Was I too easy on Religion News Service for covering Democratic convention but not GOP one?

Was I too easy on Religion News Service for covering Democratic convention but not GOP one?

My post last week on why Religion News Service covered the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia but not the Republican National Convention in Cleveland generated a fair amount of response both in the comments section and on social media.

I pretty much accepted RNS editor in chief Jeremy Socolovsky's explanation for the decision:

The reason we did not have someone at the GOP convention is that we weren't able to get accreditation.

But a number of folks thought I was too easy on RNS.

For example, reader Mikehorn commented:

This is so lame I hardly know where to begin. Was the Internet broken? Was Cleveland under quarantine? Did your computers disappear and you had no typewriters or pencils?

Twitter responses to the post were similar.

Meanwhile, our own Terry Mattingly asked:

Question from a veteran reporter, about RNS and RNC: Wait a minute, wasn't every single moment of the GOP convention on C-SPAN?
I would add: I am sure that RNS veterans have thick files of contact info for leaders in various wings of the GOP, correct?

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The reason Religion News Service covered the Democrats this week and not the GOP last week

The reason Religion News Service covered the Democrats this week and not the GOP last week

Sorry, conspiracy theorists (including myself).

There's a logical reason why Religion News Service provided extensive coverage of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this week after skipping Donald Trump and the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last week. And no, it has nothing to do with bias. I'll explain in a moment.

First, a little background: RNS national correspondent David Gibson has been all over various religion angles in the City of Brotherly Love, from asking "Can Hillary Clinton finally close the 'God gap?'" to exploring "Who boos an opening prayer? The Berniacs of 2016, that’s who." 

Other topics have included "The divided soul of the Democratic Party" and "Can Clinton-Kaine bring Democratic voters back to the Democrats?"

But here's a question posed by a reader: Where was the RNS last week when Donald Trump and the Republicans were holding their convention?

My first thought: Did nobody on the RNS staff want to go to Cleveland? I hear it's nice this time of year.

Seriously, it's a legitimate question to ask: How can a news service that claims to be impartial cover one national political convention and not the other?

"Well, you know, religion and GOP politics just don't mix," quipped Terry Mattingly, GetReligion's editor.

But RNS editor in chief Jerome Socolovsky, who joined RNS less than a year and has been open to addressing questions of RNS' perceived liberal leanings, said there's a simple reason why the wire service didn't cover the GOP convention.

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A strange 'story' for strange times: Fox 29 in Philly decides to follow a priest around ...

A strange 'story' for strange times: Fox 29 in Philly decides to follow a priest around ...

It's time to look at a very, very strange "news" story. If it's a "news" story, which is the whole point.

In a way, it's fitting to start my day with a strange story in light of all the strangeness that your GetReligionistas went through yesterday, when we were caught up in what appears to have been a crashed server at one of the nation's major internet-services companies. These things happen. But, to paraphrase Steph Curry, we are back.

If you have lived in a major metropolitan area, one in which the competition between local TV-news operations is rather intense, then you know that some very strange "news" stories can end up on the air (and even in special promotions).

Well, is it "sweeps month" in Philadelphia at the moment? Here is why I ask:

CAMDEN, N.J. -- The Diocese of Camden has opened an investigation of one its priests after FOX 29 Investigates raised questions about his actions.
The probe has been under way for nearly three weeks. How did this story get started? Investigative Reporter Jeff Cole explains that a parishioner of his former church urged us to take a look at where Father Joel Arciga-Camarillo spends his time away from the church. Here's what we saw.

The soap-opera-esque commentary continues:

It's just past 2 p.m. on Wednesday, April 13, and we're keeping an eye on a light-green, four-door Volkswagen tucked behind this multistory, bright-yellow home in Camden.
We sit and watch for about an hour and see a man in a T-shirt and ball cap emerge from the back of a van with a female driver and small children, some in Catholic school uniforms. They go in the home.

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Huh!? Aboard papal plane, Francis backs Kim Davis, disputes notion of Catholic divorce?

Huh!? Aboard papal plane, Francis backs Kim Davis, disputes notion of Catholic divorce?

Some of our favorite Godbeat reporters -- exhausted after days and even weeks of chronicling Pope Francis' first-ever trip to the United States -- celebrated the papal plane's takeoff Sunday night.

But even in the air -- on his way home from Philadelphia -- Pope Francis keeps making headlines. As in, on some of the very topics that American journalists stressed that he avoided while on the ground in the United States.

