Painful silences in CBS chat on same-sex marriage rulings

OK, follow me carefully here, because it is especially interesting who passed the following item news along.

I read quite a few Catholic blogs, and follow the headlines at New Advent, but I had never heard of the self-proclaimed conservative Catholic blogger/geek who uses “Da Tech Guy” as his cyber-persona. However, this particular blogger recently offered up an interesting analysis of a not-so-shining moment in the long, distinguished career of reporter/anchor Bob Schieffer at CBS News.

More on the content of that post in a moment.

The key, for me, was that I learned about this post by seeing — via Twitter — a post by Deacon Greg Kandra, who runs the excellent “The Deacon’s Bench” blog, which is part of the whole Patheos Catholic blogosphere. The good deacon ran his post under this rather GetReligion-esque headline:

Great Moments in Journalism: Wherein Bob Schieffer Learns a Thing or Two About Gay Marriage

Now that’s a bit snarky, especially as a comment by a Catholic clergyman.

However, at that point it’s crucial to know a little bit about this deacon and his interests in all things journalism. His current online mini-bio hits the basics:

Deacon Greg Kandra is a Roman Catholic deacon serving the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York. A veteran broadcast journalist, Deacon Greg worked for 26 years as a writer and producer for CBS News in both New York and Washington. He now serves as the Multimedia Editor of Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), overseeing editorial content for its acclaimed magazine, ONE, and its award-winning blog, ONE-TO-ONE. For his work in broadcasting, Deacon Greg has been honored with every major award in the industry, including two George Foster Peabody Awards, two Emmy Awards, the Christopher Award and four awards from the Writers Guild of America.

In other words, Kandra knows a thing or two about CBS News and what goes on in elite broadcast journalism organizations. Also, he made it clear, as he passed along the Schieffer item, that he was not trying to bash the journalist. Still, he thinks this particular broadcast offered sharp insights into the mindset of elites in this level of newsroom.

Now, Bob Schieffer is one of the most seasoned journalists still plying the trade — the only CBS News Correspondent to have covered the White House, State Department, Pentagon and Congress — and one of the few broadcasters who can claim deep roots in the world of print. (He was a reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram back in the day.) He’s a reporter’s reporter, with uncanny instincts, a Rolodex full of amazing sources, and a real talent for writing and interviewing.

I speak here from personal experience: he’s also a very nice guy.

This brings us back to the actual Da Tech Guy commentary, as passed along by the deacon. This is long, but includes transcribed material in italics from the Sunday broadcast:

There was a moment during Sunday’s victory lap on the News shows for gay marriage and its media allies who support it that was very telling. Bob Schieffer the oldest and fairest (and that’s not saying much) of the Sunday Morning Hosts in the MSM had just finished speaking with Ted Olsen and brought on Tony Perkins of the Family Research Counsel to talk the Gay Marriage Issue.

TONY PERKINS: … We’re already seeing bakers and florists and photographers forced to participate in same-sex marriages under the threat of law and in some cases even jail. I can’t think of anything that’s more un-American than that. So I think as Americans see that there’s a lot more to same-sex marriage than simply two people who love each other that they’ll have time to reconsider this and– and– and decide whether or not we want to trade fundamental freedoms of speech and religion for the right of two people who love each other, which they can do now. They can live together, but can they redefine marriage in the rest of society with it?

Now to us in Massachusetts and who have been following the ride of the tolerance police, those sentences are nothing extraordinary but Bob Schieffer had no idea what Tony Perkins was talking about.

BOB SCHIEFFER: How is it that bakers and florists are being forced to participate in this? I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying here.

Perkins then educates him.

TONY PERKINS: Well, we’re seeing in Washington State, Colorado, and some of the other states that have these anti– anti-discrimination statutes that are being imposed that when a same sex couple comes and says “I want you to take pictures of my wedding or I want you to bake a cake.” And they say, look, my religious convictions will not allow me participate in that, they’re literally being sued by the government, not the individuals, and they’ve even been adjudicated in such places as New Mexico. So we’re going to see a loss of religious freedom. There is no question about it. It’s already happening.

Schieffer seems to be totally caught off guard by this, as evidenced by his hesitation in the following question.

BOB SCHIEFFER: How many — how many lawsuits have been filed on that? Because I must say this is under my radar. I haven’t — I haven’t heard this.

