Mollie Hemingway

Mike Pence will not meet alone with a woman, so the online left flips out?

Mike Pence will not meet alone with a woman, so the online left flips out?

When does a rather ordinary news profile turn into a mass-media panic?

Apparently, when it’s in a Washington Post feature about Karen Pence, wife of Vice President Mike Pence.

I covered this two days ago in that finally -- after zillions of fawning pieces about Hillary and Michelle -- a major newspaper had profiled the Second Lady. I had no idea that one sentence in the story would create a Twitter mob scene. Part way down the story, a Post reporter mentioned that Mike Pence has a policy of never dining alone with a woman nor attending an event where alcohol is served without Karen by his side.

Ka-boom. The mockery began.

Social media went nuts, excoriating Pence for being such a Neanderthal and worse. There were references to sharia law, for example. BBC asked: “Are Mike Pence’s Dining Habits Chivalrous or Sexist?” Clara Jeffery, editor of Mother Jones, fired off at least 15 angry tweets on the topic during a period of high dudgeon on Wednesday afternoon. Naturally, The Onion weighed in

Jezebel.com had something so unprintable, I’m declining to link to it. Guess I get tired of media slinging the F-bomb around like it’s candy from a parade. That was pretty common during this Twitter tsunami.

The comments cascaded to a point that the Post did two pieces solely on reaction to the article. Gotta make click-bait hay while the digital sun shines. 

Here's the original Tweet:

 

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Context-free zone: New York Times disses Christians using Pew survey; RNS does better

Context-free zone: New York Times disses Christians using Pew survey; RNS does better

Just about a week after New York Times top editor Dean Baquet concedes many of his reporters “don't quite get religion,” a Times-man (as they used to be called) does his level best to prove Baquet correct.

Sigh: “Christians in U.S. Are Less Educated Than Religious Minorities, Report Says,” the Times trumpets online

With that we’re off to the (same old, same old) races:

Religious minorities in the United States are far more likely to have attended college or a vocational school than members of the Christian majority, according to a review of census and survey data from 151 countries released on Tuesday that found wide gaps in education among followers of the world’s major religions.
The review was based on data from 2010 and was conducted by the Pew Research Center, which also found an education gap between men and women within religious groups. The researchers said the educational differences among the faiths were rooted in immigration policies that favor the educated, as well as in political, economic and historical factors.
There were 267 million Christians in the United States when the data was collected, but only 36 percent of them had a postsecondary education, including college or a vocational school, the researchers said. That made them the least-educated religious group in the country.
Jews in the United States were more than twice as likely as Christians to have a postsecondary degree, and Hindus were almost three times as likely, Pew said. Buddhists, Muslims and those who said they were religiously unaffiliated were also more likely to have a college degree than those who identified themselves as Christians.

Note the words “Christian majority,” if you will.

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Prosperity gospel vs. social gospel: What religion means to Trump, Clinton & Co.

Prosperity gospel vs. social gospel: What religion means to Trump, Clinton & Co.

In back-to-back features this week, NPR delves into the faiths of the Republican and Democratic presidential tickets.

It's safe to say that these profiles — by Godbeat pro Tom Gjelten — are not definitive journalism on what Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton & Co. believe.

In fact, these reports are more like CliffsNotes study guides for those interested in a crash course on the candidates' religious backgrounds. But taken as such, these accounts are really nicely done.

On the Republican side, NPR focuses on how positive thinking and the prosperity gospel define Trump's faith outlook.

On the Democratic side, Gjelten explores how Clinton and running mate Tim Kaine are driven by their faith in a social gospel.

In each case, the author allows the candidates to describe their faith in their own words.

Trump:

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Powder-puff press: Tutu's daughter marries a woman, and media hand her the mic

Powder-puff press: Tutu's daughter marries a woman, and media hand her the mic

"Tell us how the bad men hurt you": As she often does, M.Z. Hemingway adroitly blends humor and precision in finding the nugget of a story.  Her suggestion for a GR post on the daughter of Desmond Tutu was devastatingly accurate, not only for the BBC but for the Guardian.

The Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu van Furth recently married a woman -- an atheist, at that -- and now she's complaining that the church yanked her preaching license. And the BBC and the Guardian help her complain. Not just by reporting her quotes, but enshrining every word as gospel.

Here we go with the BBC:

Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu van Furth followed her father into a life in the Anglican church, but when she decided to marry the woman she loved, she had to leave.
She married her long-term Dutch girlfriend, Marceline van Furth, in a small private ceremony in the Netherlands at the end of last year, but they went public last month when they had a wedding celebration in Cape Town.
"My marriage sounds like a coming out party," explains Ms Tutu van Furth.
"Falling in love with Marceline was as much as a surprise to me as to everyone else," she tells me.

At least the BBC quotes church law: "Holy matrimony is the lifelong and exclusive union between one man and one woman." So why is Tutu van Furth making an issue of it? To advance what she calls a "very important conversation'" about same-sex marriage:

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On abortion coverage: Is the Houston Chronicle capable of listening to both sides?

On abortion coverage: Is the Houston Chronicle capable of listening to both sides?

Early in 2010, I was wandering about my old haunts in Houston’s Eastwood section, which is southeast of downtown. One obvious change was that a new neighbor was moving into a former bank building on I-45, locally known as the Gulf Freeway -- Planned Parenthood, which was expanding into the six-story building.

Local opponents were claiming that Planned Parenthood would be performing abortions through the 24th week of pregnancy, while PP kept saying it’d only do them through the 19th week. Also, the building was Planned Parenthood’s largest U.S. clinic, a distinction many Texans weren’t wild about. And it was in a majority black and Hispanic area, a fact that opponents frequently note when arguing that Planned Parenthood targets minorities. I think they chose that dodgy area of town because it was close to Hobby Airport and nearly across the street from all the co-eds at the University of Houston.

The day I showed up, the protesters weren’t there, so I drove about the building and snapped some photos. Some of my friends still living in the area had protested against the place, which was walking distance from their homes and my old church. Since it was such a huge facility, it’s no huge surprise that an undercover team of pro-life investigators decided to film what goes on there.

Posts by our own Bobby Ross, Jr., talked about the original coverage of the now infamous Planned Parenthood videos last July, plus the current reaction when a grand jury gathered to investigate PP on organ trafficking charges decided instead to indict the two undercover videographers who brought Planned Parenthood’s activities to light.

The bottom line: I want to highlight a story that appeared in the Houston Chronicle that was so one-sided, I’m guessing that the editorial-page team must have moved its operations into the newsroom. It starts thus:

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Planned Parenthood video dismissed: Washington Post goes after 'anti-abortion-rights advocates'

Planned Parenthood video dismissed: Washington Post goes after 'anti-abortion-rights advocates'

When opponents strike a telling blow, don't counterattack directly. Instead, hit back at the attackers. This is the mainstream media's stratagem for dealing with the series of undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood officials talking about making money with aborted baby parts.

You may recall Newsweek's hit piece, which focused largely on video maker David Daleiden and his Center for Medical Progress. Well, here we go again with the Washington Post fixating on three women in Congress who are leading the drive to defund Planned Parenthood. The story, part of the Post's column The Fix, sets up the mini-dossiers with paragraphs like this:

GOP leaders are smartly letting women in Congress lead the way. Male lawmakers dominate both the party's congressional contingent and the two bills introduced this week to defund the organizaton, but anti-abortion-rights advocates are hoping these three Republican women become the movement's faces.

The article gives a nod to the video and its outflow: "Incensed anti-abortion-rights advocates are raising questions about whether Planned Parenthood broke any federal laws related to late-term abortions and selling fetal tissue. The organization maintains it hasn't done anything wrong, and the videos are out of context."

But then the piece quickly gears up to its main aim of scrutinizing the Congresswomen who dare break ranks with their sisters in denying abortion rights. It does so with a laundry list of familiar devices.