And as always seems to be the case with Francis, his statements aboard the papal plane defied the easy media narrative of a pope at odds with conservative Catholics.

From Reuters:

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (Reuters) – Pope Francis said on Monday government officials have a “human right” to refuse to discharge a duty, such as issuing marriage licenses to homosexuals, if they feel it violates their conscience. ...
On the flight back to Rome, he was asked if he supported individuals, including government officials, who refuse to abide by some laws, such as issuing marriage licences to gays.
“Conscientious objection must enter into every juridical structure because it is a right,” Francis said.
Earlier this month a city official in the U.S. state of Kentucky, Kim Davis, went to jail because she refused to issue a marriage licence to a gay couple following a Supreme Court decision to make homosexual marriage legal.
Davis’s case has taken on national significance in the 2016 presidential campaign, with one Republican contender, Mike Huckabee, holding rallies in favour of Davis, a Apostolic Christian, who has since joined the Republican party.
“I can’t have in mind all cases that can exist about conscientious objection but, yes, I can say that conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right,” he said, speaking in Italian.

Time religion writer Elizabeth Dias is a part of the press contingent that joined Francis on the papal plane:

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Popemania, the sequel: Have we reached overload on coverage of Francis' visit to U.S.?

Popemania, the sequel: Have we reached overload on coverage of Francis' visit to U.S.?

Yesterday, we contemplated how much coverage of Pope Francis' first-ever visit to the U.S. is too much.

Paul Glader is a veteran journalist who spent 10 years with The Wall Street Journal and now teaches writing, journalism and business-related courses at The King's College (not to mention serving as director of the McCandlish Phillips Journalism Institute at The King's College in New York City, which now includes GetReligion).

Count Glader among those who believe the coverage has reached the breaking point.

Others, including longtime Oklahoman business reporter (and my good friend) Steve Lackmeyer, say they'd much rather hear about the Pope than the Donald.

But former GetReligionista and current superstar Washington Post religion writer Sarah Pulliam Bailey worries that other breaking news could steal Francis' spotlight.

My friend Sarah now lives inside the Beltway, by the way. Here in the real world of Oklahoma, we had never heard of Boehner. I kid. I kid ...

Meanwhile, Jim Warren, chief media writer for the Poynter Institute, the respected journalism think tank, remains concerned over what he dubs "Fawning Over Francis":


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Popemania: How much coverage of Francis' visit to U.S. is too much?

Popemania: How much coverage of Francis' visit to U.S. is too much?

I got my first taste of Popemania in 1999.

The Oklahoman put me on an airplane and sent me to cover Pope John Paul II's visit to St. Louis. 

In my introductory post with GetReligion, I made this confession about that experience:

After nearly 10 years in the newspaper business, I knew how to chase fire trucks and police cars and burn the midnight oil with city councils and school boards. But my knowledge of the Roman Catholic Church was scant. Honestly, I had no idea what a diocese was. I didn't know the difference between a bishop and a cardinal. I had heard of the pope.
Despite a mild case of fear and trembling, I researched the basics of Catholic faith and prepared to handle the assignment. I wrote three or four Page 1 stories the week of the pope's visit. My favorite focused on a youth event where Catholic teens jammed to the ear-piercing beat of DC Talk's "Jesus Freak" before welcoming to the stage a gray-haired pontiff who walked with a cane.

No doubt, I perfected the unfine art of #PapalGoofs long before hashtags were cool.

My first pope story was a Page 1 Sunday advance on Oklahomans making the trek to see their spiritual leader in person. For The Oklahoman, John Paul's visit was a local story as much as a national and international headline.

All these years later, the same remains true for newspapers across the U.S.

While much of the local and regional coverage focuses on parishioners making the pilgrimage, a reader pointed us to a nuanced profile of Francis in the Dayton Daily News in Ohio:

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Washington Post feature sticks Chaput inside an 'omniscient anonymous' voice box

Washington Post feature sticks Chaput inside an 'omniscient anonymous' voice box

When it comes to biblical images of good and evil, you start off with God, as opposed to Satan, and then you have Christ, as opposed to the mysterious end-times tyrant called the Antichrist.