Thus, there is this final summary quotation, with the bold words noted by Da Tech Guy:

TONY PERKINS: Well, you know, Bob, that’s a great point. Because the media’s not reporting on this because they realize there’s a lot more behind this than the marriage altar. It’s literally about altering the landscape of America. There are a number of suits. I mean just a few weeks ago in Colorado one was filed. So this is happening. And it’s the reality that people will come to face to face with over time because right now same-sex marriage is limited to twelve jurisdictions. And as more people see that their freedoms, the freedoms of parents to determine what their children are taught, to be able to live your life according to your faith, and all of that’s at risk here.

And the moral of this story? As I tell my journalism students, it’s very hard to cover a story when you don’t know that it exists. It’s even harder to cover a story when the existence of the story clashes, in some way, with your worldview and the dominant worldview of the professionals in the newsroom in which you work.

Right now, there are lots of journalists who simply do not see the potential religious-liberty complications — even after they are acknowledged by President Barack Obama and some liberal jurists — of the same-sex marriage revolution. These journalists don’t, on a regular basis, run into many people who know the arguments and the facts that are cited by articulate sources on the other side of the issue — which is a must for balanced, accurate coverage of this debate. Journalists need to listen to people on both sides.

Or, here is how Deacon Kandra put it, right after affirming that Schieffer is a pro’s pro and a great guy:

But he really should get out more.

Amen.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Suburbanbanshee

    Since UK and Canada news have also been full of similar cases where small businesses have been driven out of business for conscience issues like this, it’s especially strange that Schieffer would be totally unaware of such happenings.

  • Jake London
  • boinkie

    wait til they find out what the kids are now going to be taught in public schools. Ask someone from Massachusetts to tell you about that one…

  • DeaconJohnMBresnahan

    Sometimes you wonder if the media’s ignorance is simple ignorance or willful ignorance.

  • DaTechGuy on DaRadio

    I’m glad you found me, I hope you get a chance to find my Radio Show “DaTechGuy on DaRadio Saturday Noon till 2 on WBNW, WESO WPLM & FTR-Radio

  • Bob Smietana

    Two thoughts:

    Does no one at CBS get the emails from Perkins, or the Becket Fund or Alliance Defending Freedom or any other the other Christian legal groups?

    Perkins did neglect to say the bakery being sued in Colorado told a gay couple that it would not bake a cake for their wedding. When the couple called and said they were holding a wedding for 2 dogs and needed a cake, the bakery said sure. Which is why they got sued.
    http://www.aclu.org/blog/religion-belief-lgbt-rights/wedding-cake-fido-fluffy-not-dave-charlie

    • Sari

      Which suggests that every story has two sides.

      That’s what’s missing so often from this blog–the sense that there might be a *smidgen* of truth in mainstream media accounts or that some people use religion as an excuse for what would be, by any reasonable standard, bigotry.

      • Taylor

        Which is why we’re all glad to have you here to keep us in line

      • Jettboy

        Except that religious bigotry is a freedom given to us by the Bill of Rights. You might not like it, but its there.

    • Jettboy

      Missing the whole point. It is against their religion to support gay marriage. It isn’t against their religion for dogs to marry.

      • Ray Pastora

        If a male and female dog are being mated for life, then it falls within the confines of what is natural. Male and female dogs were designed (by nature or God, your pick) to mate with one another. A “marriage” between dogs is clearly a joke. The two animals aren’t the ones having the “ceremony” which is a human thing.

        A “marriage” between humans, who know better, is a different thing. Bigotry is an awfully big word to use over objections to behavior. I object to sex outside of the confines of marriage. I was guilty of it and society pushes it on everyone. But as a born again Catholic I see the error of my ways.

        I have a right to object to behavior and not be called bigoted. I object to heterosexuals shacking up without marriage. That doesn’t mean I hate heterosexuals and am a bigot. It means I object to a behavior.

        • UWIR

          “I have a right to object to behavior and not be called bigoted.”

          You have a right to say whatever you want and not be criticized for it? Wow, you sure are full of yourself.

          “Bigotry is an awfully big word to use over objections to behavior.”

          Is bigotry “an awfully big word” to use to refer to people who object to mixed-race marriages?

  • tmatt

    Sari:

    Please send me a URL for ANY post we have ever published that denies there are two sides to these stories. Any post that does not call for accurate, balanced reporting on the views of people on both sides of a hot-button story.

