Last week I highlighted some of the coverage of the jury that deliberated the death penalty for convicted murderer Steven Hayes. Many media reports did a good job quoting the jurors and affected family members even when those quotes included religious language.
Take, for instance, this Associated Press bit:
Dr. William Petit, the husband and father of the victims, said the verdict was not about revenge.
“Vengeance belongs to the Lord,” Petit said. “This is about justice. We need to have some rules in a civilized society.”
It seems weird to praise such a basic thing, but sometimes reporters — particularly those outside the religion beat — are uncomfortable pursuing lines of inquiry following discussions of religion. Or they strip quotes that use religious language. That became the topic of discussion for this week’s Crossroads podcast, which you can listen to here. Host Todd Wilken asked why reporters struggle in this particular way and I threw out some ideas. The fact is that I’m not altogether certain. I grew up in a household where religion was discussed by the hour and so I almost feel more comfortable when people include religion in their discussions. Not always, but frequently. I’m curious what your ideas are for why religious language gets sanitized from many stories.
Another point I raised in the podcast arose out of the death penalty coverage. One of the things I did find interesting, although I thought it might be a bit inappropriate to spend too much time on it last week, was how little coverage of the death penalty case reflected on the larger moral questions. Usually whenever a capital case comes to trial, the media devote more stories about how religious views shape people’s ideas of justice. But I didn’t see too much coverage on that front, which I found disappointing. I think that’s most likely because of the unbelievable barbarism involved in the particular crime. But tough cases still call for such discussions, in my view. What do you think about the lack of discussion about this particular death penalty?