Now with that in mind, it's safe to say that in current news speak, Pope Francis is pretty much the top of the heap when it comes to good-guy status. It really doesn't matter that the edited Francis who appears in most mainstream news coverage ("Who am I to judge?") is not quite the same pope who appears in the full texts of his homilies and writings ("It is not 'progressive' to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life").

Thus, it's safe to say that calling a Catholic archbishop the anti-Francis is not a compliment.

Apparently, there are Catholics who have pinned that label on Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput and they have shared their views with The Washington Post. Readers do not know who these Catholics (and probably some journalists) are, however, because that would require Post editors to ask some of their reporters to attribute crucial information to named sources. That would be old-school journalism. That would be bad, or so it seems.

The new Post profile of Chaput contains some interesting information, including some drawn from pieces of an email interview with the archbishop. It is also positive that Post editors posted the email-interview text online. I wonder if this was a condition attached to the interview, or whether editors realized that it would be awkward if Chaput posted the text, thus allowing readers to see what he actually said. Either way, this was a constructive act.

(At this point I will stress, as I always do, that I met Chaput decades ago when he was a young Capuchin-Franciscan priest and campus minister in urban Denver and I was a newcomer on the local religion beat. We have been talking about issues of faith, mass media and popular culture ever since.)

Let's return to those anonymous Catholic voices. The Post piece opens with an anecdote about Chaput's skill at blunt, quotable remarks, some of which have been known to anger those on the other side of hot-button issues in public life. Then it launches into a classic example of the "omniscient anonymous voice" narrative that has, in recent months, dominated much of this newspaper's coverage of moral, cultural and religious issues.

This long summary passage -- the story's thesis -- frames the contents of the entire piece. Try to find some clearly identified sources.

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#RNA2015: Yes, Peter Smith wins again as Religion Newswriters Association honors best of the Godbeat

#RNA2015: Yes, Peter Smith wins again as Religion Newswriters Association honors best of the Godbeat

We don't play favorites here at GetReligion.

OK, sometimes we do — such as where Pittsburgh Post-Gazette religion writer Peter Smith is concerned.

When it comes to quality journalism on the religion beat, a Peter Smith byline generally is a slam dunk.

So we weren't surprised over the weekend when Smith won the Religion Newswriters Association's first-place award for religion reporting at metropolitan newspapers.


The Pittsburgh writer was just one of a number of Godbeat all-stars who received recognition at the RNA's annual awards banquet in Philadelphia (see the full list of winners).

You can find links to all the winning stories on RNA's website. 

Smith's first-place entry included his in-depth project on immigrant religion — the subject of a 5Q+1 interview last November.

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Associated Press editors seem to be saying, 'Who are we to report on Catholic teachings?'

Associated Press editors seem to be saying, 'Who are we to report on Catholic teachings?'

Just the other day, I praised The New York Times -- mildly -- for making a smidgen of a journalistic attempt to frame the infamous "Who am I to judge?" ad lib by Pope Francis with information that hinted at what he was talking about. Today, I want to note that Associated Press editors appear, in one distressing case, to have lost all interest in journalism about a related Catholic case.

Once again, for those inclined to sweat the details, here is the YouTube link for that famous encounter between the pontiff and the press. It's crucial to remember that he is addressing the case of a specific priest and the issue of a "gay lobby" in the church. The problem, the pope states, is when people rally around the gay issue, thus forming a "lobby." Here is some of that context:

... If a person, lay or priest or Sister, has committed a sin and then has converted, the Lord forgives, and when the Lord forgives, the Lord forgets and this is important for our life. When we go to confession and truly say: “I have sinned in this,” the Lord forgets and we don’t have the right not to forget, because we run the risk that the Lord won’t forget our [sins]. That’s a danger. This is important: a theology of sin. I think so many times of Saint Peter: he committed one of the worst sins, which is to deny Christ, and with this sin he was made Pope. We must give it much thought.
But, returning to your more concrete question: in this case, I’ve done the investigatio previa and we found nothing. This is the first question. Then you spoke of the gay lobby. Goodness knows! So much is written of the gay lobby. I still have not met one who will give me the identity card with “gay." They say that they exist. I think that when one meets a person like this, one must distinguish the fact of being a gay person from the fact of doing a lobby, because not all lobbies are good. That’s bad. If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge him?

Now there is another quote in there which the pope underlined, the one that says, "This is important: A theology of sin." How often have you seen t-shirts with Pope Francis saying that as part of his ongoing emphasis on the need for Confession?

But I digress.

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