On Sunday, my congregation celebrated the Reformation rather gloriously. As one might expect for the day one commemorates the good news of the salvation of all sinners by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone, our pastor preached an amazing sermon. The organist pulled out all the stops. We even did the German Mass, which includes many, many hymns. But we didn’t sing “Salvation Unto Us Has Come.” And this disappointed me.
But for many political reporters, I guess all hymns sound alike. Or one could be forgiven for thinking that after watching what happened on Twitter yesterday. I was first alerted to the situation by the following Tweet from Yahoo!’s Chris Moody:
All the tweets that incorrectly said Cain sang “Amazing Grace” is the reason GetReligion.org exists and has a prosperous future.
He’s referring to a rather dramatic moment in a press conference from presidential candidate Herman Cain. I didn’t catch the event but apparently someone asked him to reprise his “Imagine There’s No Pizza” singing and he responded by saying he would sing but would sing about his faith. He sang “He Looked Beyond My Fault,” by Dottie Rambo.
You would think that “Amazing Grace” might be one of the only hymns that reporters would know, but I guess not. The phrase “amazing grace” was featured in the hymn he sang and I guess that threw reporters off, even though the hymn follows the tune of Danny Boy and, well, has completely different lyrics.
I liked this tweet from Reason‘s Mike Riggs, too:
I’m sure all those reporters who didn’t know what song Cain was singing are generally right about everything else.
Indeed, many reporters did mess this up. Here’s the lede of a story from Mother Jones, for instance:
GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain just finished up a 30-minute press conference at the National Press Club in DC by singing, at the request of the moderator, “Amazing Grace.”
A quick look at some of the other mistaken folks:
Talking Points Memo (also here and here). Time Magazine‘s Jay Newton-Small, retweeted by a Washington Post reporter. Bloomberg‘s Allison Fitzgerald. Ashley Lopez, reproductive rights reporter/blogger, Florida Independent. National Journal. Nico Hines of The Times (of London) Hotline‘s Tim Alberta. The Washington Blade‘s Chris Johnson. National Review‘s Robert Costa. Nevada political journalist Jon Ralston. Political Brief. Reporter Kevin Lincoln. Kyodo News‘ Benjamin Dooley. Joy Malbon of Canadian TV. Business Insider‘s Ryan Faughnder and media editor Glynnis MacNicol, although Business Insider writers corrected. Also here. The Week‘s Dan Stewart. This one has to hurt: CBN’s White House correspondent Jennifer Wishon (retweeted by a Greenwire reporter). And I’m assuming Rush Limbaugh got it wrong based on this tweet from a listener. Politico‘s first story on the singing misstated the name of the hymn but corrected it quickly enough.
Whoopsie! But not all reporters got it wrong. Here are some who got it right:
Chris Moody of Yahoo! news didn’t just tweet out props to GetReligion. He also got the name of the hymn right, mentioned that Cain released a Gospel album and understood that Cain frequently sings on the campaign trail. Weekly Standard blogger Michael R. Warren. After being informed by a public policy tweeter, Maddow producer Jamil Smith. Reuters op-ed editor James Ledbetter. And NPR’s “This American Life” storyteller David Dickerson.
The mistakes go back even further than yesterday’s press conference, however. ABC News put up a clip last week of Herman Cain singing the same hymn he sang yesterday. Their headline? “Herman Cain Sings Amazing Grace.”
A couple of reporters had fun pointing out the errors people made. Here The Atlantic‘s Rebecca Greenfield preaches on the sin of reporters and Cain in a piece headlined “Contrary to Popular Belief, Cain Was Not Singing Amazing Grace.”
And in a piece for Sunshine State News headlined “Media Call Wrong Tune: Herman Cain Wasn’t Singing ‘Amazing Grace’,” Kenric Ward writes:
Media outlets, including Politico, widely misreported the hymn that Herman Cain sang at the end of his appearance at the National Press Club Monday.
Reporters — few of whom have set foot in a church in years, if ever — reported that Cain was singing “Amazing Grace.” But they called the wrong tune.
It was, in fact, “He Looked Beyond My Fault,” whose melody, which Cain carried beautifully, sounds nothing like “Amazing Grace.”
Politico can only hope the sources for its “sexual harassment” expose — which Cain branded a “witch hunt” — know what they’re talking about.
Ouch. Completely unfair but seriously, do you even have to set foot in a church to know what “Amazing Grace” sounds like? And for people curious about the Politico story, here’s a link to it and to some media criticism of the story from ProPublica and Reuters’ Jack Shafer.