aggregation

Poynter takes on Fox News' 'repurposing' of other publications' religion stories without proper credit

Poynter takes on Fox News' 'repurposing' of other publications' religion stories without proper credit

The reporter has become the reported-on.

I complained on social media recently after Fox News’ Caleb Parke rewrote one of my Christian Chronicle stories without doing any of his own reporting. I never could get a response from Parke, whose verified Twitter profile says he covers “faith & values but my favorite stories are #GoodNews.”

After my first complaint, Fox attributed a second quote to my Chronicle story but didn’t deal with the bigger issue of passing off our original piece as its own. And Parke and Fox felt no need to reply to me directly.

That might have been the end of it, except that Kelly McBride, a leading media ethics expert who serves as senior vice president of the Poynter Institute, took an interest in my case.

Today, Poynter published McBride’s lengthy piece calling out Fox News’ “repurposing” of other publications’ religion stories without proper credit.

Spoiler alert: She says a lot of really cool things about me that my mom will really enjoy, such as calling me a “nice-guy church newspaper editor based in Oklahoma City.” My boss particularly relished that line, given the grumpiness that I occasionally display on deadline.

But for those interested in religion reporting in the news media (that would be you, dear GetReligion reader), McBride’s comments on Fox’s practice of relying on other publications’ hard work will be particularly relevant.

Such as this:

It’s clear that this is about return on investment. Fox could easily have religion reporters out there turning up original stories the way Ross and his team do. But that would mean they would only get one story a day or even a week out of a reporter, not three or four. But fewer stories means a smaller audience.

Alternatively, Fox could subscribe to the Religion News Service, a wire service devoted to creating original stories about religion, as well as sharing content generated by other publications, including The Christian Chronicle. “We do not subscribe to this service,” a Fox spokesperson said by email. “We monitor them like we would any reliable news outlet and aggregate content when we find it compelling and worthy of our standards.”

When you look closely at what news organizations invest resources  in — original reporting vs. simply repeating the work of others — you can get a window into what the company values. 

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What were the 'religious reasons' why a couple allegedly refused to get help for their infant?

What were the 'religious reasons' why a couple allegedly refused to get help for their infant?

The Washington Post reports — in an aggregation/clickbait kind of piece — that a 10-month-old died after her parents allegedly refused to get help for religious reasons.

By aggregation/clickbait kind of piece, I mean that this is a story made up mainly of links to other media reports and social media. There's not much original reporting. This is mainly a web search aggregated into a quick report designed to get internet clicks.

I offer that background not as a criticism (although it's admittedly not my favorite form of "journalism") but to lower the expectations for the quality of material that a reader might expect to find.

Still, I think the reader who shared the link with GetReligion asks a relevant question, even for this gutter-level form of news. More on that question in a moment.

First, thought, the top of the Post report offers the basics:

In video sermons, the man railed against vaccines, “bad medicine” and doctors whom he deemed to be “priesthoods of the medical cult.”

And he explained why he refused to vaccinate his children, saying: “It didn’t seem smart to me that you would be saving people who weren’t the fittest. If evolution believes in survival of the fittest, well then why are we vaccinating everybody? Shouldn’t we just let the weak die off and let the strong survive?”

On a Facebook page matching his name and likeness, Seth Welch of Michigan spoke of his religious beliefs, which he shared with his wife, Tatiana Fusari. Those beliefs may have contributed to their own child’s death, according to court records.

Although the circumstances surrounding the baby’s death remain unclear, the couple were charged Monday with felony murder and first-degree child abuse after their nearly 10-month-old daughter, Mary, was found dead in her crib from malnutrition and dehydration, according to court records cited by NBC affiliate WOOD.

Now, back to the reader's question:

Any particular church or denomination? Implies they're Christians but what if they're not? Early story? 

So the reader wants to know the specific details concerning the vague "religious reasons."

Me, too!

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Not the right kind of paper to report both sides? About that story on fired Catholic teacher

Not the right kind of paper to report both sides? About that story on fired Catholic teacher

Just last month, I highlighted a quasi-piece of reporting by the Washington Post on a pastor "lighting into" President Donald Trump with Vice President Mike Pence sitting in a front pew.

I noted that it's often difficult these days — even in the Post — to tell what's supposed to be real news and what's simply clickbait and/or aggregation.

Well, here we go again ...

A reader emailed us about a new Post story that raises some of the same "What is this?" questions as the earlier piece.

The latest story — with the headline "‘Not the right kind of Catholic’: Private schoolteacher fired days after same-sex wedding" — prompted a GetReligion-style analysis by the reader who emailed us.

I thought I might share highlights of the reader's thoughts and respond to each.

From the reader:

The article is about a teacher fired from a Catholic school after she married her same sex partner. The opening few paragraphs make it clear whose side the writer is on by carefully describing the upcoming wedding, then dropping the bombshell of her being fired.

Certainly, the lede is sensitive to the teacher's situation and seems designed to evoke a response from readers. But honestly, I don't have a major problem with the lede. It's the rest of the story and the much-delayed and incomplete reporting on the other side that concerns me, from a journalistic perspective.

More from the reader:

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Vatican! Drugs! Police! Gay clergy! Orgy! Clickbait! What happens next will not shock you

Vatican! Drugs! Police! Gay clergy! Orgy! Clickbait! What happens next will not shock you

So here is a rather stupid question to ask news consumers in the age of social media and online news. Did you hear that there was apparently some kind of police raid on a drug-fueled gay orgy at one of the most prestigious addresses in Vatican City, an apartment building many call the Holy Office?

