New York Times team explains black Democrats in South Carolina -- without going to church

New York Times team explains black Democrats in South Carolina -- without going to church

If you’ve been reading the political coverage in The New York Times lately, you’ve had a chance — if you are patient and willing to dig deep — to learn a few complex realities about life in today’s complex and often splintered Democratic Party.

Two months ago, the Times ran a very interesting piece with this headline: “The Democratic Electorate on Twitter Is Not the Actual Democratic Electorate.”

The thesis is right there in the headline. Lots of Democrats, especially in the Bible Belt, call themselves “moderates” or even “conservatives.” Lots of them are African-Americans. Yes, it would have been nice if this feature had addressed moral and religious concerns. Here is a key chunk of this must-read report that is based on data from the Hidden Tribes Project.

In recent decades, most of the candidates who have found their core strength among the party’s ideologically consistent, left-liberal activist base have lost. … Establishment candidates won the nomination by counting on the rest of the party’s voters.

The rest of the party is easy to miss. Not only is it less active on social media, but it is also under-represented in the well-educated, urban enclaves where journalists roam. It is under-represented in the Northern blue states and districts where most Democratic politicians win elections.

Many in this group are party stalwarts: people who are Democrats because of identity and self-interest — a union worker, an African-American — more than their policy views. Their votes are concentrated in the South, where Democratic politicians rarely win.

Then there was that interesting Times feature about grassroots pro-life Democrats — in Pennsylvania, of all places (as opposed to the Bible Belt). Check out Julia Duin’s post on that topic: “New York Times finally profiles pro-life Democrats but forgets to add what religion they might be.” I followed up on her must-read post by pointing readers to a New York Post essay that noted that a high percentage of pro-life Democrats in the South are African-Americans who go to church — a lot.

The bottom line: If you are interested in what Democrats in the South think, especially African-American Democrats, it really helps to explore their views on issues linked to religion. Reporters might even want to go to church.

This brings me to a new Times political feature with this headline: “ ‘The Black Vote Is Not Monolithic’: 2020 Democrats Find Split Preferences in South Carolina.

What’s so interesting about this story? Well, for starters it is absolutely faith-free, other than a passing reference to Cory Booker’s style as an orator. This whole story is framed in Democratic Twitter lingo.

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Think piece from guilt files: The ethics of ambushing Robert Mueller after Easter worship rites

Think piece from guilt files: The ethics of ambushing Robert Mueller after Easter worship rites

It’s one of those surreal scenes that’s hard to imagine ever happened — but it did. More than once.

The setting is a Roman Catholic church in England and the late, great Sir Alec Guinness has just knelt to receive Holy Communion and is quietly returning to his pew. Then someone would do the unthinkable.

To be blunt: Is this the time and place to talk to Guinness about “Star Wars”? The answer is: “No.” As Joseph Pearce, author of "Literary Converts: Spiritual Inspiration in an Age of Unbelief,” once told me:

"All that we really know about Sir Alec Guinness — right down the line — is that he did not consider his life to be public property. ... He was particularly irritated when people would, literally, come up to him after Mass and try to talk to him about his movies."

Ah, but what if it is Easter and all of America is talking about the release of the most important government document in the history of the Republic? What if the person coming out of church is the Special Counsel who millions (OK, it seems that way) of Beltway Talking Heads had designated as the hero who would slay (it’s a metaphor) the evil Donald Trump and allow Blue Zip Code Americans to return to living happy, fulfilled lives free of Twitter insults, other than their own?

This brings us to this weekend’s think piece, which I feel very guilty about because I should have used this earlier. But better late than never. This ran as an “ethics” commentary by Al Tompkins at, with this headline: “Offensive or appropriate? We talked to the reporter who questioned Mueller on Easter.” Here’s the overture:

MSNBC freelance reporter Mike Viqueira was trying to land the interview that nobody else has in close to two years. That’s why he confronted Special Counsel Robert Mueller as he and his wife left a Washington, D.C., church service on Easter Sunday. Viqueira is taking heat on social media for confronting Mueller after church, but some journalists say Mueller is such a high-profile public figure that he is fair game.

There’s a word for this: optics.

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Old news? The New York Times discovers David Brody and CBN's niche-audience power

Old news? The New York Times discovers David Brody and CBN's niche-audience power

Let's ask some basic questions about the journalism world in which we live.

Is it safe to assume that viewers of Fox News are interested in different kinds of issues and news stories than those who watch CNN?

Can we also assume that MSNBC viewers are interested in different kinds of issues and news stories than those who watch Fox? Things get really interesting if you try to discern cultural and political fault lines between CNN and MSNBC.