    One URL please.

    There is truth in MSM stories. Usually about half of the debate.

    • Bob Smietana

      Tmatt and Sari:

      To be fair, GetReligion writers do often ask for covering both sides. However, they at time assume that if one side is missing or if a story is less than flattering to one side, it is because the reporter is biased or blind to religion. For example, Joe Carter (who usually makes a good point) took the AP to task for missing “Hail Satan” at the Texas state house abortion bill protest. His post – http://www.patheos.com/blogs/getreligion/2013/07/could-it-be-satan-2/ – implied bias was at hand.

      But the facts did not support that implication. The “Hail Satan” protest happened a day after the AP story ran.

      Get Religion does important work. But there are consistent 2 blind spots to the site’s posts. One is the assumption that most flaws in a religion stories is due to the reporter not “getting religion.” The other, is that none of the writers on the site have any recent experience in a secular newsroom and so don’t understand the context of reporters are working on – in terms of time allotted to work on stories, space limitations, the hyperlocal focus on many editors, and the fact that news is a daily competitive business, where every story has to compete for space and reader’s attention. If a story gets clicks or creates a social media storm, it gets covered. The more clicks, the more coverage, whether a story “deserves” to be covered or not.

      • Sari

        What Bob said.

        I’ll add that none of GR’s bloggers are terribly knowledgeable about religions outside of their own and that at least a couple use GR as a platform to lobby for causes that they find important. The level of discourse has declined with the move and with what seem to be much looser standards of moderation.

        • Richard Mounts

          Sari,

          WOW! You KNOW that “none of the GR bloggers are terribly knowledgeable about religions outside of their own?” Your comment surely implies that you know.

          I freely admit that there are many things about religions other than my own (Catholic) of which I lack knowledge. Even your comments have taught me a few things about the Jewish faith I’ve missed despite my many years of Jewish-Catholic faith and worship interactions.

          Now you are free to tell the world I am ignorant of the facts of many religions. I’ll buy you dinner where you choose if you can show me anything written by the GR God-beat pros that was false, even inaccurate, about any religion under discussion in one of their posts, articles, etc.

          They may not be experts in every religion, they don’t really have to be. They just have to know enough to get right what particular religions think or believe about the subject of their report. And then only if the report includes that religion’s reaction to the topic at hand, or if they include something about that religion in the report.

          As for the charge that some GetReligionistas lobby for favorite causes…Mumm, I cannot really agree. Yes, there are topics that some white about often, but the point of the post is always about the journalism, not the topic per se. Some GR bloggers write about particular topics because they are major societal topics the MSM reports about often. MSM writes, GR blogs; seems simple enough.

          Just replyin’.

          • Sari

            You owe me dinner, Richard :>)

            tmatt, for assuming that only a Muslim would refuse a flight attendant’s request to sit down during prayer

            Bobby, for not recognizing that the reporters of the Oklahoman, a secular paper, used Christianspeak to describe a rabbi’s reading at prayer service after the tornado. And, for failing to recognize that each religion has its own definition of what constitutes a marriage (inviting religious clergy to view and comment on a movie).

            mollie, for posting a good article that “demonstrated the religious aspect of how Jews grieve” that was completely devoid of any religious content (really). And for the bazillion posts on the A-word which used non-loaded language like the Church of Planned Parenthood and baby murderers.

            Posts pertaining to the Women at the Wall have uniformly missed the big issues, because understanding this complicated situation requires some background knowledge of the religion in its major iterations and the players.

            Without a frame of reference, it’s hard to know what’s missing. So while we hear how this reporter or that has mangled basic tenets of Catholicism, for instance, and discussion of more arcane issues, the same cannot be said for basic knowledge of non-Christian faiths.

            Feel free to try and find the archived posts. With the transition to Disqus, it’s almost impossible.

            Just responding.

          • tmatt

            The flight attendant comment was certainly an oversight and I corrected it. That was not covered in my University of Illinois studies in trends in modern Judaism, for sure. We are also, I am sure you have noted, very open to publishing corrections.

          • Sari

            That’s my point, tmatt. The Amidah is not new or happening, but it’s also still the central part of most Jewish services–said three times daily within specified windows of time by most observant and at least a significant minority of Conservative Jews (a movement more recent than Reform). It *was* covered in my Intro to Judaism class at FSU (taught by the Ivy-educated uber-Reform son of a Reform rabbi from Oklahoma City), and observed on both overseas and long cross-country flights as well as at the airport in Newark. I suspect that you travel considerably more than I do, especially on the East Coast, so it’s hard to imagine that you’ve never witnessed this particular phenomenon.