All kinds of people live there, but it also is known as home base for the Vatican's powerful -- in terms of working to promote traditional teachings -- Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Combine this location with activity that fits years and years of rumors about a "gay lobby" at the highest levels of Catholic hierarchy and the odds are good that you will get a news-media firestorm.

Maybe you saw the story at The New York Daily News, since this is the kind of subject that has "tabloid" written all over it. The headline: "Vatican police raid drug-fueled gay orgy at top priest's apartment." Let's look at the top of this report.

Vatican police raided a drug-fueled gay sex party at a top priest’s apartment near the city, according to an Italian newspaper report.
The apartment’s occupant, who was not named by police, serves as a secretary to Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, a personal adviser to Pope Francis.
The apartment belongs to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith -- the branch that reviews appeals from clergy found guilty of sexual abuse of minors, according to Italian daily Il Fatto Quotidiano, which first published the explosive report. Police raided the apartment in June after neighbors complained of unusual behavior among frequent nighttime visitors.
Police arrested the priest and hospitalized him to detox him from the drugs he had ingested, according to the newspaper. ... He’s currently in retreat at a convent in Italy, according to the report. Coccopalmerio’s aide was reportedly under consideration for promotion to bishop.

Now, you may not have seen the Daily News report. On newsstands in the Big Apple, that would have been sitting right next to The New York Post, proclaiming (it what is a rather restrained headline for this newspaper): "Vatican cops bust drug-fueled gay orgy at home of cardinal’s aide."

Let's face it. Readers had lots of opportunities to see a lurid headline about this case.

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Click-bait aggregation at Washington Post debases New Jersey Catholic girls' hoops story

Click-bait aggregation at Washington Post debases New Jersey Catholic girls' hoops story

We call it click bait; these come-hither headlines that make you want to read whatever’s below them, even if it’s about a topic that doesn’t interest you.

Who can turn away from this headline: Basketball revolt: Make the girls quit or forfeit, N.J. archdiocese told grade schoolers. They forfeited.

Unfortunately, the  piece was highly aggregated, meaning the newsroom team apparently did no original work, but mashed together various accounts from other online sources. And then there were the snide comments to what ran in the Washington Post’s Morning Mix:

The Catholic Church, in its roughly 2,000 years of existence, often has felt the pressures of social change.
Same-sex couples want to get married. Divorcées want to take communion. Girls wanted to be altar servers. Women want to be priests. And in New Jersey this year, elementary schoolers -- particularly the female ones -- want to play basketball.
The cause has mobilized people in two towns in northern New Jersey who feel that, in the year 2017, gender discrimination has no place in athletics.

No mystery here as to what the reporter thinks about the matter. Who is being quoted? Where is this material coming from? These are basic journalism questions.

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Concerning that clip-art howler with International Business Times poo-attack report

Concerning that clip-art howler with International Business Times poo-attack report

One of the hardest things that your GetReligionistas do, day after day, is search for non-copyrighted art to illustrate our posts.

Most of the time we strive for art -- such as YouTube links -- that adds actual content to the piece or some kind of graphic device linked to the topic. Sometimes, we pick art that makes an editorial comment, an ironic one even, about a particular story, like using a "delete key" close-up with a post about an alleged news report that we think shouldn't have been written in the first place.

Long ago, I spent several years laying out the inside pages of a small daily newspaper and, trust me, I know what it's like to struggle to find logical file art to illustrate a story.

Want to see a great example of now not to do this sort of work?

Brothers and sisters, I am in total agreement with faithful reader Thomas Szyszkiewicz on this OMG International Business Times howler.

Step 1: Click here to see the Reuters photo used to accompany a story with this headline:

Inmates of 'Hey Dad…!' actor Robert Hughes attack him with poop and urine on his first day of prison

Step 2: Read the top of this "news report" (scare quotes because it actually appears to be mere aggregation). Here is a sample.

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Scandal! Sikh man removes his turban in order to follow teachings of his faith!

Scandal! Sikh man removes his turban in order to follow teachings of his faith!

As we all know, religious doctrines are bad. Thus, breaking them is good. That seems to be the implication of a bizarre AOL.com news item -- a piece of aggregation, actually -- sent to your GetReligionistas the other day.

The key, as in many mistakes involving aggregated news, is that the writer appears to have spent zero time or energy investigating the facts of the story. In fact, it appears that the AOL desk didn't even pay that much attention to the New Zealand Herald story it was slicing and dicing. The goal was a conflict-driven click-friendly headline: "Sikh man breaks religious rules, removes his turban to help an injured boy." As a reader noted:

The title and the bulk of the article attempt to create a conflict between the "rules" of religion and real compassion. On the plus side, the article does note that "the Sikh religion makes exceptions for taking off a turban in emergencies," yet it still plays up the phony conflict.

Let's look at two pieces of this short item:

A New Zealand Sikh put religion aside and took off his turban to help an injured child.
The New Zealand Herald reports 22-year-old Harman Singh saw a 5-year-old boy had been struck by a car outside of his home Friday. Despite religious beliefs not permitting him to remove his turban and show his hair in public, Singh didn't hesitate to take off his headdress and cushion the bleeding child's head.

You have to love the "put religion aside" reference and the reference to "religious beliefs not permitting him to remove his turban." The key word is "permitting."

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