Is AP ‘desperately seeking Pulitzers?’

In the latest print issue of the conservative Christian magazine World (which arrived in my mailbox a few days ago), editor-in-chief Marvin Olasky makes the case that The Associated Press is “desperately seeking Pulitzers” and relaxing its news standards in a way that will result in “more bias.”

Liberal bias, that is.

The top of Olasky’s column:

Some journalists will do anything to win one of the Pulitzer Prizes scheduled for announcement this year on April 16. The Associated Press has 243 news bureaus and lots of writers, but in the past 45 years the AP has won only four Pulitzers for articles. Even in their own home the writers have no bragging rights: AP during those 45 years has won 22 Pulitzers for photos.

From the AP perspective, Something Must Be Done. So what if AP traditionally performed the useful role of getting out lots of stories quickly? The way to win awards is to give more “perspective,” which typically means a move from reporting the news to propagandizing for liberal views. And AP is heading in that direction.

AP senior managing editor Michael Oreskes recently sent a memo to 3,000 AP staffers announcing “The New Distinctiveness.” He wrote, “AP wins when news breaks, but after an hour or two we’re often replaced by a piece of content from someone else who has executed something more thoughtful or more innovative.” He wants writers to follow up breaking news with more perspective—which means they’ll scratch their heads instead of pounding the pavement and working the phones to break the next story.

Coincidentally (or not), the AP this week claimed the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting for “spotlighting of the New York Police Department’s clandestine spying program that monitored daily life in Muslim communities, resulting in congressional calls for a federal investigation, and a debate over the proper role of domestic intelligence gathering.”

Olasky’s column interested me for a couple of reasons. First, of course, is my role as a media critic for GetReligion. Second, and more personal, is my past experience as a religion and enterprise writer with the AP, based first in Nashville, Tenn., and later Dallas.

Most of the column appears to be hidden behind a pay wall, but Olasky seems to make three main assertions:

• 1. More thorough and innovative reporting by AP is a bad thing.

More from Olasky:

Oreskes wrote that the AP is also “going to be pushing hard on journalism with voice, with context, with more interpretation.” He said AP will enter the business of “putting the dots together, adding two plus two and saying it equals four.” Or three. Or five. He wants “Thematic Thinking. We’re going to be much more aggressive in identifying themes off the news—angles the world is thinking about—and digging deeper.” He wants AP to be “refining our thinking and slightly resequencing our journalistic DNA.”

The AP editor’s elaboration on what “more interpretation” means did not make it into Olasky’s column:

This does not mean that we’re sacrificing any of our deep commitment to unbiased, fair journalism. It does not mean that we’re venturing into opinion, either. It does mean that we need to be looking for ways to be more distinctive and stand out in the field — something our customers need and want. The why and the how of the news are as crucial as the who, what, when and where.

Alas, much of the AP push for more complete, insightful journalism sounds strikingly familiar to the emphasis when I joined the wire service in Nashville a decade ago. In 2002, after nine years as a reporter and editor for The Oklahoman, I was burned out and ready for a fresh start.

At Oklahoma’s largest state newspaper, I had excelled as a beat reporter, covering everything from education to prisons to religion. My experience developing sources and digging below the surface on stories appealed to the AP. At the time, AP’s reporters were second to none on covering explosions and legislative hearings and rewriting member newspapers’ front-page stories — but they were less adept at “owning” second-day and long-term stories and crafting weekend enterprise pieces that could generate prominent play.

The change in AP philosophy has, as you might imagine, alarmed some of its newspaper customers, who prefer that AP stick to the nuts-and-bolts reporting to fill the bowels of their publications while their own reporters focus on the important stuff. The Poynter Institute’s Rick Edmonds notes:

A governance oddity for AP is that it’s a not-for-profit cooperative owned by its newspaper members at a time when American newspapers account for a progressively smaller share of its revenue. The big growth opportunities are in broadcast, digital, photo and international markets.

