Doing that left-right MSM thing

Those on the left view MSM as mainly conservative. See

Posted by wildwest at 11:01 am on June 23, 2005

MSM = corporate owned, lilly-livered, roll over and don’t make waves, sensationalist, full of schmuck reporters standing around in the cold and dark in front of the “scene of the incident” live at 11 pm HOURS after the incident is over and cleaned up and everyone has gone home, site of the pained look of consternation (or constipation, take your pick) while reading grammatically questionable sentence construction about the latest celebrity falderal, really only useful for lining bird cages (print edition).

Posted by Molly at 2:54 pm on June 23, 2005

Clever, but wrong. She describes media in general. All media succumb to the sensational, etc. The MSM manage to do all this and remain utterly unaware of their extremist left-wing bias. Quite talented, really, to juggle both.

Posted by Stephen A. at 9:57 pm on June 23, 2005

Well now.

Let’s pause for a moment for a brief worldview statement about GetReligion, even though I know that can’t speak for my non-Borg partners. This Indianapolis Star bias case is the kind of thing I hear about all the time, since most of my speaking engagements are linked to issues of religion and journalism.

I wonder, is there anyone else out there in the blogosphere/academia/news biz who has, on the within-reach bookshelf above his or her desk, a copy of Ben Bagdikian’s classic The Media Monopoly sitting right next to a copy of Marvin Olasky’s Prodigal Press?

The first is a touchstone book for the left and the latter plays the same role for the right.

Both books argue that the basic structures of journalism are biased. And both of them, I believe, are right. The problem is that these books are focusing on totally different issues, when it comes to media bias.

Bagdikian is a classic political progressive — old school. He is right that the corporate media of our day tend toward a brand of economic conservatism, especially on issues that are close to home. It is hard to get more conservative than a newspaper within shouting range of a military base that is about to be shut down. If corporations are conservative, then we live in an increasingly conservative age in journalism. Your basic one-newspaper-city newspaper is not going to be “liberal” when it comes to groups that attack the economic status quo.

The enemy is Gannett, with all of its top-down corporate culture.

Olasky is a religious, social-issues conservative. He is primarily interested in issues of faith, morality and public culture. He is a political conservative, but he bleeds on media-bias issues linked to abortion, sexuality, religious liberty, etc.

The enemy is, well, Gannett, with all of its top-down, rules-based liberalism on social issues.

Bagdikian has lots and lots of facts on his side when it comes to labor issues, economics, etc. Olasky has lots of facts on his side when it comes to social issues and religion.

In other words, the heart of the MSM is a kind of moral Libertarianism. It’s kind of Clintonian economics and morality. Leave us alone and let us make lots of money. It’s a Hollywood conservatism. It’s a corporate thing. It’s a moderate Republican thing, the brand of faith that dominates business elites.

The problem is that our age is dominated by the politics of social issues. When the first non-conservative seat on the U.S. Supreme Court bench goes open, do you expect hotter-than-hot arguments over economics or morality? Foreign policy or religion?

Do the same dynamics affect the journalism wars? Absolutely. We should expect the Indianapolis Star case to boil down to corporate leaders clashing with the morally conservative beliefs of individuals. You can read all about it in Olasky and Bagdikian.

The P-word surfaces at the Indy Star

Here is a case worth following, not only to see the outcome but to see how MSM outlets cover it — if they do.

The back story to this inside-baseball news story is that The Indianapolis Star — once a very culturally conservative newsroom and, especially, editorial page — has been pulled into the Gannett world, which is always going to lead to some changes. Now this happens:

Two former editorial writers at The Indianapolis Star have sued the newspaper and its owner, Gannett Co., claiming religious, racial and age discrimination.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court, former editorial board members James Patterson and Lisa Coffey said top newsroom managers “consistently and repeatedly demonstrated . . . a negative hostility toward Christianity.”

Neither of these people appear to be Religious Right plants in the newsroom. They seem to be, well, fairly normal people in Indiana. Perhaps that is the problem.

Note that, once again, the key word in the script is “proselytizing.” But this raises all kinds of questions, based on the few details we have in print at this time.

Does the P-word apply when people write an editorial that encourages citizens to pray for the U.S. troops in Iraq? Is it “proselytizing” to oppose the Gannett chain’s stance on gay rights? This latter issue surfaces in the Star‘s own mini-story on the case. Does the P-word apply if, let’s say, the editorial page backs some kind of Democratic Party effort to blend faith and economic justice?

I will try to keep tabs on this. Has anyone else seen coverage of this case on j-blogs?

Sacred and wicked candles

This is a Chicago Tribune story, but I just ran into it while reading through the drifts of South Florida Sun-Sentinel newspapers that collected while I was in Washington, D.C. The tradition of burning candles is, of course, very ancient. Try to find a reference to public ritual in the Bible that does not involve this tradition (and incense).