            I have the feeling that at least some of you self-segregate in Christian journalistic enclaves, just as many here allege that the members of the secular media choose to associate only with liberal nones like themselves. I’d love to see y’all step outside your particular religious viewpoints and acknowledge the existence of other worldviews, even if they’re ones with which you vehemently disagree, to try to see the world through their eyes. It takes more than a single class to learn about and understand how others live.

            FWIW, my B.A. was in Anthropology, with an emphasis on religion (not mine).

          • MollieZHemingway

            “mollie, for posting a good article that “demonstrated the religious
            aspect of how Jews grieve” that was completely devoid of any religious
            content (really). And for the bazillion posts on the A-word which used
            non-loaded language like the Church of Planned Parenthood and baby
            murderers.”

            1) those are your quotes, right? I assume you’re referring to my compliments of the Jewish Daily Forward’s story on ONE MOTHER’s grieving? Except it can’t be since it wasn’t devoid of religious practice and was specific about some non-traditional Jewish grieving practices, to boot. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/getreligion/2012/12/remembrance-and-mourning-in-newtown/ Just because the mother was not Orthodox doesn’t mean that her religious interpretation was uninteresting. I thought the story was well done as a window into one family grieving the loss of a son at Newtown. Yes, they grieved differently than you or I might have.

            2) I have written extensively on the media’s horrible job of reporting on abortion. I’m rather proud of my work, your lack of support notwithstanding. You say I used “baby murderers” language. I can’t find it. As for the Church of Planned Parenthood posts, if anything I think I may have underplayed (see, for example, my substantive work laying out the problems with the coverage of everything from Komen on down to Wendy Davis).

            Thanks for reading, though.

          • Sari

            I referred to a story about how relatives of the French Jews shot at the Jewish school in Toulouse grieved their losses.

            “I particularly liked this Associated Press piece on how people are grieving the deaths. It does a great job of weaving religious practice into a brief update.”

            The link to the AP piece is no longer; neither are responses to your blogpost. But I remember posting that the piece was a great portrait of people grieving but included virtually nothing about Jewish custom, theology or beliefs pertaining to life, death or the afterlife. And though the families interviewed were observant, many of the customs and laws have been retained by members of less observant groups as well.

          • MollieZHemingway

            The responses are there. Yours were favorable at the time — although you wished that the AP had done a piece on Jewish customs. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/getreligion/2012/03/crying-lone-wolf-in-toulouse-killings/

            And my favorable comment isn’t at odds with what you wrote. I agree with what you wrote at the time — and the AP link I made light note of really was just a brief update with an even briefer mention of getting a body to Israel (that I thought a nice touch) — but I by no means thought it was comprehensive. It’s just that many stories about religious adherents dealing with a death contain *no* details such as that, and I was trying to find something to be positive about. And then I made a positive note about a CNN piece explaining why the dead were flown to Israel.

            I wouldn’t read too much into one link with a mildly favorable comment in a blog post, but, again, I agreed with what you wrote at the time (and you with me, at the time).

          • MollieZHemingway

            Is it bad form to mention that none of us are Roman Catholic?

          • FW Ken

            You originally had an RC on the staff, and I think he brought a touch that is sometimes missing. I don’t think you make huge errors, and I’ve never noticed anything prejudical against Catholics or the Catholic Faith.

          • Jettboy

            I would point out a few where knowledge of Mormonism was botched and there has been an agenda to deny Mormonism even the self-label “Christian,” but frankly I enjoy the conservative lean of this place. Its very refreshing and I would leave in a heart beat if that changed.

      • Kodos

        Bob:

        Wait a second. You say “If a story gets clicks or creates a social media storm, it gets covered.”

        Chicken or egg?

        Some of the recent GetReligion posts on the Texas filibuster were responses to the media storm created by the media. There’s no indication that people outside of Texas would have known about this event if the MSM hadn’t covered it with as much instantaneous vigor as they did. And this journalistic approach was conspicuously different from the belated MSM coverage of Kermit Gosnell’s trial. Two different “local” stories about abortion; two different levels of coverage by the MSM; two different timelines. Why?