My own perspective: I’d respectfully disagree with Olasky’s suggestion that AP reporters can’t pound the pavement, work the phones and take their journalism to the next level.

• 2. Liberal bias and political correctness afflict AP reporting.

Olasky cited a review of AP stories that he and three interns performed last summer:

The AP reports were not balanced, and it would be silly to expect them to be when mainstream journalists see opponents of homosexuality as defenders of social cancer. No one sees the need to balance news of a new anti-cancer drug with statements by pro-cancer proponents. But AP’s liberal bias on political and economic questions was also evident. AP often tells the story of person A, who has a problem, and person B, the bureaucrat or politician who purports to have a solution. AP typically forgets about person C, the one paying taxes so that the politician can get credit for sending aid to person A.

I have not attempted a full-scale review of AP reports on the aforementioned issues. I read a lot of AP news stories that impress me with their fairness and thoroughness. In other cases, I am frustrated by AP stories that need work, both in terms of their journalistic completeness and balance. Often, we here at GR highlight ways in which specific AP stories fall short and could be improved.

• 3. Mainstream journalism, and specifically AP, need more reporters with a conservative worldview.

From Olasky:

In February 2011, I interviewed Tom Kent, AP’s deputy managing editor and standards editor, and asked him about studies showing that conservatives are rare in major mainstream news organizations and conservative Christians nowhere in sight. Kent responded, “I don’t see this as an issue because we don’t focus on it. There are people whom I’ve worked with for 20, 30 years, and I don’t know how they vote. That would not be useful information for me to know.”Kent is an honorable man, but it seems to me that the lack of discussion indicates this should be an issue: When an organization includes a diversity of views, people know it.

In my time with AP, I never felt my colleagues were biased. In fact, the notion that anyone had an agenda — outside of breaking news and writing important stories — is laughable. Given my conservative Christian background, I came up with story ideas that no one had pursued before — and my editors welcomed them. I won a number of internal AP reporting awards and even wrote a primer on beat reporting distributed on the wire service’s internal website.

But was I in a minority as far as my personal worldview? Probably.

From conversations with other AP writers — and this is a totally unscientific figure — I’d say 80 percent or more of my colleagues leaned progressive on political and social issues. Al Gore was brilliant. George W. Bush was an idiot. You get the idea.

From that perspective — and this isn’t exactly breaking news if you’ve read GetReligion for any length of time — AP and other mainstream media giants certainly could use more journalists with a different worldview. Not to be advocates, mind you, but to make sure the newsroom better reflects the society as a whole.

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About Bobby Ross Jr.

Bobby Ross Jr. is an award-winning reporter and editor with a quarter-century of professional experience. A former religion editor for The Oklahoman and religion writer for The Associated Press, Ross serves as chief correspondent for the The Christian Chronicle. He has reported from 47 states and 11 countries and was honored as the Religion Newswriters Association's 2013 Magazine Reporter of the Year.

  • R9

    Could getreligion benefit from more different worldviews too? ;-)

    (Yes I know you’re not news but rather commentary on news. Point still stands, if the goal is to get religion comprehensively, and not just get it right by the standards of traditional christians)

    Anyway tho I get the impression there just aren’t that many conservative types going into the profession in the first place? Is that just because they perceive it as hostile. Or is there something essential to how journalism works that appeals more to the liberal mindset?

    And, well, how do you change that situation?

