Want an object lesson on how not to mix reporting and opinion? Just look at media reaction to Bill O'Reilly's take on the new Pew Research survey.
The survey, released on Tuesday, finds that American Christians are dwindling, especially Catholics and mainline Protestants. It says also that the "nones," or unaffiliated, have increased, as have non-Christian religions.
Whenever such studies come out, the pundits usually cast about for the "why," and O'Reilly of Fox News was no exception. In his "Talking Points" segment, he says:
There is no question that people of faith are being marginalized by a secular media and pernicious entertainment. The rap industry, for example, often glorifies depraved behavior, and that sinks into the minds of some young people -- the group that is most likely to reject religion. Also, many movies and TV shows promote non-traditional values. If you are a person of faith, then the media generally thinks you are a loon.
He then launches a standard jeremiad about the decline of America, with "corruption" in the Catholic Church and the push to legalize drugs like heroin and cocaine. He unoriginally compares modern America with the Roman empire, saying both declined because their citizens shunned sacrifice for self-gratification.
He ends with a couple of clichés: "But it can be fixed if the electorate wakes up ... That's why the upcoming election is perhaps the most important in our lifetime."
So his sermonette has much to criticize. But as I've said often on GetReligion, criticism is one thing and coverage is another. Tell me what's going on, then tell me your opinions -- but in different stories, please.
Unfortunately, a fair-size segment of the media tried to tell you what to think of O'Reilly's views. And many of the reports pounced on his complaints about rap. Billboard, Huffington Post and the much-quoted Washington Post all spent most of their stories rebutting that one sentence from O'Reilly's comments.
Philip Bump, the Washington Post's political writer, gives a mere three paragraphs to O'Reilly's remarks, then most of the other 11 arguing with them. He points out how rappers like Snoop Dogg and Kendrick Lamar have cleaned up their acts.