I had no idea that the whole seven-day candle phenomenon was this modern. In fact, I am going to try to do some more digging online to see if reporter Monica Eng has this straight. Hey Amy Welborn, if you are reading this, let us know what you think! Ditto for you, Dawn Eden.

But here is the part of the story that amazed me. It turns out that this very populist form of devotion has, well, spread into other parts of life. If you live in the right kind of ethnic neighborhood, you can find all of this at the local grocery store. Who knew?

The use of these candles has evolved far beyond a religious context. On the same Web site and even on the same store shelf, you can find Virgin Mary candles not far from “D.U.M.E. Black List” candles that are purported to help you, well, kill your enemies.

More common uses include attracting a specific mate with a “Come to Me” candle while simultaneously sabotaging the mate’s current relationship with a “Break Up” candle. According to Carlos Soto, manager at Indio Products, a chain of botanicas in Southern California, the “Come to Me” + “Break Up” combo is his No. 1 seller.

Isn’t that kind of mean? “Not really,” Soto says, “because usually [the customer] is a woman . . . whose husband or boyfriend is cheating, so she is just getting back what was hers.”

Be careful what you pray for, people. You might get it.

The soul of the Rev. Al Green

I think it was Elvis Costello who once, when asked if he believed in miracles, thought about it and said something to this effect: Well, I have seen Al Green. That is a start, if you want to find the holy grail of R&B. But what about the Rev. Al Green?

That’s a bigger story. I have, for a week, been trying to get a link up and running to this fine news feature by music critic George Varga at The San Diego Union-Tribune. This story takes the spiritual side of Green’s work seriously, but does not turn him into some kind of shaman.

The key to the whole situation is that Green’s talent is real and so is his faith. The questions about the tense turf in between the stage and the pulpit are real, too. But this is not a new question. Others have been there and managed to hold both sides together. But it is tricky. Varga basically deals with the facts and lets this Green update unfold. Here is a solid chunk of it. Enjoy.

(It) wasn’t until recently that Green, who in April was ordained as a bishop by Pentecostal Bishop Albert E. Reed of the Church of God & Christ in Memphis, really felt comfortable embracing non-devotional music. And he is still stung by the scorn heaped on him from various religious circles, including members of his Memphis congregation, for recording a pop duet in 1988 with Annie Lennox. . . .

The song was a remake of Jackie DeShannon’s uplifting 1969 hit, “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.” But no matter. His outspoken critics were incensed that Lennox wasn’t born-again, and they let him know it — especially after the song became a Top 10 pop hit.

“‘Put a Little Love in Your Heart?’ What could be more religious than that?” Green asked. “I just couldn’t understand their (objections). “There is a whole cauldron of religious people having such frustrations with love and happiness. . . . And I didn’t have any problem with that, otherwise I wouldn’t have sung it. I started evaluating all the things they had a problem with, and they had a problem with everything. So I went to re-evaluate, really, what all they had problems with. They had problems with everything that doesn’t seem to have a Jesus righteousness, a God reflection, to it.

“But not only did God make Sunday, He made Monday, too, and Tuesday, Wednesday. . . . So if God made all those days, he’s in all our days, not just the one you want to put him in.”

More on the doctor and his lunch

During my travels, I have continued to follow the lively comments thread on the Krishna Rajanna case and the MSM vs. niche coverage of his Affordable Medical and Surgical Services business in Kansas City, Kan.

Much of the conservative coverage has, of course, been driven by that site that millions love and millions more love to hate — WorldNetDaily. This is, of course, the essence of an agenda-driven news institution. You take what you find there with a grain of salt, then look elsewhere for other coverage. At least that is what I do. Same thing for any culture-wars coverage I see in The New York Times.

The question is not so much what Rajanna is or is not doing at lunch. The question is whether the MSM professionals have even investigated the claims of the people involved in the turmoil about his lunch habits, and lots of other gross details about his business. Normally, when secondhand information of this kind surfaces, you see it confirmed or shot down. Silence is normally not the default media choice.

Meanwhile, here is a link to the controversial photos (PDF) of the doctor’s office and some of the contents of his refrigerator — where unborn children in plastic cups were stored side by side with, well, his perfectly legal lunch items.

Free speech on a hot piece of tin

Time to plug the work of a friend again. Hey, at least I am being up front about it.

My Milligan College buddy Jim Dahlman was up in Washington, D.C., with me last week, teaching at the Summer Institute of Journalism. He saw the John 3:16 GetReligion item and immediately decided to plug into the kinds of sources you have inside the Beltway and do one of his Johnson City PressFace to Faith” columns on it.

As you may have noticed, free speech is a big deal on this blog — even the right to offensive speech. But who knew this was going to turn into such a hot topic with license plates? Basically, Dahlman tried to find out what people on both sides of the Vermont license plate battle were thinking. It all seemed so strange.

