Nicolosi and the Times, round II

The last week of the Summer Institute of Journalism is over at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. This was our last journalism boot camp there, until the fall of 2006 when we open a new full-semester j-program for this international network of Christian academic institutions — basically everyone from the Assemblies of God to the Mennonites. It’s a big tent. This is the job that will, in a month, move me back to the D.C. area.

So I am catching up on some things that I have meant to blog for some time now.

Like this — round two of a fascinating intellectual wrestling match between Hollywood screenwriting pro Barbara Nicolosi of the Act One network out in Los Angeles and The New York Times.

Or maybe we are following the arc of a comedy script. Whatever — here is the first act. And now here is the second act, drawn from her witty and, at times, passionate Church of the Masses blog. This ex-nun ought to be a writer, or something.

What’s going on? Nicolosi leads a network of Christians who work and teach and write in mainstream Hollywood. This is a diverse crowd, to say the least. Lots of crunchy granola conservatives (to use the Rod Dreher nickname), old-fashioned Catholic progressive Democrats (think Robert Casey), emerging evangelicals and other folks. The key is that this is not a front for the Republican Party.

But try telling that to the nation’s newspaper of record. Things have not been going as the reporter anticipated, perhaps, and Nicolosi has been posting her notes about the interviews. This is part of a larger trend, methinks, in which people are doing interviews and then assuming that the public would like to know what was said, other than the bite or two that makes it into the MSM. I think this is a healthy thing.

The reporter — James — begins by asking why Americans think Christians are so terrifying. Barbara wants to know why he doesn’t ask that question of his therapist, since it seems that people in the Times building suffer from this condition more than ordinary Americans. Things roll on from there. Here is a nice sample:

James: I’m having a hell of a time chasing down the money connections between the DC conservative think-tanks and Hollywood Christians.

Barb: That’s because they don’t exist.

James: (“I’m no fool” snort) Yeah. How about you tell me ‘off the record’?

Barb: Off the record, on the record, we don’t get any money from right-wing covert opps!

James: Would you take money from them if they offered?

Barb: From whom? . . . Heck, I’d take money from Hugh Hefner! I’m just trying to meet payroll for the summer.

James: You’re funny.

Barb: And poor. . . . but with a few exceptions, Evangelical Christians outside of Hollywood don’t financially support Hollywood Christians. They don’t trust us.

James: Yeah, yeah . . . (trying another tack) So, is it your sense that some Evangelical Republicans from DC are trying to build a network in Hollywood?

Barb: I think that is accurate.

James: (Gotcha! exclamation) And why is that?!

Barb: Because being generally derided and despised by cultural leaders is a concern to them? You should ask them . . .

James: I’m trying, but everyone is being very paranoid in talking to me.

Barb: Does that surprise you?

James: Why is that, anyway?

Barb: You mean, besides the fact that the NY Times hates Christians?!

More laughter from James.

Anyone seen any other good online examples of this turn-the-notebook-around phenomenon?

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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.

  • ceemac

    Has anyone ever done a study on the actual religious experience of journalists that appear to be hostile to religion. Especially those hostile towards the Chrsitian Right.

    I suspect journalists who grew up in some parts of the country view Christians as foreign becuse they have spent the whole lives in secular environements. They don’t know any of those strange folks.

    But what about journalists that grew up in the midst of the Bible belt. They know conservative Christianity. And they may not be friendly to it precisely becasue they know it.

    Here is a quote appears in tonight’s PBS movie “The Education of Shelby Knox.” The speaker is Lubbock singer Butch Hancock.
    “He says he learned two things growing up there: “One is that God loves you and you’re going to hell; the other is that sex is the most awful, filthy thing on Earth and you should save it for someone you love.”"

    Now what if Hancock were a journalist and not a singer songwriter. Of course Texas singer/songwriters are actually pretty good journalists come to think of it.

    I am not a journalist but I bet many southern journalists share my exeperience. I consider myself a “Refugee from Southern Revivalism.” I was driven away by the anti-intellectualism and emotional manipulation. And it doesn’t look like Southern Revivalism has changed in the 30 years I have been away. Well it’s not just Southern any more so I guess htta has changed.


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