All we need is love

progressiaThis, from Tim Townsend at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Go Cardinals!), would have to be my favorite lead in a religion story this weekend:

In the end, the Edwardsville church and its bishop just couldn’t get along.

So after three years of increasingly ugly bickering, members of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church have asked a bishop across the river to take them under his wing. At least for a while, until things cool down — say, three to five years.

The church in Edwardsville says its bishop, Peter H. Beckwith of the Episcopal diocese of Springfield, Ill., a theological conservative, has refused to provide pastoral care. Things came to a head last year when Beckwith refused to confirm a lesbian, and, later, anyone at all at St. Andrew’s. In retaliation, two of the church’s eucharistic ministers — lay people who help the priest during communion — refused to accept the Eucharist from Beckwith.

In response, he stripped all 15 of St. Andrew’s eucharistic ministers of their licenses.

The story is really well-written and chock full of details. He puts the local story in perspective. It turns out that Bishop Beckwith was one of the American bishops who asked the Archbishop of Canterbury for different oversight after the recent election of a female to the post.

I do want to raise one point with the piece. Note how Townsend describes why the bishops asked for new oversight:

They were angry that the American church had elected a progressive leader, Katharine Jefferts Schori of Nevada.

Note how he describes why a plan for alternative oversight was developed:

To appease angry conservative congregations, the church’s House of Bishops developed a plan in 2004 that allowed disgruntled parishes to separate from their bishops and seek leadership elsewhere.

I am not sure if “angry” is the best word to describe the response of traditional Episcopalians to the doctrinal changes their church is undergoing. Not that they’re not angry — but some bishops have a doctrinal problem and are seeking a way to address it. It emphasizes an emotional response at the expense of a global theological rift.

Also note the unanswered quote from St. Andrew’s Rector Virginia Bennett about Ed Salmon of South Carolina, one of the potential alternative bishops they’ve asked for:

“We might not see eye to eye every day, but we need a bishop who would love us, and Ed would.”

Townsend is a great reporter. If a story is significant, he’ll look at it from different angles over days or weeks. I hope that in future coverage, he will let traditionalists respond to the idea that church discipline is not pastoral or loving.

Church discipline is a difficult issue to cover. If he covers it, I think Townsend will find many pastors say that discipline should be motivated by love and concern for an unrepentant sinner or congregation. In other words, pastors are so worried about their parishioners’ salvation that sometimes they take drastic action to bring the unrepentant sinners back to a right understanding.

It would be a shame if that action — apart from the theological difference at play here — were characterized solely as unloving, unpastoral or angry.

Sold on the Spirit

leonardandwifeReaders in Denver should be thankful for Eric Gorski, the wonderful religion reporter at the Denver Post. I’ve read and enjoyed him for years. Gorski never takes the easy road when describing complex religious ideas. Because he takes the time to understand nuance, his stories are much more fleshed out.

His editors gave him a lot of time and space over Columbus Day weekend to cover one local religious leader: Bishop Dennis Leonard of Heritage Christian Center. Since I hail from the Denver area, I’ve known more than a few people who were members of that megachurch.

Bank on God: storing up riches on earth,” the first story in the series, sets the stage for Bishop Leonard’s underlying theology of prosperity. Gorski speaks to theologians at various schools but also a number of current and former members of Heritage. It gives the reader a much more realistic view of how the theology filters down to the practical level. Gorski’s gift is balance — he speaks to members who talk about the benefits of tithing and he speaks to former members who dispute the claim that God is reciprocal.

The gospel of prosperity,” the second story, is a breathtaking expose of all the financial dealings of Bishop Leonard, his family members, and the church itself. I can’t imagine how much time Gorski spent interviewing countless players and establishing the story. Gorski spoke with multiple experts familiar with IRS law and did his best to reveal motivations of conflicting parties. This story exhaustively uncovers complex financial dealings and substantiates allegations well. Here’s the summary at the beginning of the piece:

Project Heritage, a nonprofit founded by the church, was faulted for squeezing too much profit out of a government program to help low-income families buy renovated homes. Leonard’s daughter-in-law and the daughters of the board chairman earned real estate commissions on the home sales, which the government flagged as a conflict of interest.

The lead real estate agent at the time said a Project Heritage executive told her to funnel half her commission income back to the nonprofit and pressure a lender to donate half his profits to a ranch for youths founded by Garret Leonard, the pastor’s younger son. The executive denied the former claim, and Garret Leonard called the latter charge “a lie from hell itself.”

