Search Results for: chick-fil-a

Todd Akin interviewer denies blunt attack on Christianity

The most important story this week — do the math — has been the reaction to Rep. Todd Akin’s comments to an interviewer about what he called “legitimate rape.” While people have focused on Akin, it might be worth taking a closer look at the reporter who asked Akin the question about abortion and rape. It came during an appearance on The Jaco Report, hosted by veteran journalist Charles Jaco.

Yesterday I asked why reporters always ask consistent pro-life politicians about rape exceptions but never ask consistent pro-choice politicians about why they support abortion being legal moments before birth, or just because the child happens to be female, or because the child has Down syndrome.

I don’t know if Jaco has asked — or will be asking — Akin’s Senate race opponent Sen. Claire McCaskill good and tough abortion questions, but several days ago I was forwarded an email exchange a viewer says she had with him that gave me pause about his ability to impartially cover hot-button topics such as these.

The viewer was complaining about inaccurate statements that Jaco had made in an aimless commentary against Chick-fil-A. Here’s the note Sally Dooling sent to Jaco via an online form:

Name: George and Sally Dooling
Email: [redacted]

I do not have a question for Mr. Jaco–I have a comment.  The next time you want to quote the Bible in your commentary, I suggest you get your information correct.  I saw your very hateful comment on Chick-fil-A this afternoon and and you said that the Bible says that women are subservient to men.  The bible says no such thing.  It says that the wife is to be submissive to her husband and the husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the church.

The owner made a statement of his personal beliefs and said nothing about gay marriage or homosexuals.  He stated that he believes in the biblical meaning of marriage and said nothing demeaning about gay people.  The hate speech  that has been directed at him is just terrible and you add to that with your comment.

It’s a sad day in the U.S when someone can’t state their beliefs and sadly it happens all the time to Christians.

Phone: [redacted]

Time: Thursday August 2, 2012 at 4:47 pm
IP Address: [redacted]
Contact Form URL:
Sent by an unverified visitor to your site.

Jaco didn’t respond to her complaint about his inaccurate statement about what the Bible says but he did respond with this:

This was NOT the man’s personal opinion. As a corporation, Chik Fil A has given over $5 million to anti gay rights groups. So what’s your problem? Sent from my Droid Charge on Verizon 4GLTE

The viewer responded:

What is YOUR problem–as a corporation why can’t they give some of their profits to whomever they want.  Corporations give money to different organizations every day without all the uproar.  You did not address the biblical part of my comment. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, as you are entitled to yours and so is Mr. Cathy. We have gay friends and we are not anti-gay, but the strong arm of the gay movement always talks about “TOLERANCE”, but they sure don’t practice what they preach.  Whenever someone disagrees with their agenda, that someone is called intolerant. I think they should practice what they preach.

Have a blessed day Mr. Jaco–I love a good debate. God bless you and your family.

Jaco then more or less lost it. He mixed some, at best, Sam Harris/Dan Savage-level Biblical exegesis with some garden variety bigotry and came up with this:

Since you choose to live as what Thomas Jefferson called, “…a prisoner of superstition,” I don’t imagine there’s much I can do to sway your belief in Bronze Age folk tales as some sort of direct communique from the creator.

I would expect you call yourself a Christian, which is amusing, given that the man you worship had a lot to say about tolerance, and not one word to say about homosexuals. Your bible is loaded with all sorts of admonitions on how to live one’s life. It’s your choice if you want to cherry-pick the bits that condemn men laying with men, and ignore the parts that say you shouldn’t consume swine, or shellfish, or that the woman should be subservient to the man. How does that sort of cafeteria religiosity work, anyway, where you can create a political movement against gay marriage with some quotes, and ignore the rest? As I recall parts of the bible, large chunks also defend slavery.

Gay marriage certainly doesn’t affect the sanctity of my marriage. I’m sorry if it somehow devalues yours. I’m even sorrier that you base your fear of it on something written by zealots half a world away 3,200 years ago.

