prison

Requiem for a killer on death row: Macon, Ga., newspaper gets the job done right

Requiem for a killer on death row: Macon, Ga., newspaper gets the job done right

Every so often, there is an article of such beauty that one has to draw attention to it. Here we have a long-time resident of Georgia’s Death Row whose obituary ended up being sent around the country. (I first spotted it in the Bellingham, Wash. Herald). I am guessing that a reporter was reading ordinary obits in the Macon Telegraph (the printed version of macon.com) when he saw a heart-rending eight paragraphs written by the condemned man’s lawyer.

And so he wrote a story. Usually people don’t have a whole lot of sympathy for those on Death Row, but this story injected some humanity a 41-year-old man who was executed this past March 31. It didn’t excuse the murder he had committed at age 19, but it explained how someone who was treated like an animal since birth might have acted like one at one point, then spent the next 20 years seeking redemption.

The man is dead now, but he looks like a boy in the prison photograph. He has on inmate garb -- a short-sleeved white shirt with a stark navy collar -- the uniform of death row.
The picture is from about 1999. Joshua Daniel Bishop was a young man back then – 24 or so – with cropped, brownish hair and a round face. A hint of a closed-mouth smile makes him look younger. He’d already been on Georgia’s death row since February 1996, the month after he turned 21.
Bishop was there because in June 1994, after a night of drinking at the Hill Top Grill in Baldwin County, Ga., he and another man used a wooden closet rod to beat to death a 43-year-old carpenter named Leverette Morrison.

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Close shave: Dallas Morning News clips crucial religion content from prison beards story

Close shave: Dallas Morning News clips crucial religion content from prison beards story

With its story this week on beards in Texas prisons, The Dallas Morning News does a nice bit of foreshadowing.

Both the "For God's sake" headline and the "come-to-Jesus" lede provide a strong hint of the level of seriousness with which the Texas newspaper will treat the religion content.

In other words, not seriously at all.

Let's start at the top:

AUSTIN — Last year, Mario Garcia had a come-to-Jesus moment. The 29-year-old father of six, wanted on a domestic violence charge, flipped his truck as he was trying to outrun police. He lost his freedom. Again.
Last week, sitting in a gymnasium at the Travis State Jail, a large silver cross dangling over his white prison uniform, Garcia said he considers his second prison stint a blessing.
“It’s made me slow down and opened my eyes,” he said. “Faith is a major factor in my life right now.”

Perhaps the Morning News intended that "come-to-Jesus" opening to be clever rather than flippant and cliché, but the newspaper never gets around to describing how Garcia came to faith.

Was he a Prodigal Son who returned to the religion of his youth? Or did he find Jesus behind bars? This shallow report seems oblivious to such obvious questions.

The news peg is, of course, tied to that U.S. Supreme Court ruling on prison beards earlier this year:

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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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