  • R9

    (okay I’m slightly sorry for making that little jibe as I thought this was a very reasonable post)

  • http://www.brandondutcher.blogspot.com Brandon Dutcher

    As a fellow Oklahoman who has read Bobby’s stuff for years I can attest that he’s a real pro, so I’m hesitant to push back. But Bobby, I must respectfully submit:

    A reporter leans left (Gore is brilliant, Bush is an idiot, etc.), but that’s merely a “personal worldview”? And it’s not only wrong but “laughable” to suspect bias or agenda journalism? On the contrary, it seems to me that it’s laughably naive not to suspect it. Not that we should expect bias from a reporter covering an apartment fire or something, but on the “important stories” how can “personal worldview” not inform story selection, narrative framework, choice of sources, and so on. “Reporters and editors really are only human, which means they bring all their biases and life experiences to their stories,” Bernard Goldberg says. “The way reporters and editors see the world, the way their friends and colleagues see the world, matters. … News, after all, isn’t just a collection of facts. It’s also how reporters and editors see those facts, how they interpret them, and most important, what facts they think are newsworthy to begin with.”

    As Douglas Wilson says, “It makes a difference whether Moses or Jeroboam writes the history curriculum.” And it makes a difference who writes the first draft of history.

  • http://getreligion.org Bobby Ross Jr.

    tmatt had an excellent take on this issue of newsroom diversity in 2008.

    That post got at some of the questions raised above:

    I was quoting a 2004 report from the Pew Research Center that focused on the lack of diversity in American newsrooms. I cited religion as one example of the cultural problems affecting many newsrooms, problems also linked to — cough, cough — social class. The people at the Project for Excellence in Journalism were worried that American journalism was becoming more and more detached from the lives of readers.

    You can see that in the quote, right? The problem is that it sounds like I think the solution is hiring more evangelicals. That might help, but only if those evangelicals are real journalists. This is where I wish that French had included what I thought was The Big Idea of our interview, which is that journalism will be improved by people who love it, not people who hate it. More Christian colleges and universities need to create real journalism programs that are rooted in a respect for the crucial role that the press is supposed to play in American life and public discourse.

    Oh, and what about the flip side of that? Does the press also need to respect the role that religious groups play? Does the press need to “get religion”? You need to ask that?

  • http://getreligion.org Bobby Ross Jr.

    Could getreligion benefit from more different worldviews too? :-)

    I’m from the Church of Christ, so the Orthodox/Lutheran/Episcopalian/evangelical viewpoints represented by my fellow GetReligionistas impress me as different. :-) Seriously, you ask a fair question, one probably better answered higher up the food chain than me.

  • http://getreligion.org Bobby Ross Jr.

    Not that we should expect bias from a reporter covering an apartment fire or something, but on the “important stories” how can “personal worldview” not inform story selection, narrative framework, choice of sources, and so on.

    If your apartment was the one on fire, you might consider it an “important story.” But I digress … :-)

    I think tmatt nailed it above: You need journalists who love journalism and respect the role it plays in public discourse. When I was in secular journalism, regardless of what I thought about a particular political race, my job was to report fairly and accurately. I covered Democrats and Republicans alike and maintained an independent detachment. I covered executions at the state penitentiary in Oklahoma and did my best to treat those carrying out the capital punishment and those demonstrating against it with equal fairness.

    My goal was for someone on the left, on the right and in the middle to be able to read my stories and have no idea where I personally might stand. Generally, my editors and I were confident we had done our jobs when everybody was upset with us.

    I do agree that it makes a difference who writes the first draft of history, which is why I wholeheartedly support diversity in newsrooms (not just in color but in religious and political beliefs).

  • sari

    My goal was for someone on the left, on the right and in the middle to be able to read my stories and have no idea where I personally might stand.

    Your mouth to G-d’s ears, Bobby. Would be wonderful to see or hear or watch.
    R9:

    Could getreligion benefit from more different worldviews too? ;-)

    Bobby:

    I’m from the Church of Christ, so the Orthodox/Lutheran/Episcopalian/evangelical viewpoints represented by my fellow GetReligionistas impress me as different.

    But not as much as those who aren’t Christian at all.

    It would be nice to hear commentary from religion journalists who are atheist or non-Christian.

  • geoconger

    Would not the Episcopalian count as an “atheist or non-Christian” in GetReligion’s reporting stable?

  • http://getreligion.org Bobby Ross Jr.