Charles Jaco

What the what? “Prisoner of superstition” … “Bronze Age folk tales” … “direct communique from the creator” … “you base your fear” … “something written by zealots half a world away 3,200 years ago”? What in the world is this guy doing in the journalism business? And why do journalists not know that this is unprofessional behavior? I can’t be alone in thinking that this incivility — and refusal to admit error or correct an error — reflects poorly on our profession. We should always aim to treat our viewers/listeners/readers with respect.

I get that these types of bigoted views are sadly common among people who are in the media. It’s hard to ignore that those views make their way into decisions of how to cover the news, what questions to ask, how to frame the issues of the day, etc. But this is not a helpful way for journalists to respond to their listeners, readers or viewers. It certainly goes far to hurting trust between the media producers and consumers.

And if I were his employer, I’d think about whether he’s best suited to be interviewing religious conservatives, given his stated bias against them.

For his part, I emailed Jaco to confirm and he* wrote back to say he didn’t send the email that comes from his e-mail address and uses his name. He suggests that someone else in his newsroom is pretending to be him, although he doesn’t indicate knowledge of who that might be. I’ll go ahead and quote his response here:

I did not send the attached communication. The computers in the newsroom are public, and if we log on to our email and fail to log off, are accessable to anyone.

I don’t know if that includes the note that says it was sent from the Droid or just the one that I sent him for confirmation that included the sign-off “Charles Jaco,” but there you go.

*or someone using his email account, I guess.

A gunman’s shout: ‘I am opposed to social conservatism!’

Long ago, before the cooling of the earth’s crust, I took my first news copy-editing class as a young journalism student at Baylor University. Anyone who has worked as a copy editor know that one of the first things you learn is how to keep bad stuff out of print.

There are various kinds of bad stuff, of course.

There’s stuff that violates the principles found in the bible of daily journalism, the Associated Press Stylebook. Take that rule governing the use of the word “fundamentalist,” for example. There’s stuff that’s just plain bad, such as risque puns (think back page of The Columbia Journalism Review). There’s stuff that violates style principles that have been developed at the local level. For example, what do you call a person who lives in Charlotte, N.C.? Hint, this person is not a “Charlatan.” She or he is a “Charlottean.

Finally, there is stuff that is considered “bad” by your local publisher or your editors — even if they do not want to admit it. Some of these concerns are valid. Some are a bit harder to live with.

There was a legendary story in Texas about a reporter at a newspaper that, for a long time, kept it’s policy forbidding any use of the word “rape” in stories. This reporter heard a woman at a crime scene shouting, “I was raped! I was raped!” Well, as the story goes, the editor spiked the quote. Thus, in anger, the reporter wrote — in warped loyalty to local style — that the woman had shouted, “I was sexual molested! I was sexually molested!” A copy editor left it in. Both, according to the legend, were fired.

So why do I bring this up? I recalled this anecdote while reading the top of The Washington Post report on the shooting at the Family Research Council. This particular story — after hours of work catching up on the event — is actually pretty good, but has some strange quirks.

Maybe it’s just me, but there was a strange void at the very top of this:

An armed intruder, spouting opposition to social conservatism, walked into the Washington headquarters of the Family Research Council on Wednesday and shot a security guard before the wounded guard and others wrestled him to the floor and subdued him until police arrived, authorities said.

They identified the suspect as Floyd Lee Corkins II, 28, of Herndon, who has a master’s degree from George Mason University’s College of Education and Human Development. Corkins was in FBI custody Wednesday night; authorities had not filed charges against him.

Now, I understand that the authorities have almost certainly clamped down on witnesses talking to the press. Still, let me ask the obvious: What does “spouting opposition to social conservatism” mean? Surely this gunman didn’t walk in there shouting, “I am opposed to social conservatism! I am opposed to social conservatism!” Were his words a bit more pointed than that? Will Post editors print them?

Journalism is all about the quest for specifics, for telling details. Thus, it is rather strange that the Post team went rather far into this story before mentioning this colorful fact about this event:

Two law enforcement officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said the gunman entered the lobby carrying a satchel, with a bag from a Chick-fil-A restaurant inside. The Atlanta-based fast-food chain has been embroiled in controversy in recent weeks after its president spoke out against same-sex marriage. The Family Research Council also opposes such unions. …

Corkins had been volunteering at a community center on U Street NW for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, according to officials there.