So what was this all about? The state authorities were worried that the John 3:16 vanity plate would cause (wait for it) road rage.

It’s not just religion, either. The law governing vanity plates prohibits any message that “might be offensive or confusing to the general public.” The statute is thorough, to say the least, banning “combinations of letter or numbers that refer in any language to a race, religion, color, deity, ethnic heritage, gender, sexual orientation, disability status, or political affiliation.”

Careful, says the state. These plates are hot.

Some of you probably think I am making this up. The folks at the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center had trouble believing it, too.

Nicolosi and the Times, round II

The last week of the Summer Institute of Journalism is over at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. This was our last journalism boot camp there, until the fall of 2006 when we open a new full-semester j-program for this international network of Christian academic institutions — basically everyone from the Assemblies of God to the Mennonites. It’s a big tent. This is the job that will, in a month, move me back to the D.C. area.

So I am catching up on some things that I have meant to blog for some time now.

Like this — round two of a fascinating intellectual wrestling match between Hollywood screenwriting pro Barbara Nicolosi of the Act One network out in Los Angeles and The New York Times.

Or maybe we are following the arc of a comedy script. Whatever — here is the first act. And now here is the second act, drawn from her witty and, at times, passionate Church of the Masses blog. This ex-nun ought to be a writer, or something.

What’s going on? Nicolosi leads a network of Christians who work and teach and write in mainstream Hollywood. This is a diverse crowd, to say the least. Lots of crunchy granola conservatives (to use the Rod Dreher nickname), old-fashioned Catholic progressive Democrats (think Robert Casey), emerging evangelicals and other folks. The key is that this is not a front for the Republican Party.

But try telling that to the nation’s newspaper of record. Things have not been going as the reporter anticipated, perhaps, and Nicolosi has been posting her notes about the interviews. This is part of a larger trend, methinks, in which people are doing interviews and then assuming that the public would like to know what was said, other than the bite or two that makes it into the MSM. I think this is a healthy thing.

The reporter — James — begins by asking why Americans think Christians are so terrifying. Barbara wants to know why he doesn’t ask that question of his therapist, since it seems that people in the Times building suffer from this condition more than ordinary Americans. Things roll on from there. Here is a nice sample:

James: I’m having a hell of a time chasing down the money connections between the DC conservative think-tanks and Hollywood Christians.

Barb: That’s because they don’t exist.

James: (“I’m no fool” snort) Yeah. How about you tell me ‘off the record’?

Barb: Off the record, on the record, we don’t get any money from right-wing covert opps!

James: Would you take money from them if they offered?

Barb: From whom? . . . Heck, I’d take money from Hugh Hefner! I’m just trying to meet payroll for the summer.

James: You’re funny.

Barb: And poor. . . . but with a few exceptions, Evangelical Christians outside of Hollywood don’t financially support Hollywood Christians. They don’t trust us.

James: Yeah, yeah . . . (trying another tack) So, is it your sense that some Evangelical Republicans from DC are trying to build a network in Hollywood?

Barb: I think that is accurate.

James: (Gotcha! exclamation) And why is that?!

Barb: Because being generally derided and despised by cultural leaders is a concern to them? You should ask them . . .

James: I’m trying, but everyone is being very paranoid in talking to me.

Barb: Does that surprise you?

James: Why is that, anyway?

Barb: You mean, besides the fact that the NY Times hates Christians?!

More laughter from James.

Anyone seen any other good online examples of this turn-the-notebook-around phenomenon?

Lord have mercy (literally)

Want to read the hellish Godbeat story of the day? It’s in The Washington Post, with the headline “Mississippi Turning.” Yes, it’s rather old New Journalism in its approach. Lots of one word sentences. Many. A lack of verbs. Reporter Neely Tucker hovers everywhere in that analysis way that the Post favors in its edgy Style pages.

The story is a flashback to the racist murders of the Civil Rights era and the alleged sins of one “Preacher Killen.” You could not make that name up.

The story is both inspiring and horrific and religion shows up in its best and worst forms. You’ve got to read it. Here is a sample of the latest courtroom drama, which is unfolding four decades after the bloodshed.

Up in front, Killen talks with one of his lawyers, Mitch Moran. Also, and elsewhere, talks to God, delivers words from same. Still says the deity wants black kept separate from white. Has said he wanted to shake the hand of Martin Luther King Jr.’s killer. Espouses theories that black men want to rape white women. Fond of toting shotguns. Fonder still of threatening to shoot reporters with them, particularly those who show up at his ranch-style house out in the county, way out from town. It’s out there on the old Rock Cut road, less than two miles from the murder site, lost among the red clay and pine trees.

Preacher has not changed his views. “I’m as much for separation as I ever was,” he says at one point.

Lord have mercy.