this day, or has the implication that there is a Supreme Being to whom thanks should be is given been declared a microaggression? Is "thanksgiving" sliding into the "thoughts and prayers" category in American life, both public and private?

That's the subject lurking beneath the surface of an interesting news-related think piece that ran the other day at The Catholic Thing website.

The headline: "Resist 'Prayer Shaming' This Thanksgiving."

I noticed the essay and started reading it. Then I noticed that this piece was written by veteran journalist Clemente Lisi, who is one of my faculty colleagues at The King's College in New York City. Lisi is a New Yorker through and through and has two decades of experience in various newsrooms in the Big Apple, including reporting and editing duties at The New York Post, ABC News and The New York Daily News.

The overture of this piece quickly links the holiday and recent news trends:

Thanksgiving and prayer are intimately linked. While the holiday ... has its roots in Protestant England (the very first Thanksgiving in 1621 was held by the Pilgrims who fled Europe seeking religious freedom), Americans of all faiths have since embraced this uniquely American holiday of giving thanks to God.
You wouldn’t know this from how the mainstream media has generally chosen to cover it in recent years. Thanksgiving has lost its religious meaning -- many people don’t offer a prayer before addressing the turkey -- and has been replaced with a focus on football games and Black Friday shopping. Christmas, unfortunately, has also become less about Jesus and more about consumerism. It’s part of a larger trend whereby our society becomes gradually secularized, even on explicitly religious holidays. And prayer, so central to the lives of millions of Americans, is invisible to those who deliver the news to you each day.

This raises an interesting question for any GetReligion readers who are online today, either before or after the feast.

The key question: Was there any "Thanksgiving" coverage in your newspaper today?

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Gospel of guns falls short: Something's missing in paper's exploration of faith, family and firearms

Gospel of guns falls short: Something's missing in paper's exploration of faith, family and firearms

"Faith, family, firearms drive Georgia's devotion to Second Amendment," says the headline on an Atlanta Journal-Constitution piece tied to last week's mass shooting in Las Vegas.

What we have here is a case where I really wish the story had lived up to the headline.

Unfortunately, guns — not God — are the star of this report.

To some extent, maybe that's to be expected. On the other hand, I had hoped that the Journal-Constitution would delve — really delve — into the religion angle. Alas, faith makes just a few cameo appearances in this story focused more on economics than spirituality.

Up high, the article hints at a deeper religion angle than the paper chooses to explore:

An outsize American flag flies above the factory where Daniel Defense makes some of the world’s highest-priced assault rifles.
At NASCAR races, the No. 3 car flashes the Daniel Defense logo.
And when the company’s founder talks about his values, he distills them to three potent words: faith, family, firearms.
Daniel Defense, based in Bryan County, 25 miles northwest of Savannah, is a Georgia success story, one that embodies a culture that often conflates patriotism, religion, regional pride and devotion to the Second Amendment.
But the company, and the culture, came under scrutiny last week after the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Late Sunday night in Las Vegas, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock opened fire on an outdoor music festival from his 32nd-story hotel suite, killing 58 people and wounding nearly 500 before taking his own life. Authorities reportedly found about 20 guns in the hotel suite – including at least four military-style rifles manufactured by Daniel Defense. The rifles appeared prominently in crime-scene photographs by the Las Vegas police.
“Our deepest thoughts and prayers are with the victims and families of the Las Vegas incident,” the company said Monday on its Facebook page, its only public statement on the shooting. Company executives did not respond to telephone messages and emails requesting an interview.

So what is the role of faith that the company's founder distills?

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On second thought, were Pat Robertson's comments on Las Vegas more newsworthy than we said?

On second thought, were Pat Robertson's comments on Las Vegas more newsworthy than we said?

"Don't take the bait: What Pat Robertson said about Las Vegas isn't really news."

Somebody made that case the other day.

OK, maybe that somebody was me.

But after hearing some excellent feedback from respected Godbeat colleagues (more on that feedback in a moment), I've reconsidered my position. Have I actually changed my position? You'll have to read on to find out.

In case you missed my original post, a few mainstream media organizations — including the HuffPost — reported on Robertson blaming disrespect for President Trump, in part, for the Las Vegas mass shooting in which 59 people died and more than 500 were wounded. 

Others mentioning his remarks — and I discovered this only after publishing the first post (thank you, Cheryl Bacon!) — included the New York Times.

The relevant paragraph from that Times article, headlined "Terrorizing if Not Terrorism: What to Call the Las Vegas Attack?":

Then the F.B.I. knocked down the Islamic State angle, noting that the group has a history of false claims. The guessing game resumed: Was it a plot by “deep-state Democrats” (Alex Jones of the conspiracy site Infowars) or perhaps divine punishment for the “profound disrespect”shown to Mr. Trump and the national anthem (the religious broadcaster Pat Robertson)? Was it something to do with country music, given the concert crowd Mr. Paddock targeted? Could it be linked in any way to the long-ago history of Mr. Paddock’s father as a bank robber on the F.B.I.’s most-wanted list?

The gist of my original argument against turning Robertson's comments into news:

When there's a major tragedy, here's another thing you can count on: Pat Robertson opening his mouth.
So yes, Robertson weighed in on Las Vegas. Was there any doubt that he would? But is there any possibility that what he said amounted to actual news?
Probably not, as a million (only slightly exaggerating) past GetReligion posts make clear.
"The key is that there are so many people within evangelicalism who are — for better and for worse — more interesting and influential than Robertson at this point in his career," GetReligion editor Terry Mattingly wrote way back in 2005. (That same year, Poynter.org published another excellent Mattingly piece on this subject, titled "Excommunicating Pat Robertson.")

The pushback against my position came on my personal Facebook page, where I had shared a link to the post.

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Please don't take the bait: What Pat Robertson said about Las Vegas isn't really news

Please don't take the bait: What Pat Robertson said about Las Vegas isn't really news

A headline from The Onion, of all places, went viral Monday after the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

In recent years, the "'No Way To Prevent This,' Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens" story has become a staple of the satirical newspaper.

When there's a major tragedy, here's another thing you can count on: Pat Robertson opening his mouth.

So yes, Robertson weighed in on Las Vegas. Was there any doubt that he would? But is there any possibility that what he said amounted to actual news?

Probably not, as a million (only slightly exaggerating) past GetReligion posts make clear. Terry Mattingly wrote one of my favorites way back in 2005.

The good news is this: My Google news search found very few mainstream news organizations jumping on the latest Robertson quotes. But the Huffington Post — which still does some straight news reporting — was among them.

HuffPost's headline:

Pat Robertson Blames Las Vegas Massacre On ‘Disrespect’ For Donald Trump

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