So what was Corkins shouting? Think about this in journalism terms: If a gunman who was a volunteer at a fundamentalist Christian church had walked into the lobby of a major gay-rights organization, with an empty Oreos bag stashed away on his person, would reporters want that info right up top in the report? Would they want to include the actual words that this firebrand was shouting?

I would think so. I certainly would want those details reported accurately and fairly — in the lede or soon after.

The Post story, meanwhile, did a fine job of getting informed and accurate reaction quotes and commentary from people on the cultural left and right. Gay-rights leaders were quick to reject this use of violence and conservatives were given a chance to offer their opinions on the question of whether this attack was a political crime, or even a “hate crime,” under the laws of the District of Columbia. Like I said, there’s lots of good daily journalism in this piece.

But the top of the story? Rather vague and mushy — especially since there was crucial info stuck (some would say “buried”) further down. I mean, which is more relevant to this story? That Corkins had a master’s degree from George Mason University or that he was a volunteer in an organization that totally opposed the Family Research Council?

Meanwhile, if you are interested in the political and cultural overtones of the arguments about the media coverage of the shooting, let me recommend this article by religion-beat pro David Sessions at The Daily Beast. It has that whole Newsweek/Daily Beast progressive-tone thing going on, but contains tons of links and good info.

Also, check out this early piece by Timothy Dalrymple, the Harvard guy who leads the Patheos evangelical channel. He is also a major player in assembling the website’s new religion and politics channel, which is the new home for your GetReligionistas.

Reporter learns difficult lesson about Facebook rants


Earlier this month we looked at an incident involving a reporter covering the Chick-Fil-A protest for his paper in Florida. Reporter Mark Krzos had a public Facebook profile. On it, he shared his liberal views, affinity for the Democratic Party and its candidates, and his strong dislike of Chick-Fil-A. He appeared to go so far as to support blocking Chick-Fil-A outlets from being permitted to exist in Boston, for instance.

A staff writer for the News-Press, a Gannett newspaper in Fort Myers, Florida, Krzos reported that — unlike other reports — he’d seen and heard horrific things at the Chick-Fil-A eat-in he’d covered. He began his discussion of this by saying:

RE: Chik-fil-A controversy
I have never felt so alien in my own country as I did today while covering the restaurant’s supporters. The level of hatred, unfounded fear and misinformed people was astoundingly sad. I can’t even print some of the things people said.

The first comment came from another journalist named Joseph Anthony who listed his job as “Anchor/Reporter at WBBH NBC2/ WZVN ABC7.” His comment was “agreed.” A lively comment thread ensued. Krzos claimed that the people he met were talking mean about “immigrants.” When someone offered up something about bigots, he responded “It was like broken records of Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh and a recitation of half-truths and outright lies.” Krzos added:

Such a brave stand … eating a goddamn sandwich.

Various people “liked” these comments, including some more reporters. His friends begged him to print the goods and he said he couldn’t because it was just too vile and, well, the people wouldn’t give him their names. People suggested he just refer to the rampant “racist and homophobic slurs” and another friend wrote, “I’ll be on the side with scientists, hippies, NORMAL white people, fellow black folk, mexicans (and street gangs), gays , and technology vs. Jim Bob and Bobby Sue and all the toothless rednecks that REALLY hate America.” Mark Krzos “liked” that comment.

And so on and so forth.

We never found out how his story turned out because his editor didn’t let him write it. Now, if Krzos actually had the goods to back up his report, I would hope any editor would force him to write it. I had a hard time believing it, but I wasn’t there. If these things actually had happened, they should have been written about. Maybe his advocacy against Chick-Fil-A prior to the eat-in had nothing to do with what he claimed he saw.

The update for today is that Romenesko reports that Krzos resigned after meeting with his editor at the paper.

It’s an unpleasant thing to read. Yes, Krzos lost the trust of his readers. He most likely lost the trust of his bosses as well. He publicly made some extreme claims and was unable to substantiate them. That’s never a good thing to hear about a reporter.