While many of his church members live on the edge financially, Leonard enjoys a luxurious lifestyle, living in a $1.4 million home in the gated golf community of Castle Pines Village, driving luxury vehicles and vacationing at a condo in Mexico. The bishop also flew across the country on a multimillion-dollar church-owned jet, angering some church members, before it was sold.

The church became fertile ground for a sales networking business that involved Michele Leonard, the bishop’s third wife, and his elder son, Mark. They and other Heritage pastors recruited others in the church community to buy and sell wellness products for which they could earn extra income based on the sales of their recruits.

A board of elders that established Bishop Leonard’s salary was restructured, taking that decision away from church members. Leonard now sits on the church’s board of directors, and the church says an outside independent board sets his salary.

The portrait that emerges of Heritage Christian Center is a conflicting one. While preaching a gospel of wealth, Leonard also urges the faithful to give back: The church runs one of the city’s largest food banks, a “breakfast club” that prepares meals for the homeless in shelters and parks, a prison ministry that installed 26 satellite dishes in state prisons and an emergency outreach that clothed Hurricane Katrina evacuees.

Gorski easily could have written a hit piece that focused solely on the allegations of misdeeds. But he works overtime to get all sides to the story and paint the most balanced picture possible. He shows how Leonard, while he might make $750,000 a year or more, pastors a multiracial congregation and how his sermons counsel people. The $8 million jet that flew Leonard around might have been an example of an extravagant expenditure, but Gorski talks to the pilot who says he never saw such a frugal operation in 40 years of aviation.

In the end, that approach might make the piece all the more damning.

Still, he breaks down the problems in a Housing and Urban Development-financed project, including conflicts of interest, overcharging for homes, financial reporting problems, and kickbacks.

Keys To Financial Freedom WebMost reporters would just write a story about financial shenanigans. Gorski does that and more. By establishing a prosperity theology baseline, he more accurately and fairly presents the Leonard picture. He ends with this telling quote about Leonard and his sons from his first wife, Christine Jewett Robie:

“They truly live and believe that if you give you will get back,” said Jewett Robie, who lives in Boulder. “In a way, they’ve proven that. I don’t think everyone knows all of the story, what they go through. They work hours and hours. Church is a business.

“They run it like a business. And it’s been successful.”

The final piece focuses in on Leonard and his appeal. Gorski lets parishioners praise him and former parishioners raise questions about his financial dealings and theological depth.

The series is well worth reading, even this chart showing the differences between the way two churches govern themselves.

New York Times takes on First Amendment

church state 01Some newspapers win Pulitzers through tenacious reporting, excellent prose and productive teamwork. The New York Times, which truly is one of my favorite papers, sometimes wins its Pulitzers by wielding its institutional clout, pulverizing readers with story after story about some expansive issue — seemingly dictated by editorial fiat rather than reader interest.

Who else suffered through that laughably bad Augusta National Golf Club bombardment? Apparently then-editor Howell Raines decided that the greatest problem facing America in 2002 was the failure of Augusta National to admit women as members. Never mind that Augusta National is a private club in a free country and that women could and did play the course as much as they liked. Yep, we needed to be treated to 40-plus news stories, columns and editorials about the horrors facing wealthy folks in Georgia.

And then there was that cloying Race in America series in 2000. And yes, it won a Pulitzer. I kind of imagine the Pulitzer committee decided on the award as a means to get the Times to just stop with all the stories already.

Compared to those sanctimonious series, the four-parter that ran this week isn’t so bad. Sure, it’s a guns-blazing attack on the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, but what do you expect from the Times?

I kid, I kid. I kid because I love.

The breathlessly titled In God’s Name series examines how churches benefit from a historically liberal interpretation of the First Amendment. The first story, weighing in at almost 5,000 words, focuses on regulatory exemptions for religious organizations that run social services. Day two focused on rights of employees at religious organizations. The third installment was about revenue bond financing for religious groups. Part four is about the tax-exemption bounty that awaits members of the clergy. Part four made me want to ask my dad — a pastor — why we were so poor growing up. Seriously, if The New York Times is to be believed, my parents need to explain the powdered milk and hand-me-downs. While I talk to them, you can peruse all the articles, graphics and supporting multimedia here.