    Excellent point, George! :-)

  • Harris

    Let’s also be clear that this has been a difficult point for Olasky. The one interesting publication he helped launch — Patrol Magazine — did not turn out exactly as planned. In part, because there was a confusion between being conservative and a journalist, and being a conservative journalist, a person of advocacy.

    Underneath, I wonder if part of the problem is that journalism at its core embodies certain attitudes that are perceived as “liberal” in this climate, notably the consideration of all sides, and so a sort of tolerance. For young conservative writers interested in advocacy or changing culture, the door to journalism seems like selling out, that the better path would be in say, law. (I would think something of the same dynamic is also at work when it comes to entry into the teaching field, as well).

  • http://www.brandondutcher.blogspot.com Brandon Dutcher

    Bobby: You’ve explained beautifully how you operate. But I think it’s unwise to assume that someone with a faulty worldview — indeed, someone whose heart is “desperately sick” and whose mind is “enmity against God” — should be expected to operate that way.

  • carl jacobs

    More Christian colleges and universities need to create real journalism programs that are rooted in a respect for the crucial role that the press is supposed to play in American life and public discourse.

    Why does a journalist need a degree in journalism? What is the core body of professional knowledge at the center of journalism? I have always suspected that it is more important for a journalist to know the subject matter that he covers; that the best preparation for a journalist is a wide knowledge of the Liberal Arts plus active work on a newspaper, and specialized knowledge in a particular field. In other words, if you want to cover economics, then study economics. If you want to study religion, then study religion.

    The Journalism degree has always struck me as a gate-keeping device more than a professional credential. I am willing to be persuaded that I am wrong, but the professionalization of Journalism is a late development. If so, then Christian colleges are already producing potential journalists. As with teaching, it is much more important to know the subject matter than to know the method. Then you won’t have journalists who write in print that Augustine, First Archbishop of Canterbury debated Pelagius on Free Will. (True story.)

    And for the record, a lot of us do have a great deal of respect for the role that journalism is supposed to play in public life. We are worried about the collapsing economic model that sustains journalism. What we don’t respect is the transparent ideological nature of modern journalism and its thin pretense of objectivity.

    carl

  • carl jacobs

    That should have been …

    If you want to cover religion, then study religion.

  • http://getreligion.org Bobby Ross Jr.

    Carl,

    So journalists don’t need professional training? They can study the important stuff and pick up journalism on the side? Not sure I can embrace that point of view.

    I do know great journalists who didn’t study journalism. But in almost all cases, they demonstrated their love for journalism and gained valuable experience by working on campus newspapers, gaining internships and otherwise paying their dues in the trenches.

    As for Augustine debating Pelagius, amazingly enough, that fact has never come up in the thousands of articles I have written in a 22-year career. I’m not certain it’s essential for me to be able to recite the history there to be a competent journalist. What is crucial is that I know how to report/research, to consult with experts whose job is to know that detail and be able to report that fact accurately if it ever comes up. A liberal arts education is wonderful, but so is the intelligence and journalistic understanding of how to become an instant expert on almost any given subject.

  • http://getreligion.org Bobby Ross Jr.

    Bobby: You’ve explained beautifully how you operate. But I think it’s unwise to assume that someone with a faulty worldview — indeed, someone whose heart is “desperately sick” and whose mind is “enmity against God” — should be expected to operate that way.

    Brandon,

    As a Christian, I may believe someone has a faulty worldview. As a journalist, I know only that they have a different worldview. That philosophical distinction make sense?

    Will I see you at the Oklahoma SPJ banquet tonight?

  • carl jacobs

    Bobby Ross Jr.

    So journalists don’t need professional training?

    I didn’t say that. I asked a very specific question. What is the core body of knowledge within Journalism that justifies building a degree program around the discipline? What must you learn in J-School that is essential to being a Journalist? It is after all a recent historical development. How long has it been since journalists did not go to school to become journalists? The fact that you know people who became great journalists without a Journalism degree helps my case. I don’t know any Engineers who don’t possess formal education in the subject.

