Headline FAIL

evangelist-boyUSA Today put the following headline on Associated Press religion reporter Eric Gorski’s story about James Dobson stepping down from Focus on the Family’s main radio broadcast:

Evangelist Dobson parts ways with radio show, Focus on the Family

I know that the words sound similar, but the word USA Today is looking for is “evangelical.” Let’s all watch to see how long it takes to correct this one.

Evangelical is hard enough to define as it is, but it’s different than “evangelist,” which Random House defines as:

e-van-ge-list
Show Spelled Pronunciation [i-van-juh-list]
-noun
1. a Protestant minister or layperson who serves as an itinerant or special preacher, esp. a revivalist.
2. a preacher of the gospel.
3. (initial capital letter) any of the writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) of the four Gospels.
4. (in the primitive church) a person who first brought the gospel to a city or region.
5. (initial capital letter) Mormon Church. a patriarch.
6. a person marked by evangelical enthusiasm for or support of any cause.

This is also an excellent reminder that headlines are typically not written by the reporter of the story and sometimes they’re not even in a position to correct the headline if necessary. Gorski is very precise with his word choice and would not make a mistake like this.

Anyway, since the media tend to mess this one up with alarming frequency, Dobson is still, at press time, a psychologist and not an ordained minister or itinerant preacher. GetReligion has been calling attention to this error for a long, long time. We are not alone, either.

Come on, people. Get with the program.

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  • Geoffrey

    Dobson isn’t an evangelist? Really?

    That may not be the only thing he does, but I think he definitely qualifies under the second definition in the Random House entry quoted.

    Sure, the headline is still misleading, and may well be the result of just the confusion identified. But it’s not necessarily nonfactual.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Well, unless we mean to use the term to describe all Christians, no.

    Also, I see that Eric Gorski, the story’s author has tweeted a request to USA Today for a correction:

    @faith_reason Dobson is an evangelical, not an evangelist. re: headline on http://bit.ly/1GfJGE

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Gosh, is this our first GetReligion reference to a news tweet?

    I am sooooooo old.

  • Jerry

    Gosh, is this our first GetReligion reference to a news tweet?

    u not so old, u cn lern new vocabulary. Soon see “duz twiter get religon”.

  • http://www.mikehickerson.com Mike Hickerson

    Geoffrey wrote:

    Dobson isn’t an evangelist? Really?

    That may not be the only thing he does, but I think he definitely qualifies under the second definition in the Random House entry quoted.

    Really? You’re listening to a different Dobson than I’ve heard. I don’t think Dobson has ever held a position with a church, and his public speaking focuses almost exclusively on political and social issues. Compare Dobson’s list of books with those authored by Billy Graham, who is unquestionably an evangelist. Dobson’s books are all about parenting, children, and counseling. Graham’s list starts with Calling Youth to Christ, goes through How to be Born Again, and ends with How to Live by Faith in an Uncertain World. If Dobson is an “evangelist,” it would have to be under the 6th definition above, as an “evangelist” for conservative views on parenting and family life.

  • rq

    Headline is still incorrect…

    In the spirit of Jerry’s post:

    @egorski: O Hai! I can haz hed correx? Dobson evangelical, not evangelist. kthxbai

    @faith_reason: DIAF


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