        In my old journalism class the professor called this “agenda setting” — the media covers the stories they’ve decided are important enough to cover. And in the cases above and given the timeline of the coverage of each, it’s not clear to me that the coverage (or lack of coverage) of these stories was driven by audience interest. Instead, audiences were made aware of one by the MSM; the media firestorm followed, having been created and fanned by the MSM. By contrast, the MSM did not make the audience aware of the other; the firestorm among conservative bloggers forced the MSM to investigate. Which they did with a pointed lack of interest.

        I think some readers of GetReligion are reacting against the perceived bias of the blog posts. It’s true that many of these posts point out the “liberal” bias of the MSM. But this bias has been admitted by members of the MSM and can be easily documented. I don’t think this is the fault of the GetReligion writers.

        Since GetReligion is devoted to coverage of the MSM and not the alternative press, in my mind GetReligion is only guilty of pointing out that in stories about religion the MSM tends to fumble the coverage in one direction. I don’t think we should shoot these messengers nor censure these boys who are pointing out the emperor’s nakedness.

        Perhaps we might ask the GetReligion folks to devote more time to the alternative press? Particularly the alternative religious press? Perhaps the conservative press? How about Fox News? Maybe there are equally egregious examples of bad journalism there?

        • Bob Smietana

          Kodos:

          You make some good points. Pew just published a report showing that stories that seemed to support same sex marriage outnumber those that were against same sex marriage by 4-1.

          On the other hand, it’s likely been a long time since your journalism prof was in a newsroom. The days when the MSM could set the agenda for coverage are really over.

          • Kodos

            But aren’t the MSM still the gatekeepers for much of the news? Our local paper receives its national and international stories from AP. We don’t have reporters outside of the state.

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

        Is your argument, Bob, that GetReligion should give reporters a break because they only have time to produce crappy, one-sided journalism?

        As for “the more clicks, the more coverage,” that sounds strangely familiar to “if it bleeds, it leads” — not exactly a new notion, although you may be experiencing it for the first time in your career since joining a secular news organization in 2007.

        As for the rest of your laundry list of things that GetReligion writers allegedly “don’t understand,” I’m not certain any of that (time constraints, space limitations, hyperlocal focus, daily competitive business) is all that different from when I worked for The Associated Press in the early 2000s or The Oklahoman in the 1990s.

        Certainly, the media platforms have changed and evolved, and information travels faster than ever before, even as the lines have blurred between mainstream media and alternative forms of news. But journalism has always been a blood, sweat and tears kind of profession (read: overworked, underpaid soldiers doing the heavy lifting).

        Most of us at GetReligion are intricately involved in blogging, social media and other new forms of media that have hit secular newsrooms, so I’m not sure we’re as naive about the modern media world as you make us out to be.

        Alas, when our ignorance does show up despite our many years of experience in secular and religion journalism, I’d urge you to call us out with specific rebuttals to specific posts. That works better in my experience than broad generalizations based on your own faulty assumptions and blind spots.

        • Bob Smietana

          Hi Bobby:

          You know that I’ve got great respect for your work. And I am well aware of the experience that Get Religion writers bring to their work.
          Don’t give bad journalism a pass. Critique away. Just try for a few minutes to be aware of your own blinds spots.

          You’re right – I first started working in a secular newsroom in 2007 – which a lifetime ago — and before the recession which shook the newspaper biz to the core. It’s a different world than you experienced. It’s a vastly different world that it was almost 6 years ago.

          If you want to call me out, though, please get your facts right. My first secular byline in the Washington Post appeared in 2001 (for an RNS story). In addition to writing for them, I was holding down a fulltime editor gig, writing 4 books, a religion blog for 5 years, and writing cover stories for national religious magazines like CT, Sojourner, and US Catholic. I think I know a bit about the underpaid grunt work of journalism, since it’s been my profession since 1999. If you want to compare bylines – I’d be happy to.

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

            ***If you want to compare bylines – I’d be happy to.***

            Um, no thanks. No one beats a journalist in an ego contest. :-)

            Seriously, I’ve repeatedly praised your work with The Tennessean and will continue to do so. That is not the issue.

          • MollieZHemingway

            “Just try for a few minutes to be aware of your own blinds spots.”
            Never bad advice. I like to keep it in mind but I appreciate the reminder, too.

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