    Journalism strikes me as similar to education. My wife home-schooled our kids through Middle school. She has a BA in Chemistry, and she did a great job. (That noise you just heard was the Teacher’s Union gnashing its collective teeth.) The proof is in the performance our children in HS. She didn’t need all those method classes. I know many teachers who have told me that their educational method classes were a complete waste of time. That they would have been better prepared to teach if they had spent more time learning the subject they intended to teach. An educational degree is much more about ideological formation than teacher formation. If you are looking for reasons why journalists are becoming more detached from their readership, perhaps you might look at the way journalists are formed in Universities. You might look at whether ideological filtering that is being tacitly imposed.

    I’m not certain it’s essential for me to be able to recite the history there to be a competent journalist.

    The subject of Pelagiius certainly came up in my hometown newspaper, and it has become my favorite example of Journalistic ignorance. Saying that Pelagius debated the First Archbishop of Canterbury is analogous to saying that Martin Luther King nailed the 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg. There is a whole school of (heretical) thought in Christian history called Pelagianism spawned by Pelagius. There is also an offshoot called Semi-Pelagianism, which is a close cousin to the Arminianism of most modern evangelical Christians. There are still Pelagians around today. Confer with Brother Jed Smock and his Campus ministry of angry shouting confrontation. His Pelagianism is why he could say things like “I haven’t sinned in 10 years.” (I heard him say that with my own ears.) How does a reporter cover this man without knowledge of Pelagius? This kind of knowledge all seems fundamental to me.

    journalistic understanding of how to become an instant expert on almost any given subject.

    There is no way to become an instant expert on any given subject.

    carl

  • Jay

    Bobby,

    I think you are going too easy on your former employer — and this is not just because they turned me down for a job decades ago.

    The consistent bias of the AP is not in dispute. For example, James Taranto on the WSJ runs 3-4 examples a month in his column, usually when AP’s “Accountability Journalism” means holding one side accountable but not the other.

    This is not that different than the rest of what right-wingers call the MSM. As Daniel Orkent famously wrote: “Is the New York Times A Liberal Newspaper? Of course it is.”

    The different is that the AP is the only surviving straight news service in the US. It’s supposed to serve all its owner-customers, not just the liberal ones. That calls for more of a “just the facts” approach than a Woodstein-inspired hunt for scandal and prizes. But as Olasky notes, that’s not what the AP employees want to do.

    Although UPI is gone, Reuters (and to some degree Bloomberg) also have news services on the web that seem to do better on the objectivity thing. What strikes me in comparing Reuters and AP is the parochialism: AP is written from a liberal American point of view (ala CBS), while Reuters seems to believe that multiple points of view need to be considered outside the US context.

    If this means reporting “Western nations accuse Iran of developing nuclear weapons, a charge the country denies” then so be it. Balance is a small price to pay for getting news rather than opinion-masquerading-as-news.

    Jay

  • http://getreligion.org Bobby Ross Jr.

    There is no way to become an instant expert on any given subject.

    There are a million ways to become an instant expert on a million different subjects. Not a Ph.D.-level expert, granted. But expert enough to write a fair, competent daily newspaper or wire service story in a matter of hours, certainly.

    That’s not to devalue the importance of experience. Part of experience as a journalist is learning how to become an expert. That means knowing which questions to ask, what context is important, how to avoid land mines. It’s why a reporter with 20 years of experience is more competent, in most cases, than one fresh out of college.

  • http://getreligion.org Bobby Ross Jr.

    Jay,

    Thanks for the WSJ link. The one concerning AP relates to a former Washington bureau chief who is no longer there.

