Teen Vogue

Why are most media MIA on reporting on California's anti gay-conversion bill?

Why are most media MIA on reporting on California's anti gay-conversion bill?

Gay conversion therapy is under fire these days and not the least in California, where the State Assembly has passed a bill banning any books promoting it.

I’d thought book banning had gone out of fashion some time ago, but not when the cause is efforts to change sexual behavior from bi or gay to hetero. What’s surprised me about this new law is not so much conservative opposition to it, but the paucity of coverage in the mainstream press.

As Teen Vogue tells us, the bill will make California the first state to ban the practice and, here is the hard part, even published materials linked to the subject.

I first heard of it while scanning the San Diego Union Tribune’s web site where I came upon this:

A debunked claim making the rounds in recent weeks -- that a new California bill would prohibit the sale of the Bible in the state -- continues to spread, especially on social media, despite reports from Politifact and Snopes explaining why it’s untrue.

Taking its turn in America’s culture wars is Assembly Bill 2943, which proposes to set strict restrictions on services to change a person’s sexual orientation, also known as “gay conversation therapy.” Current state law prohibits “sexual orientation change efforts” or SOCE for children under the age of 18, but AB 2943 would extend the ban to any person of any age and it would prohibit the advertising or sale of SOCE goods and services in the state, Snopes reported.

AB 2943 has passed in the assembly and is awaiting a vote in the state senate.

The Union-Trib needs to upgrade its copyediting, as it’s “gay conversion therapy,” not “gay conversation therapy." Meanwhile, misspellings aside, what’s a reporter doing quoting Snopes instead of doing the homework himself?

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How can scribes capture Billy Graham's giant, complex life in newsprint? This will take time

How can scribes capture Billy Graham's giant, complex life in newsprint? This will take time

Back in the early 1980s, I sat in a meeting at The Charlotte Observer in which we discussed how the Rev. Billy Graham's hometown newspaper would handle his death. After all, he wasn't that far from the time when ordinary people start talking about retirement.

Graham, however, wasn't "ordinary people" especially in a town with a major road called the Billy Graham Parkway. The Observer team needed a plan. 

How do you sum up Graham's giant, complex, sprawling life in a few paragraphs? Try to imagine being the Associated Press pro who had to come up with the first bulletin that moved when the world's most famous evangelist died early Wednesday morning. Here is that story in its entirety:

The Rev. Billy Graham, who transformed American religious life through his preaching and activism, becoming a counselor to presidents and the most widely heard Christian evangelist in history, has died.
Spokesman Mark DeMoss says Graham, who long suffered from cancer, pneumonia and other ailments, died at his home in North Carolina on Wednesday morning. He was 99.
Graham reached more than 200 million through his appearances and millions more through his pioneering use of television and radio. Unlike many traditional evangelists, he abandoned narrow fundamentalism to engage broader society.

The priorities there seem solid, to me. The AP, of course, quickly released a full-length obituary.

As you would expect, there were stumbles in other newsrooms -- some of them almost Freudian. Consider the opening of the Graham obituary at The Daily Beast:

The Rev. Billy Graham, an evangelist preacher who changed American politics, has died at the age of 99. ...

Uh, no.

There were also some struggles to grasp the precise meanings of key religious words. For example, Graham was often called "America's pastor," but he spent very, very little time as a pastor, in terms of leading a congregation. There were some struggles, as always, with variations on words such as "evangelist," "evangelical" and "evangelizing." Was Graham a "fundamentalist"? The true fundamentalists would certainly say "no."

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Thinking about two newsy people: Atlantic listens to Tucker Carlson and also David Gelernter

Thinking about two newsy people: Atlantic listens to Tucker Carlson and also David Gelernter

It isn't hard news, but sometimes the best thing journalists can do with really interesting people who is sit down and talk to them -- with a recorder turned on.

The Atlantic has two interesting Q&A features up right now offering chats with men representing two very different brands, or styles of conservatism.

The first interview is a familiar byline for those who follow Beltway journalism -- Tucker Carlson of The Daily Caller (where I knew him as an editor who welcomed news-writing interns from the Washington Journalism Center program that I led for a decade). Of course, now he is best known as the guy lighting up the Fox News ratings in the prime evening talk-show slot formerly occupied by Megyn Kelly.

The second interview is with the noted Internet-era theorist David Gelernter, a Yale University computer science professor who is also known for his writings (often in The Weekly Standard) on art, history, politics, culture, education, journalism, Judaism and lots of other things. Many readers will recall that he survived an attack by the Unabomber. I would think that, for GetReligion readers, his book "Drawing Life: Surviving the Unabomber" would be of special interest, because of its blend of commentary on journalism, faith and public life.

Why point GetReligion readers to these two think pieces? The Carlson piece is interesting because of what is NOT in it. The Gelernter interview (and an amazing 20-point attached memo written by Gelernter) is must reading because of what IS in it.

Here is the passage in the Carlson piece -- focusing on his personal worldview and its roots -- that is creating some buzz:

To the extent that Carlson’s on-air commentary these days is guided by any kind of animating idea, it is perhaps best summarized as a staunch aversion to whatever his right-minded neighbors believe. The country has reached a point, he tells me, where the elite consensus on any given issue should be “reflexively distrusted.”
“Look, it’s really simple,” Carlson says. “The SAT 50 years ago pulled a lot of smart people out of every little town in America and funneled them into a small number of elite institutions, where they married each other, had kids, and moved to an even smaller number of elite neighborhoods. We created the most effective meritocracy ever.”

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Young, gay Mormons and suicide: The Salt Lake Tribune tries to do the real numbers

Young, gay Mormons and suicide: The Salt Lake Tribune tries to do the real numbers

It was one of the odder headlines I’ve seen lately: "Suicide fears, if not actual suicides, rise in wake of Mormon same-sex policy."

Underneath is a narrative of how last fall’s announcement of a revised policy on membership requirements for gay Mormons may have vastly increased Utah suicides.

After seven paragraphs came the whopper: The premise behind the story has no basis in fact. But it sounded true. It may still be true. Lots of observers think it's true.

We've heard this before: Truthiness strikes again. We can debate the facts later.

It’s not the way I would have written such a piece, but it does draw you in. You almost have to read the entire overture up to the clincher paragraph to see how it is done. Here’s how it starts:

The fears were there right from the start -- that the LDS Church's new policy on same-sex couples would make gay Mormons feel more judged, more marginalized, more misunderstood and that more of them would take their own lives.
Since early November -- when the edict labeling gay LDS couples as "apostates" and denying their children baptism until age 18 took hold -- social media sites have been buzzing with tales of loss, depression and death. Therapists have seen an uptick in clients who reported suicidal thoughts. Activists have been bombarded with grief-stricken family members seeking comfort and counsel.
Wendy Williams Montgomery, an Arizona-based Mormon mom with a gay son, says she began receiving email or Facebook messages from bereaved families nearly daily, mourning a loved one's suicide.

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