Still, one hopes that a reporter might be given a second chance. Besides, we still don’t know if his story would have been more balanced than his Facebook rant. Every reporter is entitled to a little freak out amongst friends — what counts is what ends up in the story.

There’s much we don’t know. Perhaps this was part of a pattern. Or perhaps Krzos senses he might be better suited to advocacy instead of journalism.

But I hope the incident serves as a good reminder about how we want to treat all of our readers with respect — no matter how much we may disagree with them — and work to avoid echo chambers that confirm our biases. I hope that when we make claims — particularly defamatory ones — that we source them very carefully.

And, yes, maybe it’s just a good reminder about keeping certain conversations private.

Photo of a hater via Shutterstock.

Pod people: Learning more about the Alevi

On this week’s Crossroads, host Todd Wilken and I spoke about media coverage of the Chick-Fil-A protests, the misplaced outrage at CNN when the channel was blamed for something an online commenter had written about the shooting at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin, and the Alawite/Alevi confusion displayed by the New York Times.

I have a mild interest in Turkey, because of a couple former interns who live there as well as a few other friends and colleagues, and have been hearing conflicting reports about whether the Alevis support the Syrian regime.

So I thought I’d pass along a few other items for people interested in the topic. Perhaps the best media criticism I’ve seen of that New York Times piece we looked at is here, “Turkish Alevis are not Syrian Alawites (and why that matters)“. It’s really long and incredibly nuanced, but here’s the conclusion:

Of course, just because [the head of the major opposition Republican People’s Party, Kemal] Kilicdaroglu and [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan have not directly and openly stated that their confessional beliefs motivate their views on the Syrian civil war we cannot categorically deny that such a connection exists. The same holds true for the events that took place in Surgu. The problem with [New York Times reporter Jeffrey] Gettleman’s piece is that he tries to draw a direct line, one could say a bloodline, between Alawite-Sunni violence in Syria and the Surgu incident in Turkey, whereas the facts of the incident prove that there is not enough evidence to support this claim. Yet we can connect flare ups of Alevi-Sunni tension in Turkey to the words and actions of the AKP government, particularly of Prime Minister Erdogan. As [senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy Soner] Cagaptay and columnist Amberin Zaman have noted, if Alevis feel they are being discriminated against or oppressed by AKP policies, this could result in their having increasing solidarity with the Alawites in Syria. Unfortunately, the AKP’s policies and Erdogan’s recent rhetoric regarding the Alevi issue have not been helpful in this regard.

This critique may seem to amount to little more than semantics or splitting hairs: if sectarian violence in Syria can ultimately impact Sunni-Alevi relations in Turkey, then, some may argue, the details of how that impact occurs are not important. Yet if we fail to acknowledge the crucial role domestic Turkish politics plays in shaping the impact the Syrian civil war has on Turkey’s different ethnic groups, then we are left with a situation in which it appears only a matter a time before the Syrian Sunni men whom Gettleman describes as “howling in delight” at the thought of killing Alawites become Turkish Sunnis seeking Alevi blood. Fortunately, despite the implications of Gettleman’s argument, this is not the case.

Another interesting piece, with a somewhat different perspective is in The Economist and is about how, in that magazine’s view, Turkey’s prime minister is trying to manipulate the sectarian divide:

Mr Erdogan’s remarks about the Alevis, a historically persecuted sect which is considered an offshoot of Shia Islam, has sparked fresh accusations that he is pandering to the prejudices of Turkey’s predominantly Sunni majority in order to improve his chances of becoming the country’s first elected president in 2014. He declared that the Alevis voted for Mr Kilicdaroglu “because he is Alevi”, that Cemevis, their houses of worship, were “cultural centres” and that Muslims prayed only in mosques. Such assertions fly in the face of the Alevis’ long-running demands that Cemevis be granted the same state subsidies as an estimated 90,000 mosques across Turkey. Worse, they appear to suggest that Alevis are not real Muslims. This is an explosive argument used by Sunnis to excuse successive atrocious massacres of Alevis. The most recent of these killings took place in 1993.