Like in the paragraph highlighted above. Males "dominate" the party in Congress, as if they don't among Democrats; check out this graph in an earlier Fix. But the men are "letting" women lead. And they're "smart" to do so. You know, hide the basic maleness of opposition to abortion.

If you buy all that, you're nicely softened up for other ruses.

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M.Z. Hemingway asks a 'mirror' question: Why not ask left some tough abortion questions?

M.Z. Hemingway asks a 'mirror' question: Why not ask left some tough abortion questions?

During her eight years at GetReligion, M.Z. Hemingway probably heard one question more than any other from her critics: Why do you spend so much time on abortion when the purpose of GetReligion is to critique mainstream coverage of religion news? Or words to that effect.

Over and over, M.Z. and I responded with variations on several key points: (1) Almost every key media-bias study on religious news issues has included questions about abortion, as a key moral issue. (2) While there are atheists and agnostics who oppose abortion on demand (various links here), debates about abortion in America almost always involve questions about religion and religious groups almost always play prominent roles. The phrase "Keep your rosaries off my ovaries" comes to mind. (3) There is no question that Roe v. Wade played a major role in inspiring the creation of the Religious Right and that defense of abortion rights remains a major priority of the Religious Left.

I could go on, but here is the bottom line. It's almost impossible to discuss religion-news coverage in the mainstream press without digging into bias, balance, accuracy and fairness issues linked to moral issues such as abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage.

Anyway, M.Z. has a new post up at The Federalist that digs into this same territory, using an interesting exchange in a Rand Paul press conference as a hook. It's must reading, but I will share one or two chunks of the piece (including a major GetReligion flashback).

The key moment comes roughly eight minutes into the video at the top of this post.

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M.Z. Hemingway unloads on news coverage of 'religious liberty,' while tmatt debates one detail

M.Z. Hemingway unloads on news coverage of 'religious liberty,' while tmatt debates one detail

What we have here, gentle readers, is a take-no-prisoner headline, care of GetReligion emeritus M. Z. Hemingway at The Federalist.

You were expecting someone else?

Dumb, Uneducated, And Eager To Deceive: Media Coverage Of Religious Liberty In A Nutshell

Oh my, and if that isn't enough, there is this rather blunt -- some would say "brutal" -- subtitle to finish the job:

Most Reporters Are Simply Too Ignorant To Handle The Job

Now, if you have not read this long and very detailed piece yet, then head right over there and do so. But as you read it I want you to look for the one very important point in this article with which I want to voice my disagreement. No. It's not the George Orwell quote. That one was on the target, methinks.

Read it? Now, let's proceed.

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Your weekend think piece: M.Z. spots religion wrinkle (sort of) in #RaceTogether campaign

Your weekend think piece: M.Z. spots religion wrinkle (sort of) in #RaceTogether campaign

You can take M.Z. Hemingway out of GetReligion (although I am still struggling to get used to that), but it does appear that you can't take those GetReligion instincts out of Mollie the journalism critic.

Consider for a moment what is actually going on in this recent short written by the GetReligionista emeritus over at The Federalist. It focuses on that whole Starbucks (with help, believe it or not from USA Today) #RaceTogether campaign that has been getting so much mainstream news ink and commentary lately. Here's the headline on her piece: "With Race Together, Starbucks Is Using Worst Of Evangelical Practices."

Evangelicals? Wait for it.

Now, lots of that commentary has been either nervous or critical or both. Is it really a good idea for a major corporation to try to push its customers -- people who just trying to mind their own business while buying a cup of overpriced coffee -- into a hot-button conversation that may or may not be constructive in the long run?

Still, Starbucks is one of those urban prestige brands that must be taken seriously buy the press. Right? Mollie's insight, if you read between the lines, was to ponder what kind of press reception this campaign would have received if attempted by another institution on another hot-button topic. What kind of reception would, let's say Hobby Lobby, have received with a #TalkMarriage campaign or even a safer #TalkParenting effort?

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