News Strangely Lacking In News

Coloradans Bow in Prayer for Shooting Victims is an odd, substanceless story that seems to exist only to provide work for magnetic domains on a hard drive somewhere. Maybe it’s a placeholder for the real story which is coming later.

Regardless, listen to this:

Voices and hands raised in prayer, Coloradans of many faiths and no faith are joining to remember the 12 killed in Friday’s mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora.

Yeah? And, uh, where did this happen? When? Any guesses as to how many showed up? And can we source the statement about people of “no faith” being involved? My experience of atheists is that they might well attend a memorial ceremony, but they’d probably sit out those segments devoted to talking to Jesus.

Congregations sent up prayers for the survivors and the relatives of the dead. Churches sent out social-media appeals for neighbors who wanted to join in remembrance. Elderly churchgoers at an aging Presbyterian church within walking distance near shooting suspect James Holmes’ apartment joined in prayer, though none had ever met him.

Again, are there any DETAILS?? Not in this four paragraph next-best-thing-to-non-story which, happily for its author, includes a date — July 22 — but no byline.

The prayers came in different languages, but the message was the same — hope and faith in the face of tragedy.

Well that just seems like religious boilerplate bullshit. What languages? Where’s the evidence that makes this part of the story true? Sure, there was faith, but what was this “hope” being expressed?

It’s like the news is being replaced with aerogel. This piece LOOKS like a news story, but it contains almost no substance, no news content.


I see now the story WAS a placeholder, and that many of the details, including the byline, were fleshed out later. It does seem like an odd way to do it, though. I followed a link to the story from’s own home page. Why post the sketchy story at all?

Doing it this way sort of tears the curtain off news writing, doesn’t it? I mean, you see this little pre-fabricated outline of a story, it doesn’t give you a lot of confidence that the writer is really interested in the details he (she in this case) will turn up. You know he’s going to write this predigested pap story, no investigation or open-mindedness or thought required.

By the way, the new first paragraph deletes mention of the “no faith” faction. Don’t want those messy atheists intruding into a tear-jerky story about prayer and gods and such.

  • Roxane

    A recent episode of “This American Life” outlined how news is being outsourced–especially local news. Somebody in some remote part of the world is given, say, a city budget and told to report on it without actually talking to anybody involved. I don’t seriously think that’s what’s happening in a story of this magnitude, but yeah, this could just be copy recycled from Columbine for all the info that it contains. I really don’t see how we went from Woodward and Bernstein to the drivel we get now in just a generation.

  • Tim Riches

    People who talk about praying make me sick these days. I can take a lot of God talk and let it pass, but when someone mentions they are praying for someone or something, I can’t help but chime in with, “That’s literally the least you can do.” Sometimes I channel Sam Harris by saying, “Given what your God does not accomplish in this world, your prayers amount to an obscenity.” Prayer seems to be nothing more than a soporific. I can find nothing but disgust for it now, and shame on behalf of the superstitionist.

  • Crudely Wrott

    Congregations sent up prayers . . .

    Churches sent out social-media appeals . . .

    . . . and the difference between the two is, what?

    Innit always the same old story, looking for someone else to stand up to the slings and arrows. Where, I ask, where is the armor of God? Do these simpletons not know what great powers they are endowed with by the simple virtue of faith? Do they not take the word of their holy master at face value?

    Or is the chief business of religion to constantly make excuses for the most powerful, the most high, the most exalted lord of creation?

    Seems a poor occupation to this laborer but what do I know of such lofty and pious endeavors?

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