A reader alerted your friendly neighborhood GetReligionistas to a Tulsa World story on two legislators in my home state of Oklahoma introducing bills related to the teaching of evolution in public schools. (Click these links to download House Bill 1551 and Senate Bill 554.)
The reader complained:
“This report from the Tulsa World apparently couldn’t help but include loaded commentary in this supposedly straight news story.”
Loaded commentary, huh?
How about we take yours truly off the hook (just this once, please?) and let GR readers be the judge of that?
Here’s the top of the story (with the alleged loaded language italicized by me):
A freshman state senator from southeastern Oklahoma and a four-term state representative from Oklahoma City are taking another run at Charles Darwin.
Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate, and Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, have filed legislation designed to undermine the teaching of a fundamental of modern science, the theory of evolution.
Later, there’s this:
Brecheen’s Senate Bill 554 actually encourages the teaching of evolution – but in a way his critics say is designed to tear it down rather than reinforce it.
“It’s very slickly written,” said Victor Hutchison, a retired University of Oklahoma zoology professor who tracks such legislation. “But it includes comments from the creationism crowd that you recognize if you’re familiar with these things.”
At the end of the story, the World turns to Hutchison — the retired zoology professor — for religious insight. (Yes, that loaded language is intentional.) The final paragraphs:
But Kern’s and Brecheen’s bills state that they are not intended to promote a religious viewpoint.
“That’s ridiculous,” Hutchison said. “These bills come primarily from people who are biblical literalists.”
He pointed out that most mainstream Christian denominations accept evolution.
“It comes down to the definition of science,” Hutchison said. “Religion has no place in a science course. It can, however, be taught in courses on religion.”
(More FYI: This is the spot in the post where I would have linked to the details on what constitutes a mainstream Christian denomination and the specific denominations that accept evolution, had this straight news story included such details. It did not.)
Your turn, GR readers: Does this piece suffer from loaded commentary? Or does this report fit under the heading of straight news story?
Comment away, but please, please, please stick to the journalistic issues.