Business reporter Diana Henriques covers an incredibly interesting topic. It’s safe to say that the understanding of how the government treats religious entities has varied over time. I’m on record as someone concerned about government financing or support of any and all religious entities. We’ll look at the series in a few posts to see how well Henriques handled the weighty and complex questions. Here’s how she sets up her central thesis on day one:

In recent years, many politicians and commentators have cited what they consider a nationwide “war on religion” that exposes religious organizations to hostility and discrimination. But such organizations — from mainline Presbyterian and Methodist churches to mosques to synagogues to Hindu temples — enjoy an abundance of exemptions from regulations and taxes. And the number is multiplying rapidly.

Some of the exceptions have existed for much of the nation’s history, originally devised for Christian churches but expanded to other faiths as the nation has become more religiously diverse. But many have been granted in just the last 15 years — sometimes added to legislation, anonymously and with little attention, much as are the widely criticized “earmarks” benefiting other special interests.

Now, maybe it’s just my economics background, but is the story here the expansion of the First Amendment or the overwhelming expansion of regulation? It means nothing at all that there is an increase in exemptions for religious organizations without knowing how many additional regulatory burdens there are overall! In other words, if there are 2,000 additional regulations facing all nonprofit organizations and 200 additional exemptions for churches written into legislation (anonymously! gasp! and with little attention! gasp!), then that’s a net of 1,800 additional regulations on churches. I don’t know what the actual numbers are, but all I could think of while reading the piece was how regulatory burdens have increased exponentially in the last 50 years.

Because of the increase in regulations, I would be surprised if the government did not write a significant number of exemptions for religious organizations — if only to keep on the right side of the law. And Henriques’ shady comparison of earmarks — directly funneling money to specific people — with the lifting of regulatory burdens is choice, if I may borrow a word from my childhood.

I find it incredibly funny that the solution the Times envisions for a disparity between regulatory burden for churches and other groups is to jack up regulations on nonprofits. I don’t think Henriques talked to a single person — even though there are many who would have loved to make this point — who said that they believe American businesses, nonprofits and individuals are drowning in a flood of regulations.

establishment clauseEither way, when dealing with a contentious topic, reporters should be careful to source everything:

The changes reflect, in part, the growing political influence of religious groups and the growing presence of conservatives in the courts and regulatory agencies. But these tax and regulatory breaks have been endorsed by politicians of both major political parties, by judges around the country, and at all levels of government.

That’s the paper of record, folks. How come my editors never let me write broad and unsubstantiated statements such as these? I feel like the standards should be lower for me than for flashy Times reporters.

She hammers the idea that religious exemptions cost society. While churches don’t pay property taxes, for instance, they are served by police departments. (Let’s not hold our breath for Henriques’ next series on why the poor should not have their fires extinguished.) But readers would be better served by her mentioning that congregations are full of taxpaying members. She might also have mentioned that some people don’t believe in double taxation at all.

I love the idea that a business reporter would look into these issues. But I think the series would have benefited from more economic balance. It definitely would have helped to have Laurie Goodstein or another religion reporter on board. Heck, Linda “I am the Alpha and Omega of all things Factual” Greenhouse would have been helpful! Knowing, for instance, that different religions have different views on female pastors, homosexuality, debt, usury and insurance could help explain why the federal government would be violating the Establishment Clause if it mandated that religious entities follow regulations on same.

Stay tuned for more coverage on the series.

Photo via Riles3821 on Flickr.

Fact, not opinion

Up YoursThe New York Times‘ public editor, Byron Calame, devoted his last column to the case of Linda Greenhouse. She’s the Supreme Court reporter who in a June speech at Harvard revealed her liberal opinions about various policy issues:

The government, Ms. Greenhouse said on the NPR audio version of her speech, “had turned its energy and attention away from upholding the rule of law and toward creating law-free zones at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, Haditha, other places around the world, the U.S. Congress, whatever. And let’s not forget the sustained assault on women’s reproductive freedom and the hijacking of public policy by religious fundamentalism.” She later added, “I feel a growing obligation to reach out across the ridiculous actual barrier that we seem about to build on the Mexican border. …”

Calame’s analysis is great. He asks how Greenhouse’s speech conflicts with the paper’s guidelines governing public expression of personal views by news writers. He also asks about the value of the guideline, considering the reality that reporters have personal opinions. He says Greenhouse clearly stepped across the line with her political remarks.

Times editors did nothing about Greenhouse’s speech, though. That’s interesting, but not nearly so interesting as Greenhouse’s arrogant and disappointing response to the public editor:

Ms. Greenhouse told me she considers her remarks at Harvard to be “statements of fact” — not opinion — that would be allowed to appear in a Times news article. She said The Times has not suggested that she avoid writing stories on any of the topics on which she commented in June. “Any such limits would be completely preposterous,” she said.

