Let’s conduct a little journalistic experiment here at GetReligion.
First, watch the embedded video from CNN on a father’s vigil for his injured son. Then, read the story below the video on the CNN Belief Blog.
(Take all the time you need. I’ll be here when you get done.)
OK, finished watching and reading? Did you notice any difference between the two reports? The difference between night and day maybe?
The video report, by veteran CNN correspondent Brian Todd, contains powerful visual images of a boy in a medically induced coma and the father planted by his bedside. What the report, nearly three minutes long, lacks is any mention of the family’s faith. There’s absolutely no reference to God or prayer or the reason for the father’s hope. The piece is haunted by the kind of holy ghosts that inspired this weblog’s creation.
Then there’s the written report, with a double byline for Eric Marrapodi and Todd. Marrapodi, as you may recall, is a religion-beat specialist at CNN. Think Godbeat pros don’t make a difference on a story like this? Think again.
Here’s the headline on the story:
From tornado to hospital, prayer sustains Missouri family
See what just happened? We went from a generic “vigil” on the video to a religious family praying.
The top of the story:
Joplin, Missouri (CNN) – It’s quiet here. The only sound in the hospital room is the steady hum of a ventilator pushing air into Lage Grigsby’s lungs. It’s a stark contrast to the haunting noise of Sunday’s Joplin tornado, which put him here.
Lage’s father, James Grigsby, sits by his 14-year-old son’s bedside anxiously keeping vigil, praying and hoping his boy will pull through OK. Lage is in a medically induced coma.
There’s that P-word again (praying) way up high.
Keep reading, and we hear from the boy’s grandmother about what happened in the Home Depot parking lot that day:
They watched as orange shopping carts took flight.
“I turned around and pushed my grandkids down to the floorboard,” she said. “I kept telling them, ‘We need to pray. God’s going to take care of us.’ ”
The windows in the truck shattered, sending glass flying into Lillard’s back. She bit her tongue; she didn’t want to scare her grandchildren.
“Then all of a sudden we felt the truck go in the air.”
“All I kept saying was ‘God protect us,’” Lillard said. “Because that’s all we had was God to protect us. We didn’t know what was going to happen.”
There’s another Godbeat word — used three times, by my count. “The Lord” makes an appearance in a quote later in the story.
The written report ends this way:
Through the pain and anxiety, Grigsby said his faith remains firm. The family regularly attends the Church of Christ in Neosho.
“We’re a very Christian-bound family,” Grigsby said. Lage, who has four siblings, is active in the Royal Rangers, a Christian version of the Boy Scouts.
“The hard part about this is I know God’s hand has been in this and works through this,” Grigsby said. “He is here and is at least with us at this point.”
Grigsby says he praying for his neighbors, too.
“I know there’s probably people out there who are going to be disheartened by this– I got to keep my son and they may not have,” he said. “I’m one of the lucky ones.”
Now, except for referring to the Church of Christ in Neosho — where there are at least three Churches of Christ — that’s powerful stuff. The last quote is used in the video, but the part about faith, “Christian-bound family” and God is totally absent.
It makes me curious: Did the generalist go do one interview and then the Godbeat pro go do another one? Or did the two reporters produce vastly different accounts of the same interview? Am I missing something here? Is there a reason for one report to ignore the religion angle entirely?
Anyway, I’ll pose my original questions again: Did you notice any difference between the two reports? The difference between night and day maybe?