In three and a half years, I’ve written 439 posts for GetReligion (this makes 440, I believe). That ranks me No. 5 on the all-time GetReligionista list, with tmatt the Hank Aaron of GR at 3,139 and Mollie next at 2,015.
That’s a lot of posts.
And that’s a lot of opportunity to type a quick opinion on deadline and either not express it clearly enough or — in some cases — botch it altogether.
In a post this week titled “AP embraces cliches, labels in seminary prez profile,” I questioned the repeated use of the term “conservative” in a profile of Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. I noted that the term appeared seven times in the 800-word story — five times as an adjective.
My criticism drew this response from one reader on Twitter:
— Nick Liao (@nickliao) September 4, 2013
In the comments section of that post, GetReligion guru tmatt himself noted:
But, hey, conservative is accurate. Fundamentalist would have been inaccurate in this case. Smaller sins!
That prompted two replies from me.
The first (typed in defensive mode):
Maybe conservative is accurate.
But it’s overused and vague.
Better journalism would be to show, not tell, that someone is conservative.
The second (after a bit more reflection):
But the point — here and by a few folks on Twitter — is well taken that conservative is a term used by many Southern Baptists (such as Mohler) to describe themselves.
And in reviewing an SBC story I wrote for AP a decade or so ago, I noticed that I used the term about 11 times myself.
In general, I just found it frustrating that this story used a lot of signposts (such as “conservative”) without a lot of actual insight or reporting to provide any real depth to the story or the profile subject.
On our best days, GetReligion provides a venue for open, honest dialogue about media coverage of religion news. I know the comments here often benefit me as much as the posts. So thank you for reading. And for your excellent feedback.
Host Todd Wilken and I discuss the Mohler story on this week’s episode of “Crossroads,” the GetReligion podcast.
We also spend a few minutes discussing my post on “What NOT to teach a metro reporting intern.”
Click here to listen to the podcast. As always, the Oklahoma accent is free.
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