  • MJBubba

    Bobby, I am not convinced. There are dozens of engineers, planners and environmental scientists of my acquaintance, most of whom are great journalists. The first chapter of every Environmental Assessment or EIS is essentially the report summary of an investigation into current conditions at some location, and then giving the rationale as to what triggered the investigation in the first place. None of these people went to journalism school, but I would trust any one of them to do a better investigation than what I routinely see in the professional journalism that comes my way.
    I can see your point about sources to pursue if you want to quickly come up to speed at a base level of competency to tell a story about some arcane topic. However, do not confuse that with “become an instant expert.” And, I agree with Carl that no degree in journalism is needed to learn how to quickly identify good sources of information.
    I also agree with Carl about the low estate of journalism regarding progressive outlook, and how this is making the problem of the declining quality of religion coverage worse.

  • sari

    Agree with carl and MJB.

    There are a million ways to become an instant expert on a million different subjects. Not a Ph.D.-level expert, granted. But expert enough to write a fair, competent daily newspaper or wire service story in a matter of hours, certainly.

    No, Bobby. One has to have more than a passing acquaintance with most subjects to know which questions to ask and which answers are relevant. A small percentage of reporters can competently assimilate, collate, analyze and present vast amounts of data in short periods of time. The rarity of well-written, well-researched articles suggests that most cannot. I see this as bigger than liberal/secular/Democratic bias, since the same problems are present across the board, independent of topic.

    carl, perhaps the answer is to require journalists to obtain a double major as a requirement of their degree or to make journalism a minor only, combined with hands-on work (e.g., campus or local papers, freelance). Education is moving in that direction and with good results.

  • http://getreligion.org Bobby Ross Jr.

    Re: instant expert. I stand by my statement. I speak from 20-plus years of experience in the practice of actual journalism.

  • carl jacobs

    sari

    perhaps the answer is to require journalists … to make journalism a minor only, combined with hands-on work

    This makes a lot of sense to me. Those are my own thoughts as well. I suspect that Journalism Schools (and by extension journalism degree programs) are more seminary than university. The ideological homogenization of the newsroom didn’t happen by accident. It was caused. It was intentional.

    carl

  • R9

    I imagine the ideological homogenization is more a factor of what sort of people wish to go into the profession in the first place.

  • sari

    Re: instant expert. I stand by my statement. I speak from 20-plus years of experience in the practice of actual journalism.

    And from my 50+ years as a Jewish person, I stand by mine. Y’all may Get Christianity in its various forms, but y’all have also demonstrated a real lack of understanding of the underpinnings of my faith: it’s history, the basic differences between the denominations, the vocabulary, the way it differs from Christianity, etc. Religion is complex and varied, yet the assumption seems to be that all operate the same way–kind of similar to the way liberals of different faiths blithely declare, “We all believe in the same G-d.”