Ms. Greenhouse is bitter, unethical and untrustworthy. That’s not my opinion. It’s just a statement of fact.

The copy chief at my paper told me that everyone has biases and opinions and there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that. What she doesn’t like, though, is when reporters say their clear biases and opinions are statements of fact. That’s where personal opinions are dangerous.

Let’s consider what Greenhouse is saying. She believes that her views in support of abortion are not debatable. And yet she expects us to trust her when she writes up the next Supreme Court decision on abortion. And she’s so confident that she’s right and anyone who disagrees with her is irrational that taking her off the story would be “completely preposterous.”

Many consider Greenhouse a good reporter, and she has her Pulitzer and other awards. But this story just keeps getting worse. When I addressed it previously, I thought it pointed to the simple need for newsrooms to try to hire reporters with a variety of perspectives.

But Greenhouse’s comments are unacceptable. All people, but particularly journalists, should humbly acknowledge that there are multiple views about contentious issues. It doesn’t make your opinions any less valid to acknowledge legitimate differences of opinion. Quite the opposite.

Greenhouse doesn’t know the difference between personal opinions and statements of fact. And that means she’s not a good reporter.

Smells like teen spirit

teens for jesusThe New York Times‘ Laurie Goodstein continues her in-depth coverage of evangelicals. She picks up on an evangelical campaign warning that teenagers are abandoning Christianity.

The campaign is based, as Goodstein notes, on a fairly laughable statistic that only 4 percent of teenagers will be “Bible-believing Christians” by the time they reach adulthood. I’m not sure how the statistic-inventer defines Bible-believing Christians, but that compares to 35 percent of Baby Boomers and 65 percent of the World War II generation. Some 6,000 pastors are attending meetings across the country to address the problem:

While some critics say the statistics are greatly exaggerated (one evangelical magazine for youth ministers dubbed it “the 4 percent panic attack”), there is widespread consensus among evangelical leaders that they risk losing their teenagers.

“I’m looking at the data,” said Ron Luce, who organized the meetings and founded Teen Mania, a 20-year-old youth ministry, “and we’ve become post-Christian America, like post-Christian Europe. We’ve been working as hard as we know how to work — everyone in youth ministry is working hard — but we’re losing.”

The board of the National Association of Evangelicals, an umbrella group representing 60 denominations and dozens of ministries, passed a resolution this year deploring “the epidemic of young people leaving the evangelical church.”

Among the leaders speaking at the meetings are Ted Haggard, president of the evangelical association; the Rev. Jerry Falwell; and nationally known preachers like Jack Hayford and Tommy Barnett.

Ted Haggard, eh? Would that be the same Ted Haggard who told Frank Lockwood of the Lexington Herald-Leader — also known as the Bible Belt Blogger — that the 4 percent claim was a scam? Here’s what Lockwood reported on Sept. 11:

A full-page advertisement in this month’s Christianity Today warns that America’s evangelicals may soon be on the endangered species list — as rare as snail darters, spotted owls and Chinook salmon.

But the ad, which is endorsed by the National Association of Evangelicals, is a false alarm — or at least an exaggeration — according to the group’s president — Pastor Ted Haggard.

“We’re church people. We always use fear and guilt to motivate people,” Haggard told Bible Belt Blogger, punctuating the quip with hearty laughter.

Ha ha ha! Anyway, it’s not that Goodstein fell for the ruse. She goes to great lengths to document just how ridiculous the 4 percent claim is. But she tries to get at the heart of the story by interviewing teens and others who seem to earnestly believe that Bible-believing Christians are threatened. She gets specifics from Christian teens trying to avoid immoral behavior in a world that countenances much of it. She interviews Notre Dame’s Christian Smith for perspective. She also interviews an author who tells of kids who felt peer pressure to become Christian:

The phenomenon may not be that young evangelicals are abandoning their faith, but that they are abandoning the institutional church, said Lauren Sandler, author of “Righteous: Dispatches from the Evangelical Youth Movement” (Viking, 2006). Ms. Sandler, who calls herself a secular liberal, said she found the movement frighteningly robust.

“This generation is not about church,” said Ms. Sandler, an editor at Salon.com. “They always say, ‘We take our faith outside the four walls.’ For a lot of young evangelicals, church is a rock festival, or a skate park or hanging out in someone’s basement.”