It characterizes the Alevi position on Syria as being less about support for Assad and more about opposing Turkey’s meddling. But I did appreciate the specifics about the religious distinctions:

Much like the Alawites, the Alevis tend to be secretive about their ways. They neither observe Ramadan nor pray in mosques. Men and women worship together, whirling and singing to the accompaniment of a lute. Like Shias, they revere Ali, the Prophet Muhammad’s son-in-law. But unlike the sword-brandishing Ali of Sunni lore, for the Alevis, Ali abjured violence and is the embodiment of God. Because of their liberal ways the Alevis are treasured by secular-minded Turks as the best insurance against radical Islam. For the same reasons hard-core Sunnis paint them as debauched infidels.

With all the interest in Turkey and Syria these days, we’re being exposed to some interesting discussions about how religion affects the news out of the region.

Gabby Douglas: Watch, there’s a faith story in there

The Internet can be both a cruel and beautiful place, like anything else in this world.

Perhaps you might resonate with those who adore the Olympics, or maybe you find the rage rising up inside yourself over Chick-fil-A stories. What a bizarre combination for the summer of 2012. It’s like it’s too hot outside so people are just wound up and ready to stab each other with words.

What I find beautiful are stories that reveal something about human nature, something that explains why we feel a certain way and how they impact us emotionally and help us understand how we relate to each other. Few reporters seem to know how to write in a way that touches people’s emotions in a way that isn’t obvious. The jokes I hear from reporters about the Olympics brings out the cancer-to-riches stories, the cliche ones that we expect to get us all teary eyed.

I don’t know about you, but Gabby Douglas’ win got me all teary eyed, but I’m trying to understand why, probably the grace, the sass, the smile, the poise, the sweetness of it all. Much will be written about related to her race, her smile, her hair, her style, her physical abilities, her future. I have not been able to read everything on the Internet, but it appears that there is also a faith angle in her story. Really, go read Christine Scheller’s piece at Urban Faith. And then come back and tell us if the mainstream media is picking up on the important details. How crucial is faith to her story, do you think?

In other news, another female gymnast piece I have been wanting to write about is about a TV story worth watching, an unusual story that could resonate with many people on different levels. ABC’s 20/20 produced a feature on Dominique Moceanu, the youngest female gymnast to win a gold medal, and, as far as I can tell, was one of the most iconic Olympians for women in my age demographic.

Moceanu, who accomplished incredible physical feats, also faced deep emotional hurdles. She tells how all the time while she was training for the Olympics, she didn’t know her own father had given up her disabled sister for adoption. Her sister has no legs but she is also a gymnast/acrobat (no really, watch it).

This intense story was made for TV. It doesn’t focus on Moceanu’s facts or figures but recognizes something deeper. Unfortunately, as is the case of many general stories, it doesn’t recognize an additional faith factor. As Laura Leonard fleshed out in her interview for Christianity Today, Moceanu also has a faith story to tell. For many people, forgiveness and the idea of moving forward is only possible with some higher power.

For Moceanu, it was her Christian faith that carried her through. Ignoring that reality is like ignoring the surgery she might have had to repair a knee. Ignoring such a glaring point of her life does a disservice to everyone, the audience, the reader, other journalists and to Moceanu. The story might be true and accurate but it certainly isn’t thorough.

It’s the stories we don’t expect that surprise and delight us, and the challenge for sports and religion reporters is to do that in a way that doesn’t make religion cliche. I eat up Olympic stories like Samuel L. Jackson does, tweeting with little filter. I don’t care if other sports junkies already know the back stories and just want to know the stats, the performance numbers or the number of medals. I want to know about their families, how they grew up, what they had to overcome whether physical or emotional, whether they are like me (faith, skin color, sex, body) or if I can learn from them. You know, the stuff Bob Costas feeds us like candy.

The beauty of the internet is that if you want more info, you can dig more deeply either through Twitter, niche blogs or other formats. The challenge for general audience outlets like NBC is to figure out how to tell both the general and the deep, the religion when it’s relevant or even when it’s just simply interesting.

