The P-word surfaces at the Indy Star

Here is a case worth following, not only to see the outcome but to see how MSM outlets cover it — if they do.

The back story to this inside-baseball news story is that The Indianapolis Star — once a very culturally conservative newsroom and, especially, editorial page — has been pulled into the Gannett world, which is always going to lead to some changes. Now this happens:

Two former editorial writers at The Indianapolis Star have sued the newspaper and its owner, Gannett Co., claiming religious, racial and age discrimination.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court, former editorial board members James Patterson and Lisa Coffey said top newsroom managers “consistently and repeatedly demonstrated . . . a negative hostility toward Christianity.”

Neither of these people appear to be Religious Right plants in the newsroom. They seem to be, well, fairly normal people in Indiana. Perhaps that is the problem.

Note that, once again, the key word in the script is “proselytizing.” But this raises all kinds of questions, based on the few details we have in print at this time.

Does the P-word apply when people write an editorial that encourages citizens to pray for the U.S. troops in Iraq? Is it “proselytizing” to oppose the Gannett chain’s stance on gay rights? This latter issue surfaces in the Star‘s own mini-story on the case. Does the P-word apply if, let’s say, the editorial page backs some kind of Democratic Party effort to blend faith and economic justice?

I will try to keep tabs on this. Has anyone else seen coverage of this case on j-blogs?

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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.

  • Terry Tee

    There you go again. I live in Europe, have a background in both journalism and the church, and enjoy this site. But an acronym occurs frequently on this site which I do not understand: MSM. Would somebody put me out of my misery and tell me what on earth this is?

  • Stephen A.

    Mainstream media. Predominantly left-leaning, ofttentimes anti-religious, and definiately anti-conservative in outlook (even as they claim to be “moderates” and non-partisan.)

    It’s also a reference to “old” media – TV network news, old grey papers from major cities, and the like – as opposed to “new” media like blogs or even talk radio here in the States. Not sure if talk radio is that much of a force in Britain, but here it is.

    At least this is the way much of the Right defines MSM. I’m sure the those on the left favor the second part of that definition, but not necessarily the first.

  • wildwest

    Those on the left view MSM as mainly conservative. See

  • Molly

    MSM = corporate owned, lilly-livered, roll over and don’t make waves, sensationalist, full of schmuck reporters standing around in the cold and dark in front of the “scene of the incident” live at 11pm HOURS after the incident is over and cleaned up and everyone has gone home, site of the pained look of consternation (or constipation, take your pick) while reading grammatically questionable sentence construction about the latest celebrity falderal, really only useful for lining bird cages (print edition).

    Useless, in other words, but that was fun to type!!!

  • wildwest

    Clever wordsmithing!

  • Stephen A.

    Clever, but wrong.

    She describes media in general. All media succumb to the sensational, etc.

    The MSM manage to do all this and remain utterly unaware of their extremist left-wing bias.

    Quite talented, really, to juggle both.

  • Jeff Sharlet

    I met the Indy Star’s Dennis Ryerson briefly at a USC conference of newspaper editors who wanted to learn more about how to do smart coverage of religion. The notion that this guy has any “negative hostility toward religion” strikes me as unfair, inaccurate, and paranoid. Ryerson asked some of the smartest, most sensitive questions at the conference.

  • Jeff

    Could this just be about the fact that a Gannett paper editor anywhere is regularly checked by the Alexandria VA offices on main and feature front appearances of various ethnic and social groups, and that the “Diversity Index” which is right up there with profitability, includes the expectation of a certain number of positive portrayals of gay and lesbians, including couples?

    No marker in the Diversity Index that i’m aware of for various branches of Christendom, but minority religious groups (Sikhs, Jains) can score you points, even they’re the only one in your county. A story about a festival including baklava (sorry to go to that stereotype, Terry) at the local Greek Orthodox church, with insights about the devoted community there, will get “Hey, we did a church bake sale story recently — 18 months between those on feature fronts.”

    That’s my guess, anyhow. The fact that Mr. Ryerson isn’t negatively hostile toward religion but is required to enforce these corporate norms could still provoke the same reaction.

    Would someone from Gannett care to offer their thoughts on “diversity inclusion expectations” and Christian groups in their subscriber area? I’m just askin’.

  • Gannett escapee

    Gannett is a corporation that wants to enforce a certain viewpoint on the world. As such, there are stringent requirements for local coverage — gotta get the under-represented minorities represented daily, even if the area is overwhelmingly white. Gotta represent the Buddhists, even if there’s only five of them in the county. Forget those churches that most of the people in the area belong to. Gotta get diversity in the paper.

    I found this attitude to be incredibly condescending. Especially in the “red states,” Gannett’s modus operandi seems to be that of educating the hoi polloi. They operate from the assumption that there’s something wrong with people in Indiana (or Ohio or Iowa or any other state) who are conservative Christians, and that it is the job of the paper to educate them.

    Just my $.02. (I’m a journalist, but not at this time employed by Gannett.)