Wouldn’t that be interesting if that were the case? After years of reinforcing the idea that church is a rock festival, skate park or small group — growing teenagers had no institutional church to go back to? It’s definitely something worth looking into. Better data on what, if anything, is happening with evangelical teenagers would help stories tracking the group. The Barna Research Group, which specializes in surveying Christians, has put out books on teenagers in recent years. What other hard data are out there? What do recent surveys, such as the ones showing teens are less likely to have sex, have to do with this?

Looking into the Pope’s heart

limboReligion reporter Ruth Gledhill of The Times (U.K.) has a notable wit and attitude that she brings to her job and her blog. That snappy style didn’t serve her so well in a story about the Roman Catholic concept of limbo.

Amy Welborn
wants to nominate the headline alone as the worst ever:

Pope tries to win hearts and minds by saving souls of unbaptised babies

The Pope hasn’t stated any such motivations and I doubt highly that Gledhill, her coauthor Richard Owen, or the unidentified headline writer have secret knowledge of same. The headline is indefensible. Gledhill and Owen try to support the claim, however, in their opening graphs:

The Pope will cast aside centuries of Catholic belief later this week by abolishing formally the concept of limbo, in a gesture calculated to help to win the souls of millions of babies in the developing world for Christ.

All the evidence suggests that Benedict XVI never believed in the idea anyway. But in the fertile evangelisation zones of Africa and Asia, the Pope — an acknowledged authority on all things Islamic — is only too aware that Muslims believe the souls of stillborn babies go straight to Heaven. For the Church, looking to spread the faith in countries with a high infant mortality rate, now is a good time to make it absolutely clear that stillborn babies of Christian mothers go direct to Heaven, too.

Oh calm down, Times writers. They later concede that the belief was never a formal doctrine, but after using words like “cast aside” and “abolishing” that imply otherwise. And again they characterize the motivations of the church as calculating. Reporters should consider incentives and motivations to help them get to the bottom of the story, but they shouldn’t speculate publicly on them without proof.

This week a 30-strong Vatican international commission of theologians, which has been examining limbo, began its final deliberations. Vatican sources said it had concluded that all children who die do so in the expectation of “the universal salvation of God” and the “mediation of Christ”, whether baptised or not.

The theologians’ finding is that God wishes all souls to be saved, and that the souls of unbaptised children are entrusted to a “merciful God” whose ways of ensuring salvation cannot be known. “In effect, this means that all children who die go to Heaven,” one source said.

The commission’s conclusions will be approved formally by the Pope on Friday.

Oh really? I’m no John Allen Jr., but something tells me that it’s usually a bad idea to say that something in the Vatican will definitely happen — even if the consensus supports the conclusions. The International Theological Commission has been working on this and other issues for a while. But it has drafted documents before that weren’t approved by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Getting the Amish response

amish villageHere at GetReligion, we see (neglected) religious overtones in almost all news stories. But even the mainstream media picked up on the religious overtones in yesterday’s shooting at a Pennsylvania Amish school. The ubiquitous media coverage gives us an opportunity to compare the heavy hitters.

Let’s begin with the lead paragraphs. Here’s the one from the New York Times piece by David Kocieniewski and Gary Gately:

A dairy truck driver, apparently nursing a 20-year-old grudge, walked into a one-room Amish schoolhouse here Monday morning and systematically tried to execute the girls there, killing four and wounding seven before killing himself, the police said.

Here’s the first paragraph from The Washington Post, where Raymond McCaffrey and Paul Duggan teamed up:

A truck driver armed with three guns, two knives and 600 rounds of ammunition burst into a one-room schoolhouse in this Amish community Monday, lined at least 11 girls against a blackboard and shot them “execution style,” killing three before taking his life, police said.

And now let’s go to the best piece, by Ellen Barry and Stephanie Simon in the Los Angeles Times:

Calling on its faith for guidance, the Amish community here coupled sorrow with forgiveness Monday after a milk-truck driver armed with a small arsenal burst into a one-room schoolhouse, killing four girls and critically wounding seven others. He killed himself as police stormed the building.

Not only does the Los Angeles Times piece get the religious angle better, it also moves the story forward. New York Times and Washington Post readers get a story they could have read online the day before. The Los Angeles Times piece adds value to what the readers already know.

The disparity grows in the body of the story. The New York Times piece was barren of religious imagery. An early graph notes that religious bias was not the apparent motivation for the killing. The story also characterizes the Amish as a traditional culture and never notes the religious basis for their lifestyle. Quotes from Amish and a neighboring Mennonite are similarly devoid of religion.