During the 1996 Olympics, I read everything I could get my hands on related to the female gymnasts, so watching women’s gymnastics now makes me feel like a little kid again. It’s fascinating how little girls like her Moceanu’s sister (and me) idolized Moceanu and wanted so badly to be a gymnast, but her family and faith made all the difference in the world, both in her upbringing and how she handles it now.

Journalists: don’t make the same mistake with Gabby Douglas. She’s worth more than a surface-level, faith-free story.

And now, equal time for Muslim chickens …

Here’s the gist of a recent Los Angeles Times story: An Islamic butcher shop finds surprising success in a predominantly Latino neighborhood of east L.A.

Anybody see the potential for any, shall we say, religion angles in such a story?

(That’s what we at GetReligion call ghost foreshadowing.)

Let’s start at the top:

To the little girl, going to work with her father felt like visiting a petting zoo, with chickens, ducks, doves and rabbits in cages in the back of the shop. Even as she fed the animals, she knew about the other part of Al Salam Polleria. The part with things like the boiler, the de-featherer and the cutting station.

“But I guess, yeah, if you think of it as a butcher shop then that might be weird,” said Iman Elrabat-Gabr, now 37. “But the memories I have of it are not a butcher shop, more of a farm.”

Al Salam Polleria’s success, as well as its distinction, can be found in its East L.A. location and in its name — al salaam is Arabic for peace, polleria is Spanish for poultry shop.

It was never their intention to end up in East L.A. But as they would find, it was quite fortunate.

Elrabat-Gabr’s father, Safwat Elrabat, emigrated from Egypt, figuring he could fill a niche in Los Angeles by selling fresh poultry killed according to Islamic law, called halal.

How he arrived on this stretch of Whittier Boulevard, a heavily Latino neighborhood, came down to zoning laws that allow the storage and slaughter of live animals. Still, when Elrabat and his brother-in-law opened the shop in 1984, they expected a line of fellow Muslims trailing out the door.

“Yeah, it didn’t happen that way,” Elrabat-Gabr said.

Keep reading, and the Times describes how the Latinos came to love the Muslim chickens (hey, haven’t we had enough talk about Christian chickens for one week?). The story notes:

Elrabat-Gabr sees strong similarities between the Egyptian and Latin cultures. Both place great importance on family and on respect, she said, and because the Moors controlled parts of Spain for hundreds of years, the languages share similar words.

The Times (which apparently got this story idea from a smaller L.A.-area publication) reports that Islamic prayers hang behind the register and explains how the shop goes about killing the chickens:

Al Salam Polleria only kills chickens according to halal a few times each week — on an order-by-order basis: a Muslim person cuts the throat with a sharp knife, out of sight of the other animals, facing Mecca while saying in Arabic, “In the name of God, the greatest,” Elrabat-Gabr said.

But the Latino customers don’t ask for halal meat so nearly all of the 100 or so birds the shops sells each day are killed in the same expert fashion, minus the prayer. Once the dead birds are plucked, Josefina Martinez, 43, takes over. She has worked here for almost 20 years. For her last two pregnancies, Martinez said, she worked until the day she went into labor.

But mainly, the Times story fails to get religion. The story fails to delve into the shop owners’ faith and beliefs. Even more strikingly, it fails to delve into the Latino customers’ religion. Am I missing something, or isn’t that the whole crux of why it’s surprising that the shop would enjoy success with that demographic?

It would be fascinating to know if the Latino customers are Catholics or evangelicals or religious at all. It would be fascinating to know whether buying poultry at this Islamic shop has changed their perception of, or appreciation for, their Muslim neighbors and, if so, how.

I, for one, would love to know if the shop owners and Latino customers ever talk about religion and, if so, what they say. Do they respect each other’s beliefs? Do they share any common ground? Or is the relationship all about fresh poultry?

Chickens image via Shutterstock

Finn and the Facebook foes

In my post the other day on the indictment of a Roman Catholic bishop in Missouri, I acknowledged that I am not an expert on the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandals.