But the anwser is obvious, in this splintered age in which we all try to make sense of American public discourse.

Some of what is happening centers on changes in technology, as well as what is happening with changes linked to American generations, young and old. If you want to see a nonpolitical take on that, see this new report in the New York Times: "Why Traditional TV Is in Trouble."

Now, this brings me to another Times piece, focusing on the Donald Trump-era work of David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network -- a niche network focusing on the concerns of many (not all) charismatic and evangelical Protestants. Apparently, the Times team is surprised that the interests of this niche audience shape CBN offerings, in a manner similar to those of MSNBC, CNN, Fox, etc. Oh, and The New York Times, too. Here is a typical passage:

Mr. Brody, the chief political correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network, was not there to inquire about porn stars. It was the National Day of Prayer, and Mr. Brody asked the vice president whether he was tired of defending his anti-abortion views amid “potshots” from comedians, and whether prayer was “alive and well in the White House.” He inquired whether Mr. Pence would attend the opening of the American embassy in Jerusalem, scheduled to take place Monday.

Mr. Pence smiled and answered each question. Then he invited Mr. Brody to get coffee.

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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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Free-speech protests in Boston: How many points of view, on left and right, made it into news?

Free-speech protests in Boston: How many points of view, on left and right, made it into news?

To be honest, I'm still working through the emotions and, at times, confusion that poured out the other day in the Crossroads podcast that ran with this headline: "Your depressing 'think' podcast: Faith, hate and details that mattered in Charlottesville."

I want to make sure that readers know how much of a challenge hard-news reporters face covering massive protests at street level, as opposed to the angle used by members of the chattering classes as they sit in studio chairs in Washington, D.C., and New York City (and a few other hives).

Take the demonstration the other day in Boston. How many different points of view did you have to understand to explain to the public what appeared to happen there?

First: Let's mention the religion angle. I became interested in this "Free Speech Rally" because of the involvement of some pro-life, or anti-abortion, demonstrators. They were there as part of the coalition that put the event together for the expressed purpose of (a) standing up for the free-speech rights of conservatives outside the media mainstream and, at the same time, (b) to condemn the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville. I think it's safe to say that religious faith is central to the story of the pro-life demonstrators.

According to reporter Garrett Haake of MSNBC, this small circle of demonstrators faced some pushy, some would say violent, opposition from the left. The quote from Haake's tweet:

These protests rarely end pretty. Antifa folks just mobbed some anti-abortion protestors w/ posters. Yelled & tore posters til cops came

Kudos, by the way, to MSNBC for reporting that information.

So we have some pro-lifers, we have some Antifa folks. Who else is there? Let's pause for a moment and look at the top of an ABC News report on this drama. I thought this passage -- which is a bit long -- was especially crucial:

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GetReligion drinking game? tmatt visits 'Catholic Answers' to explain why this blog exists

GetReligion drinking game? tmatt visits 'Catholic Answers' to explain why this blog exists

Our partners on the Issues, Etc., radio and podcasting team took this week off -- in part to get ready for their June 9-10 "Making the Case" conference in Collinsville, Ill.

I will be one of the featured speakers at that conference, addressing the challenges of finding solid journalism in an age of fake news. There is a second conference Nov. 10-11 in Houston that will, among others, feature M.Z. "GetReligionista emerita" Hemingway and Rod "Benedict Option" Dreher.

In other words, we didn't record a new Crossroads podcast for this week.

However, I did do a radio interview the other night with the national Catholic Answers program that I think will be of interest to many GetReligion readers -- especially newcomers. The topic was pretty obvious, with this title: "Why Don't the Media Get Religion?" Click the title to listen.

In a way, this was a GetReligion 101 mini-seminar, in terms of talking about the goals of this blog and why we think the mainstream press is -- when it comes to religion news -- worthy of serious criticism, as well as praise.

As you would expect, in a chat about that topic recorded this past week, the whole subject of the death of The New York Times Public Editor slot did come up, as discussed in this post ("Disturbance in the Journalism Force? New York Times spikes its public-editor post").

But the discussion went all over the place, with explanations of many topics that are familiar to GetReligion readers.

For example: What is a "religion ghost"? That literally takes us back 13 years, to the first paragraphs in the blog's first post:

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Future of Fox News: Will moral conservatives keep buying what Bill O'Reilly is selling?

Future of Fox News: Will moral conservatives keep buying what Bill O'Reilly is selling?

