Was it something we said? Or how we said it?

As I stated early on, Doug and I will try not to turn this into a blog about “The Passion of the Christ” in the next few days. However, this whole blogging thing has me curious about what interests readers and what does not.

For example, a gag item on Britney gets comments.

But two serious stabs at the journalistic issues in mainstream coverage of THE MOVIE gets zippo response.

So I have some consumer questions, early on in the life of this blog.

Were the posts too long? Too long for weekend reading? Did they focus too specifically on “in house” journalism issues? Do you like substantial quotes from the article being reviewed? Or just hyperlinks?

Please remember that our goal is to promote journalistic coverage of religion in the mainstream. We think religion deserves a place at the table, next to beats such as law, education, sports, technology, science, politics, etc. This is what we are here for — to shine a spotlight on the “faith ghosts” that haunt many news stories. We also want to point out problems on the beat.

Here’s one that bugs us. In a major interview with Mel Gibson, the Los Angeles Times included the following background.

For the last year, Gibson has been embroiled in a controversy with a group of Jewish and Christian scholars and activists who criticized the script as having the potential to incite anti-Semitism. They now openly criticize the film, which they say portrays Jews negatively. From Gibson’s point of view, he was ambushed, his rights as an artist violated before he had even finished making his film.

Anyone who has charted this media storm has seen this kind of statement dozens of times.

Note the generic reference to a group “of Jewish and Christian scholars and activists.” There are no names. No descriptions of who they are and from where they hail. What seminaries? What religious movements or groups?

The reader is left to think that the views of these anonymous critics are normative. No one disagrees with them. Also note that the article clearly — as it should have — noted that Gibson is showing the film to hand-picked audiences. These groups are named and labeled.

Where are the names and labels on the other side? One way to find out is to look up “The Jesus War” from The New Yorker.

Print Friendly

About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Kerry Wood

    Some people have time to peruse the ‘net over the weekend. I’m not one of them. Who knows whether I’m in the minority or the majority, but I expect that the absence of comments on the two weekend postings on Mel Gibson’s “Passion” have more to do with timing than anything else.

    I am extremely grateful that you are pointing out the many subtle ways in which certain perspectives are normalized while other perspectives are scandalized. I experience this everyday while attending a “liberal” seminary although I am theologically more traditional (I’d like to label myself “Orthodox” except that might construe an affiliation with Greek or Russian churches which already use that term).

    The church I serve as a youth pastor is taking a risk in its community by buying out our local theater for the four Sundays in Lent and showing the “Passion” free of charge – then sponsoring discussion groups at our church following each night’s showing. We hope that exposure to this film will foster the kind of conversations — not necessarily agreements — we need today.

  • http://sirman.blogspot.com Bubbles

    Some of us are waiting until we’ve seen the movie.

  • http://www.gregpiper.com Greg Piper

    I think you need to do an inexact balance of serious analysis of media treatment of religion, mixed up with some fluffy stuff like Britney’s insta-conversion. If you read Andrew Sullivan’s blog regularly, you know that he can get really preachy and lose any sense of humor on certain subjects. It’s hard to read him for that reason. As for the “Passion” posts, I think they’ve been fine – you’ve just written them so well and covered all bases that I don’t have anything to add in comments.

  • D’Anne

    I just logged this site onto my favorite places. I have enjoyed the Mattingly Scripps Column via internet for years now, finding the mental and spiritual gymnastics quite a workout. To answer your question about postings, I would imagine thinking people would read your articles and digest the content over time rather than spew quick opinions back at you. Thoughtful postings are what I would hope to see from your readers.

    I am married & a stay at home mom of 2 (under age 10). Raised Catholic, I now attend a non-denominational Christian Church. Like the posting by Kerry Wood, our church is using the film to bring others to a saving knowledge of Jesus, the Christ. What we need are knowledgable and practicing Christians who exemplify being lights in the darkness. Hopefully, this film will inspire or create that kind of Christian.

  • http://www.exeditor.blogspot.com Peter Frank

    I still don’t understand why editors let journalists get away with this type of thing (I say that as a former newspaper editor).

    Except in extreme (and extremely rare) cases, unnamed, generalized sources either mean a lazy journalist, or in this case, a biased one who needs to make someone up in order to insert his own opinion into the story.

  • http://www.exeditor.blogspot.com Peter Frank

    I still don’t understand why editors let journalists get away with this type of thing (I say that as a former newspaper editor).

    Except in extreme (and extremely rare) cases, unnamed, generalized sources either mean a lazy journalist, or in this case, a biased one who needs to make someone up in order to insert his own opinion into the story.

  • http://www.armyofone.org JD Mays

    In response to your questions about the blogging, I think the articles have been great. However, what many people still don’t understand is that blogging as a medium is different. It isn’t only about the news stories. There is also an element of community – of give and take – between the blogger and the blogee. If you just post the same articles that you’ve posted in the past (or articles just like it) you’re not really doing anything differently.

    Try using links to other blogs to point out other points of view and work instead on asking questions that encourage comments. The content itself is just as great as it’s ever been – it’s the fact that you’re operating in a new medium that you need to understand.

    That’s my opinion anyway.