That admission on my part prompted a scolding comment (punctuated with a healthy serving of sarcasm) from a GetReligion reader:

That’s for dang sure. Indeed, your critique demonstrates that you’re not even really up to speed on the situation in KC. Have you checked out the long-running Facebook page, where his constituents are demanding his resignation over the issue?

But do carry on; it’s rather entertaining to (sic) what pundits pontificate from the perspective of ignorance. Hey, write first, investigate later. That’s…. “journalism?”

I replied that I had not checked out the Facebook page. That’s not my job. My role is to critique mainstream media coverage of religion, not to do the reporting myself. Certainly, I could “dang sure” do a better job of that sometimes.

But now, thanks to an Associated Press follow-up story on the case of Bishop Robert Finn, I have checked out the Facebook page — assuming it’s the one to which the reader referred. That’s because the AP story referenced the page up high. The top of the report:

Calls for Roman Catholic Bishop Robert Finn to resign started even before last week, when he became the highest-ranking church leader in the sex abuse scandal criminally charged with sheltering an accused priest.

The bishop of Kansas City, Mo., had acknowledged in May that he waited five months to tell police about the hundreds of images of alleged child pornography found on the Rev. Shawn Ratigan’s computer. Ratigan had taken some of the photos of girls months ago at an Easter party he hosted, investigators said. More than 700 people have joined a Facebook page called “Bishop Finn Must Go.”

As I type this, 784 Facebook users have clicked “like” on the “Bishop Finn Must Go” page.

At this rate, that page someday may eclipse the 836 Facebook users who “know someone with smelly feet.”

It may take a while before either page catches up with the 5,498,400 Facebook users who like Ozzy Osbourne or the 4,657,773 Facebook users — including myself — who like Chick-fil-A. 

But back to journalism: At what point should a major news organization — say the AP, whose news reaches half the world’s population on any given day — give serious credence to a Facebook petition? Should we expect breaking news soon on an epidemic of Americans who know people with smelly feet?

In the case of the story referenced, the AP story gives no other details on the Facebook page. For example, if it’s a serious opposition force against the bishop (whose public-figure Facebook page is liked by 1,219 users as of this moment), shouldn’t the page administrator be quoted? Shouldn’t some evidence be given that the people liking the page are actually parishioners of Finn’s diocese?

At the very least, shouldn’t at least one individual be quoted — by name and not vague reference to Facebook — who wants the bishop gone?

By the way, feel free to “like” the GetReligion Facebook page if you get a chance. We’re only a few fans (or a few zillion) away from reaching Ozzy status. And unlike Chick-fil-A, we’re open on Sundays.

‘Eat mor chikin’ or not?

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See if you can guess the source of this news article:

ATLANTA — The Chick-fil-A sandwich — a hand-breaded chicken breast and a couple of pickles squished into a steamy, white buttered bun — is a staple of some Southern diets and a must-have for people who collect regional food experiences the way some people collect baseball cards.

New Yorkers have sprinted through the airport here to grab one between flights. College students returning home stop for one even before they say hello to their parents.

But never on Sunday, when the chain is closed.

Nicknamed “Jesus chicken” by jaded secular fans and embraced by Evangelical Christians, Chick-fil-A is among only a handful of large American companies with conservative religion built into its corporate ethos. But recently its ethos has run smack into the gay rights movement.

OK, here are your choices: Did this article run in The Onion — America’s Finest News Source — or The New York Times?

The correct answer would be the Times. Read the full story.

Now, I must acknowledge my bias right here at the top: I am a big fan of Chick-fil-A — the fried chicken, that is. My family eats chicken biscuits there most every Saturday morning. Once every week or two, I go through the drive-through at lunchtime and usually order a 12-pack nugget meal. My local Chick-Fil-A has so much traffic at noontime that a handful of employees direct traffic outside the store and the call in advance orders to keep the lines of cars moving.

However, I must confess something else, too: I’ve never heard anyone refer to Chick-fil-A chicken sandwiches as “Jesus chicken.” I am well aware that Chick-fil-A closes on Sundays and respect that decision, even though I frequent many other restaurants that choose to serve the after-church crowd. On a recent morning visit to Chick-fil-A, I noticed a manager reading his Bible during his break. This did not offend me. Then again, I am a Bible-believing Christian.