The Washington Post story was better, giving a brief explanation for why the Amish reject modern trappings. It also included information on the origins of the Amish. While the Post reporters note that Amish residents gathered at the schoolhouse, they don’t include any quotes from Amish talking about their faith.

Which brings us to the Los Angeles Times piece, again. Let’s take a look at how they treat the victimized community:

But [Charles] Roberts’ brutality evoked very little anger among the community Monday. Men in broad-brimmed hats and suspenders and women in bonnets and long dark dresses expressed grief and shock, but in hushed, muted tones. “It’s a sad day,” Jacob King, a 31-year-old stonemason[,] said. He could think of nothing else to add, just repeated that one word, “sad.”

Rather than dwell on the victims — though this is a close-knit community, where few are strangers — Amish residents spoke of their concern for Roberts’ family; their sorrow that a man could become so unhinged, so alienated from the Lord.

“I wish someone could have helped him out, poor soul. It’s obvious that something was troubling him,” said Steve, a 54-year-old carpenter who, like many here, would not give his full name.

Of the tragedy, he would say only that it was “uncalled for,” and unexpected.

An Amish woman who gave her name as Irene also expressed compassion for the gunman. “I am very thankful,” she said, “that I was raised to believe you don’t fight back. You should forgive.”

. . . Suburbs are creeping closer and closer, but the Amish “just go about their way,” said Myron Stoltzfus, 48, a local butcher.

Stoltzfus was raised by Amish parents; he is now a Mennonite, but understands the Amish ways and anticipates that, even as the loss sinks in, few here will call for security guards at the schoolhouse — or even a cellphone in the teacher’s desk. “The Amish see death as a part of life,” he said. “They will grieve — but they have more resignation. They will take this as something God ordained.”

What a difference it makes to include the religious views of the Amish in this story! Kudos to Barry and Simon for turning around a rich story so quickly.

Photo via Super-Nova on Flickr.

What is newsroom diversity?

media bias alertEarlier this week, NPR’s David Folkenflik broke a story about New York Times reporter Linda Greenhouse’s leftist political speech at Harvard Law School. In the comment thread from my original post, reader Charlie wrote:

I’m sorry, but I would MUCH rather have a reporter who wears their biases openly than one who hides them — or worse, one who has no opinions.

I agree that there is a great deal to be said for reporters being transparent in their views. But the issue isn’t simply Greenhouse and her political views. The goal of objectivity in journalism refers to the methodology of the newsroom, not the empty minds of the various reporters and editors involved in getting stories to print.

Newspapers run into problems because even if they strive for objectivity, they suffer a stunning lack of diversity in their newsrooms when covering divisive issues. It’s not news that reporters share similar views on a wide swath of social and economic issues. I have never been a Greenhouse fan, a sentiment which I’m certain causes her to cry over her many journalism awards. But any complaints I’ve had about her writing have been marginal or based in my fear that I can’t trust her because of her activism.

But what if Greenhouse were part of a team that comprised a variety of viewpoints and knowledge bases? How would the coverage differ if a reporter who was morally conservative worked with her?

Well, near as I can tell, there’s absolutely no danger of newsrooms seeking more diversity in which biases they bring into their newsroom. Very few could bring themselves to comment on the story. Even Daniel Okrent, the former ombudsman at the Times, clarified his earlier remark that he was amazed by her speech. In an interview with Newsweek, he said he was thrilled by her outspoken speech.

Do you think it’s a farce to pretend that media bias doesn’t exist?
Obviously it exists in individuals, and it exists in institutions, but it does not exist in all individuals, and it does not exist in all institutions. It’s like anything else in the world, there are those who do it right and those who do it wrong.

What does this mean for journalists who may not want to suppress their political views outside the office?
Well, that’s the thing about it that’s so interesting and amazing and exciting. Maybe this opens up the conversation that journalists can and should [participate].

In my view, this is not about whether reporters can march in rallies or display bumper stickers or donate to candidates. To me, this is about the fact that if they did, there would be very few reporters marching in pro-life rallies.

A decade ago, the Los Angeles Times analyzed media coverage of abortion and found that bias infiltrated reports of the divisive issue. A few years ago, Times editor John Carroll wrote a memo to the staff telling them to work harder to get their abortion biases out of the newspaper.

That happens despite reporters’ best intentions. Could the attempts to write fairly about abortion and other divisive issues be hampered by the stunning and shocking lack of intellectual diversity in America’s newsrooms?


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X