In a way, this week's "Crossroads" podcast (click here to tun that in) isn't really about the religion angle in a major mainstream news story. No, this episode is a lot stranger than that.

Here are the two key equations at the heart of my latest conversation with host Todd Wilken.

First of all, millions and millions of Americans watch talk-TV commentary shows -- usually the ones featuring hosts with political and cultural views that mirror their own -- and it appears that they think they are watching the news. This happens on the left (think MSNBC and most of CNN) and it also happens, of course, on the right with Fox News.

The bottom line: Millions of Americans do not know the difference between basic news and advocacy news and commentary. They don't understand that many journalists are still committed to keeping bias, opinion and open advocacy out of their news work. This is having a serious impact on public discourse.

Meanwhile, there is this second fact: Millions of moral, cultural and religious conservatives are watching Fox News day after day, night after night, without giving any thought to what BRAND of conservatism is driving the particular commentary show that they are watching. (NOTE: Fox News does have one or two news shows left, such as Special Report, that mix basic news reports with commentary, often from panelists on the left, right and middle. It is interesting that this show was originally created by Brit Hume, a religious and cultural conservative with a long and solid background in mainstream news.)

Truth is, the whole Fox News operation has never been all that interested in the role that religion plays in America and the world, other than a few segments dedicated -- think "Christmas wars" -- to hot-button topics. Yes, commentator Todd Starnes focuses on religion quite a bit in his opinion pieces and analysis work on radio, but that isn't hard news or prime-time material.

So why would Fox News have little or no interest in religion?

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Trump's Israel ambassador pick stirs great discord among Jews, and there's a story there

Trump's Israel ambassador pick stirs great discord among Jews, and there's a story there

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, or so the city's image spinners tell us. Personally, I have no experience of this, since Las Vegas is a place I avoid.

Israel is a very different story, however, and here I do have a bit of experience.

That experience tells me that just about everything that happens in Israel becomes an international balagan, with a potential for violence -- not to mention a United Nations resolution or two slamming the Jewish state for being solely at fault for whatever transpired.

Take the ongoing flap over the public broadcasting of the Muslim call to prayer.

NIMBY disputes over traffic, noise, and property uses are a staple of the local religion beat. No one in America seems to want a megachurch, a newly enlarged religious school, an exotic Hindu temple, or -- the current ultimate concern -- a mosque, coming to their neighborhood. But unless the dispute rises to a higher court, NIMBY squabbles rarely make news beyond the local level.

Not so in Israel, where a case involving the Muslim call to prayer, known in Arabic as the adhan,  is of a different magnitude from the get-go. That's even more so the case when it involves Jerusalem, the epicenter of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Seemingly making my point, The Washington Post played its story on the front page of its print addition. The implication was that Israeli Jews just want to stifle a religious freedom Muslims take for granted.

Which leads me to the incoming Trump administration's promise to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and the president-elect's designated ambassador to Israel, his personal bankruptcy attorney David Friedman.

There's much on the line here. Being the chief U.S. representative in Israel is as delicate a foreign diplomatic posting as there is. Lives -- Israeli Jewish and Muslim and Christian Palestinian -- hang in the balance.

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Up To No Good: Mississippi religious liberty law is next in LGBT battles

Up To No Good: Mississippi religious liberty law is next in LGBT battles

Those misbehavin' Mississippians didn’t learn from the media thrashing of Georgia and North Carolina. When the Magnolia State started work on its version of a religious liberty bill, it drew fire faster than you could say "Incoming!"

We're beginning to see a standard template for such articles: corporate threats, lopsided sourcing, pressure on the governor, dire warnings of threats to freedom, marginalizing of most clergy voices. (Usually the template also includes sarcasm quotes around "religious freedom," but for some reason not this time).

Like efforts in several other states, the Religious Liberty Accommodations Act is meant to shield people of faith from being sued or prosecuted for not wanting to sanction same-sex relationships, such as photographing a gay wedding.  Mississippi goes further than other states, though: It would also allow other exemptions, such as fostering children or licensing gay marriages.

MSNBC wastes little time framing the story the "right" way:

The Mississippi Senate voted Wednesday evening to pass a religious freedom bill which some say could have sweeping anti-LGBT repercussions for the United States.
The Republican-dominated Senate voted 31-17 to pass the controversial bill, called the "Protecting Freedom of Conscience From Government Discrimination Act."
The legislation says that businesses, social workers and public employees cannot be punished for denying services based on the belief that marriage is between a man and a woman or that "sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage." It also protects individuals who believe gender is determined at birth.

It would be hard to put more loaded terms at the top of this story:

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