Back to the Times’ article: The news peg is that a Chick-fil-A in Pennsylvania — one of the chain’s 1,500-plus locations in 39 states — agreed to provide free sandwiches to a group that promotes traditional families and opposes same-sex marriages. This lit up gay blogs and prompted some university students across the nation to try to get the chain removed from their campuses, the newspaper reports.

The coverage prompted Chick-fil-A’s president and COO to issue a lengthy statement, including this:

In recent weeks, we have been accused of being anti-gay. We have no agenda against anyone. At the heart and soul of our company, we are a family business that serves and values all people regardless of their beliefs or opinions. We seek to treat everyone with honor, dignity and respect, and believe in the importance of loving your neighbor as yourself.

We also believe in the need for civility in dialogue with others who may have different beliefs. While my family and I believe in the Biblical definition of marriage, we love and respect anyone who disagrees.

The Times’ 1,300-word report itself seems to give a fair hearing to Chick-fil-A and provides a variety of customer (and non-customer) voices: a lesbian who wonders if loving Chick-fil-A makes you “a bad gay,” a devout Christian dental hygienist who is outspoken in her support of Chick-fil-A, a non-religious Chick-fil-A customer who thinks the outcry seems like overkill and a “Big Gay Ice Cream Truck” operator who wants people to make informed decisions about their food.

But in reading the story, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that this piece belonged in The Onion, not the Times.

I mean, Chick-fil-A’s Christian ethos isn’t exactly breaking news. Watchdogs inclined to accuse the mainstream media of liberal bias wasted little time in doing so in this case (see here and here). The Weekly Standard weighed in with a piece titled “The Left’s Latest Target: Chick-fil-A?” In Chick-fil-A’s hometown, the Times story prompted this follow-up by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

At The Chronicle of Higher Education, Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, raised questions about the effort to kick Chick-fil-A off campuses. His questions might apply, as well, to the issue of whether this brouhaha rises to the level of national news:

So far as I can tell, no one has accused Chick-fil-A of discriminating against gays and lesbians in its employment practices or its customer service. The incident that sparked the boycott campaign was a Pennsylvania Chick-fil-A restaurant’s provision of sandwiches and brownies to a marriage seminar put on by the Pennsylvania Family Institute — a group that opposes gay marriage and has been characterized by activists as anti-gay. The seminar in Harrisburg is “The Art of Marriage: Getting to the Heart of God’s Design.” Presumably Chick-fil-A contributes to other groups that hold similar views. Does that really provide a sound reason to those who favor gay marriage to drive Chick-fil-A off campus?

I think not. The campaign is unwise because it seeks to punish and stigmatize those with whom the protesters disagree. The ideal of the campus as a place where people debate their differences by means of rational arguments and well-vetted evidence has been on a downward trajectory for decades. Kicking Chick-fil-A off campus is a reductio ad absurdum of the now-common tactic of roaring at your supposed opponents. The company, after all, isn’t busy on campus promoting an anti-gay marriage agenda. It’s just selling chicken sandwiches.

That’s just one perspective, of course. This is how the expert quoted by the Times described the situation (cue the dramatic music, please):

With its near-national reach and its transparent conservative Christian underpinnings, Chick-fil-A is a trailblazer of sorts, said Lake Lambert, the author of “Spirituality, Inc.” and dean of the college of liberal arts at Mercer University, where he teaches Christianity.

“They’re going in a direction we haven’t seen in faith-based businesses before, and that is to a much broader marketing of themselves and their products,” he said. “This is possibly the next phase of evangelical Christianity’s muscle flexing.”

(The Times uppercased “Evangelical” in the first reference and lowercased it in the second. Not sure which is proper Times style, although I think lowercasing it is the right approach.)

Now, GetReligion readers, it’s your turn to play Times editor: Is this national news worthy of 1,300 words in the A section on Sunday? Or do you leave the coverage of this story to The Onion? Remember, we are concerned about journalistic issues and will spike comments from advocates.