  • Cheryl Bacon

    This is a fascinating discussion, and in perusing it I’ve worked hard at not being insulted by it. As chair of a nationally accredited journalism program at a Christian university, I would be the first to agree that most journalism programs focus more on skills than on a body of knowledge in the traditional sense. This in no way should diminish the importance or validity of journalism as an academic discipline, nor does it imply we have no body of knowledge.
    Are journalists in the academy “newcomers”? Well, compared to Pelagius, yes. But with more than 100 years behind us I believe the tradition of preparing students to gather information thoroughly so they can tell true and important stories objectively and in an aesthetically pleasing fashion not only has merit, it continues to be a critical part of our cultural checks and balances.
    The expansion of the field into the digital world makes this even more important today than it has been in decades past. The journalism graduate today should have a grasp of theory, design, media history and law. She must understand developing forms of media and must embrace technology. She must be an excellent writer, yes. But the world has many fine writers who could never be journalists.
    Accredited JMC programs are required to include 80 hours outside the major, 65 of which must be in the arts and sciences. One of the most active discussions at recent meetings of journalism educators has been whether this should be broadened to provide for more training in business or engineering. I would say yes, but not to the exclusion of the liberal arts and sciences, only to better prepare journalists for the work and world ahead.
    We do have an occasional student who has chosen to pursue a narrowly focused specialty as a journalist such as science or medicine. In those instances a strong case can be made for a journalism minor and lots of hands on student media/internship experience paired with a major in the sciences.
    The vast majority of our grads, however, need to be broadly educated so they can become that “instant expert” en route to the story or on deadline. To do so requires substantial skill. The general assignments reporter, whether for print, broadcast or online, could not anticipate every subject she will cover in her first years of work. If by some sort of magic and foresight she could do so, she would be forced to spend decades in higher education in order to master the dozen or more bodies of knowledge that might be relevant.
    The dialog began here regarding the objectivity and validity of the Associated Press. Bobby Ross has addressed that topic far more capably than I could. I will only add my Amen to his observations. Among major media my sense it that the AP brings a measured objective perspective most of the time. Could it be better, no doubt. But the solution will not be to educate more young Christians to become journalists with an agenda. We would not improve the lot of American journalism if we inverted the aforementioned “Gore is brilliant, Bush is an idiot,” mentality to some contemporary opposite of same. Instead I want my graduates to ask hard, important questions of both. And they won’t get that opportunity if along the way they didn’t learn to ask hard, important questions of the firefighter, landlord and former occupant of that burned out apartment, even if the body of knowledge they acquired in J-school did not include architecture, social work or real estate law.

  • http://getreligion.org Bobby Ross Jr.

    Thank you for your excellent insight and articulation of your points, Dr. Bacon.

  • MJBubba

    Dr. Bacon, have you placed any graduates with the AP? What do they think?
    Would you say that your graduates have any special difficulty finding work in big media journalism because their degree is from a Christian university?

  • Cheryl Bacon

    MJBubba,
    AP is seldom an initial job placement, but I know of two alums who have been with AP. There may be others. One is chief golf writer, so I doubt too many issues easily labeled by ideology cross his beat. The other I have lost contact with.
    “Big media journalism” can be classified in so many different ways, so I’ll just offer a sample. We have graduates with The Daily in New York, in TV in Dallas, Kansas City, Oklahoma City, and formerly in Houston, Chicago, and in Washington, D.C. covering the White House. We have one grad with NPR in Nashville and another in public TV in Reno. I think the largest daily where we currently have an alum on staff is the Houston Chronicle. The vice president of CBS Sports is an ACU grad. I’ve probably overlooked some others.
    The size and location of our university is probably a bigger deterrent to some “big media” locations than having Christian in our name. We will have seven SPJ Region 8 winners in national contests this year. Students do good work, get good internships, and get good entry level positions.

  • MJBubba

    Dr. Bacon, thanks. It sounds like you have a high-quality program. I am sure that your graduates gain a lot of useful practice and information and understanding through their participation in your program.

  • Cheryl Bacon

    Bobby and MJBubba,
    Thanks for the affirmation. We try. It’s hard. But it’s important.

  • sari

    Ms, Bacon,
    Do you believe that your students leave your university equipped to report on religions not their own? How much exposure do they have to people of other faiths while living on campus or in the surrounding community? Does your university offer courses in the anthropology and sociology of religion or religion courses on non-Christian faiths?

  • Cheryl Bacon

    Sari,
    Some are and some are not. Courses in anthropology and sociology and world religions are offered but not required. The student body is, as you’d expect, predominantly Christian. We do have international students from more than 60 nations and many of them are not Christian but the amount of exposure will vary dramatically among students. In that regard, the campus is more diverse than the surrounding community.
    As with politics, science, business and other fields, they must learn a lot as they report — that is afterall what reporting should be. My goal is not to make them religion reporters. If that is their goal then we would help them choose a support field and electives to prepare for that specialty.

  • MJBubba

    Dr. Bacon, many thanks for your responses here.
    I think all us regular followers of GetReligion would welcome your thoughts on a variety of posts.

  • http://liberalbias.com liberal bias

    Great article! Keep up the good work!


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