Sit down; clasp box of tissues

gtotem hummingbirdGetReligion readers who work in the mainstream press already know this.

The whole 24/7 model of multi-platform journalism — where every newsroom functions as a kind of mini-wire service, but now with a declining number of staffers — is producing all kinds of stress. That’s one trend. I mean, did you see “Doonesbury” today?

And then there is the whole issue of story length. For those of you who are old, do you remember the whole post-USA Today joke that we were headed into an age when there would be a Pulitzer Prize for the best investigative paragraph? (For my friends at MacPaper, please know that I believe there is excellent writing in your paper in all lengths. Do not call and yell at me.)

We all know that if readers are interested in a topic, if it fits a niche that interests them, they want a 40-inch story and an unfiltered Q&A and probably a video clip, too. But if they are not interested in it, then two inches of type is too much. There are readers out there, especially young ones, who have the attention spans of hummingbirds on cocaine. That’s a soundbite from one of my class lectures.

In that spirit, let’s turn to the following metro news story from The Oklahoman, addressing a very complex topic in the news (click here for GetReligion links), one that I wrote about this week for Scripps Howard. Here’s the top of the story:

EDMOND – An Edmond pastor said Wednesday he is not worried about getting in trouble with the Internal Revenue Service for politicking from the pulpit.

After his Sunday sermon, the Rev. Paul Blair told his Fairview Baptist Church congregation he will vote for Republican presidential candidate John McCain. Blair made the endorsement as part of a “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” a national initiative defying rules against mixing preaching and politics.

“The Constitution is on our side,” Blair said. “If they’re willing to tear the First Amendment out of the Constitution, then we’re in trouble.”

But Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed complaints with the IRS against Blair and five others. The Alliance Defense Fund is challenging the law that bars political involvement by religious groups and others that accept tax-deductible contributions.

OK, so far so good. Kind of.

But there’s a problem. That’s the whole story.

All together: “Siiiiiiggggghhhhhhhh.”

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.

  • Jerry

    That’s verbose in the texting, twitter universe. You could shorten it to

    “Paster endorses McCain, says Constitution is on his side. Others say he’s a lawbreaker.”

  • http://www.christianchronicle.org Bobby Ross

    Not only is that the entire story, it’s an above-the-fold story on Page 1A (front page image).

  • Martha

    Is it endorsement if he says “I’m going to vote for X” but does not tell his congregation “I want you all to vote for X” or “You cannot vote for Y”?

    Surely there’s more to it than that?

  • http://www.soilcatholics.blogspot.com Peggy

    I just absolutely enjoyed the photo with your story. I haven’t even read your post yet, and am compelled to say this.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X