  • xalyth

    I read that article today in the Newsweek magazine, my father-in-law has a subscription. so i kind of read it for free. I keep getting very dissapointed of the way the “religious” issues are handled. I don’t know if it’s because the authors are non-believers or just afraid. I know, i know. Journalism is a way to inform, and you gotta say things plain, the way they are. But what can you expect? Either way they will look for a “scientific” explanation, of course resting truthfulness to the Bible, or they won’t take it serious enough. I was particularly upset with the: “But the Bible can be a problematic source…”. Excuse me? Maybe, beside basing their knowledge in Josefus et al., they should do research on the Bible itself. I wonder how many of these journalists writing a matter of religion immerse themselevs in the real sources. It could be a matter of mere research, yes, but as journalists they have to be open of what is out there. There’s no such thing as objective journalism, no sir. The Jesus well said in Luke 18:8b “…Nevertheless when the Son of man comes, shall he find faith on the earth?”

  • http://www.livejournal.com/users/tj9582/ Tim J.

       The best posts get no response because there is nothing left to say (or so I like to tell myself). I know that I at least have a tendency only to speak up when I disagree with something, and I suspect many others feel similarly about commenting when they have nothing to say but “me too” or “I agree.”

  • SquiggyJahmal

    I LOVE this blog and will check for updates several times a day… I will probably not comment often… mostly because I am like D’Anne suggests and prefer to think about stuff a little more before I just fire back a comment… I am also more likely to comment since I don’t have to give an email addy.

  • ESTPer

    I like this blog a lot. My opinion is that posts generally need to be rather short — 200-300 words. Like any journalist, I’m reading fast, skimming along. I generally like the quotations as opposed to the hyperlinks, although both are good. As a rule, long probably is not as endearing as concise. I want to know what you both think. I like funny, witty, “gottcha,” geesh, yes-but-on-the-other-hand … kind of comments.

    Hang in there. This is a great experiment.


  • http://ChristianityToday.com ChristianityToday.com

    Doug, this is Mike Herman from CTI. I’m still waiting for Christians to go beyond simply answering the question that the media keeps asking, “Who Killed Jesus?” Yes, it’s good to educate people that we all killed Him because of all of our sin, but why stop there?

    Non-Christians (as well as many Christians, apparently) that we’re not focusing on the death of Christ as the world does. We believe we have a risen Saviour — otherwise there would really be no story to tell.

    My biggest frustration comes from the fact that the world still hasn’t heard where the true Christian priority is, on the third day, not the first. I hope someone speaks up soon during this short-lived opportunity to speak freely about the best part of this movie, this story — that He lives.

    I’m looking forward to your coverage of reaction to this film over the next few days/weeks. Keep the excellent commentary coming.

  • http://crowhill.net/blog GregK

    Take it from an experienced blogger, you can’t measure interest by comments. It just doesn’t work that way.

  • http://blogs.geekdojo.net/mitchell Mitchell Land

    You have to remember that blogs are, essentially, one way communication like a newspaper. Comments can be equated to Letters to the Editor. Now, newspapers serve up millions of consumers, so they get lots of letters. You serve up how many aggregated views? Add that to the fact that it’s relatively new technology, and the people who use it generally are aggregating a lot of feeds, they don’t have time to comment on everything unless it really grabs their goat.

  • http://tuneouttv.blogspot.com/ Tom Mohan

    If it’s comments your after turn this into a blog on Britney. But when you make us think sometimes it takes some chewing. Like the site so far.

  • http://www.einvolved.org Stacy L. Harp

    Hi Guys,

    I love reading the BLOG – as you know, because I comment all the time.

    However, my suggestions are : Make the entries a little shorter with fewer quotes (maybe one an entry) and then add the hyperlink. (I personally like to see the other sources).

    As far as commenting on Britney versus more serious matters. Part of the reason I like the BLOG is because you’re bring to my attention things I have not seen. Like the guy that died who you called a Lion of Journalism – I didn’t comment on that because I didn’t know anything about the guy – BUT I learned something – so that is what I like.

    Also because I already do a lot of research some of the articles I have already seen before, so if I don’t comment it’s because I’ve already seen it in some cases.

    So I think you’re doing a great job. You’ve taught me things already and I’m passing them on to my website and email list and that’s why I tune in everyday – even on the weekends!

  • Jake Sikora

    I agree with GregK about the movie and the media coverage of it. I’m interested in seeing how the issue is being discussed, as is being covered here in sufficient detail, but am also skeptical of the focus of the movie on the ‘bad news’. Looking forward to seeing how evangelicals respond, what sorts of explanations are being given of the movie, etc. The current conversation seems to focus primarily on the ‘raw data’ material and how it’s presented (a journalistic question) and little has been done on what it means, how it’s interpreted (a theological question). That’s what I’m interested in seeing played out, in addition to the journalistic coverage that you are giving.

  • jamey

    i like it… don’t get all the nuances because i am not a journalist type but its enjoyable. i normally hit the CT blog and yours now in my daily rotation.

    god bless

  • Michael D. Harmon

    I disagree a tad with Mr. Herman (on more than the appropriate vowels for our mutual last name). It was what happened on Friday that paid the price for our sin and opened the gates of Heaven “to all believers.” The Resurrection was the sign and seal of that, but Good Friday was the operative event.

  • Olympia Mihailidis-Rossi

    Thank God for blog.

    Don’t have time to read all the press, so appreciate the relevant quotes, as much as the links. Not too long. How refreshing to see sane judgement of modern “thought.”

  • http://onlinefaith.blogspot.com C. Wingate

    I hardly have time to comment on anything here; I’m mostly satified to just read. But As a student of on-line religious discussion I would note that items which can elicit short, punchy remarks are more likely to get responses at all than items which would require a longer reply to do them justice.

  • Pingback: Brutally Honest