civil rights

Alabama Muslims: Feature on converts doesn't ask many (or any) follow-up questions

Alabama Muslims: Feature on converts doesn't ask many (or any) follow-up questions

Confession time: I used to write stories almost as wide-eyed as yesterday's feature on Muslim converts in Alabama.

I wrote up Muslim criticisms of Christianity. I retold their feelings about baleful attitudes from other Americans. I did, however, try to look critically at their claims of up to seven million believers in the U.S.

But see, it's two decades later, and mainstream media should have moved on. And I suggest that the Alabama Media Group, with seven regional editions, carries a heavy responsibility for perceptive reporting, not just writing up notes.

This particular article starts as a sensitive, detail-rich feature of the Alabaman Muslims: how they live, how they view presidential candidates, how they think other Americans view them. Al.com even finds a counter-intuitive lede:

Allie Larbi sounds like a Donald Trump supporter.
The Mobile resident supports building a giant wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and scrapping birthright citizenship. Syrian refugees, in her own words, should either be blocked from entering the United States or let in only to be housed in isolated refugee camps.
"I have what I like to turn around and call American views," said Larbi. "This is a great country and it needs to stay that way."

Larbi naturally takes offense at some of Trump's other statements, like "mandatory registration for Muslims, a ban on Muslim travel to the United States, or shooting Muslims with bullets dipped in pig's blood."  We'll get back to her in a moment.

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#CharlestonShooting: Five key angles on the massacre at a historic black church in South Carolina

#CharlestonShooting: Five key angles on the massacre at a historic black church in South Carolina

As we follow ongoing developments in Charleston, S.C., here are five key angles that caught our attention in the last 24 hours:

1. The tip

"I LOVE this story," said GetReligionista emeritus Mollie Hemingway. In an email, she told me that it "gets religion." Hey, that's what we're all about!

Kudos to the Shelby Star in Cleveland County, N.C., for reflecting the religion angle in its scoop:

Debbie Dills was running behind Thursday on her way into work at Frady’s Florist in Kings Mountain.
It was God’s way of putting her in the right place at the right time, the Gastonia woman said.
Dills and her boss, Todd Frady, made the initial calls around 10:35 a.m. that led to the arrest of suspected Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof in Shelby. 

Later in the story, Dills talks more about her faith:

Dills, the minister of music at West Cramerton Baptist Church, said she had been praying for the victims in Charleston since the news broke last night.
“I was in church last night myself. I had seen the news coverage before I went to bed and started praying for those families down there," she said. "Those people were in their church just trying to learn the word of God and trying to serve. When I saw a picture of that pastor this morning, my heart just sank."

The Shelby Star deserves credit for allowing Dills to tell the story in her own words — including the religious angle.

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Tragedy in Charleston: Basic facts crucial in reporting on shooting deaths of nine at historic black church

Tragedy in Charleston: Basic facts crucial in reporting on shooting deaths of nine at historic black church

The headlines bombard us this morning as we — like you — try to make sense of what just happened in Charleston, S.C.

At the early stage of reporting on a tragedy such as this, it's always crucial that news reports focus on basic facts and avoid conjecture. 

The Wall Street Journal has this rundown of what's known so far:

Nine people were killed after a white man opened fire Wednesday night at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C. in what police described as a “hate crime,” and police are still searching for the suspect.
Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said Thursday morning the suspect, a white male in his early 20s, is still at large. Local police are working with state and federal authorities to capture the suspect, who is thought to have sat for up to an hour in the church with those attending a prayer meeting before opening fire, Mr. Mullen said.
“This is a situation that is unacceptable in any society, and especially in our society, in our city,” Mr. Mullen said during a news conference. “We are committed to do whatever is needed to bring this individual to justice.”
Police are receiving tips but don’t have any solid leads about who the suspect is, Mr. Mullen said. He urged the public not to approach the suspect and to be vigilant, and if they see anything suspicious to immediately contact authorities. 

"Historic black church" is, of course, the terminology being used by most of the media to describe the location of the shooting — and that description certainly seems accurate and appropriate.

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Al Jazeera America: a solid piece of religion journalism?

Let’s see: a meaty, 3,200-word religion story — part profile, part trend piece. Quick, name the national news organizations producing such in-depth journalism on the Godbeat these days. Did Al Jazeera America make your list?

That relatively new U.S. media organization spotlighted “Downwardly mobile for Jesus” over the weekend. The superb feature drew praise from ordinary readers and journalism pros alike.

“Good reporting,” said the subject line on an email from a GetReligion reader.

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Same-sex marriage and a conscience clash, via CNN

In light of the U.S. Supreme Court decisions on same-sex marriage, CNN’s “Belief Blog” features an excellent story by Godbeat pro Daniel Burke exploring the issue from the perspective of conservative Christians.

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WPost: Yes, we fear and loathe religious traditionalists

On Feb. 15, Washington Post ombudsman Patrick Pexton made a startling statement:

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Writing a puff piece: a how-to manual

Truth be told, in our bias for fair, accurate journalism, we at GetReligion probably focus too much on the negative.

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