Interview or argument? There’s a difference, CNN

Want to get drunk fast?

Watch this video and take a swig of an adult beverage every time Chris Cuomo interrupts Bill Donohue.

After 12 minutes, you won’t be able to stand up.

Cuomo brought Donohue onto CNN’s morning show New Day in the latter’s role as head of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. The topic was the Arizona law that was just vetoed by Governor Jan Brewer. As you may recall, the law would have allowed anyone to decline to do business with someone on religious grounds. Gays were believed to have been the main targets, in sympathy with Christians who believe homosexuality is wrong.

Meaty stuff for a discussion, to be sure. What if the businessman believes blacks are inferior? Conversely, without the law, would a Jewish photographer be forced to shoot pictures at a Klan or skinhead wedding?

And the talk is actually pretty productive for the first half of the interview. But then Cuomo makes it a quarrel. Either that or badgering. Sometimes he doesn’t even wait for Donohue to finish a sentence before adding more preachments thinly veiled as questions.

Here are some excerpts from where the two discuss a recent situation in New Mexico, of a photographer who didn’t want to take pictures at a gay wedding. Donohue actually says he has “no sympathy” for such people. Then he raises fears about forcing churches to accept gay weddings.

“No, we’re not going there,” Cuomo says at first. Then when Donohue insists, Cuomo gets more argumentative, moving from law to morality.

Donohue: We feel, people of faith, that our rights are being whittled away in the name of gay rights having to trump ours. We need to have an honest discussion. I’d like to see a moratorium on this …

Cuomo: How does gay marriage compromise your rights?

Donohue: The problem with gay marriage is this: It makes a smorgasbord. It basically says that there’s no profound difference, socially speaking, between marriage between a man and woman — the only union that can create a family — and other examples. I don’t …

Cuomo: Who says that’s the purpose of marriage? What if you want lifelong companionship and commitment?

Donohue: If a man and woman don’t have sex, we can’t reproduce, can we? We can’t propagate …

Cuomo: You don’t have to be married to propagate.

Donohue: No, that’s right, you …

Cuomo: And you don’t have to want kids to be married.

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Report both sides of the story, unless you’re HuffPost

A bill dealing with gay weddings is being hotly debated in Kansas, but not in a Huffington Post article about it. The clumsily titled “Being Gay Ain’t Okay in Kansas” would fit well in a journalism textbook chapter on one-sided reporting.

The article, summarizing a HuffPost Live video, loads the first paragraph with the warning that the bill, if passed, “would allow discrimination against same-sex couples on the basis of religious beliefs.” It then quotes legislator Emily Perry, interviewed in the video, and doesn’t go much beyond that point for the next 200 words or so.

The three-page bill itself seems pretty straightforward. Its main point is that:

[N]o individual or religious entity shall be required by any governmental entity to do any of the following, if it would be contrary to the sincerely held religious beliefs of the individual or religious entity regarding sex or gender:

(a) Provide any services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges; provide counseling, adoption, foster care and other social services; or provide employment or employment benefits, related to, or related to the celebration of, any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement …

The HuffPost story links to the bill but doesn’t quote it directly. Instead, it helps Perry raise red flags about a host of civil wrongs:

“To me it really talks to the fact that an employer or even a governmental entity … could not provide services,” Perry said on HuffPost Live. She raised an example of a police officer arriving at the scene of a domestic violence complaint involving a gay couple. “We don’t want these public servants to be able to arrive at the scene of the crime, and decide that because of their religious beliefs, they don’t want to offer services,” she said.

The piece says that Gov. Sam Brownback hasn’t read the bill but “is a well-known supporter of religious liberty.” It’s apparently drawing from a Kansas City Star piece to which it links:

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Wind of change comes sweeping down the plain

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My home state of Oklahoma made big news Tuesday when a federal judge struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

The New York Times noted that the ruling occurred in the “heart of the Bible Belt,” while The Associated Press characterized Oklahoma as “the buckle of the Bible Belt.” (Religion angle, anyone?)

For the Tulsa World — whose banner headline today proclaimed “Gay marriage wins” — the ruling hit especially close to home, and not just because a Tulsa-based judge made the ruling. Two of the four plaintiffs are World editors, a connection that — to its credit — the Tulsa newspaper made clear in its story.

A friend of mine who works for the World remarked on his Facebook page that “it’s not often you walk into the newsroom and watch news happen in front of your face. Like national news kind of stuff.”

From The New York Times story:

“We’re jubilant, we’re over the moon,” said one of the plaintiffs, Sharon Baldwin, 45, who has lived with her partner and co-plaintiff, Mary Bishop, 52, for 17 years.

The two both work as editors at The Tulsa World newspaper and had just arrived at work on Tuesday afternoon when the city editor told them of the decision.

“We’re taking the day off,” Ms. Baldwin said.

In the major outlets, the first-day news coverage focused on the national ramifications of the decision, and rightly so. CNN described the ruling as “yet another victory for same-sex marriage supporters.” The Washington Post termed it “the latest in a string of recent court decisions that have challenged such prohibitions.”

But a few news organizations — including the AP — delved into the meat of U.S. District Judge Terence Kern’s 68-page ruling:

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Say what?!? Organ music at ‘Duck Dynasty’ church?

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The White’s Ferry Road Church of Christ in West Monroe, La., is making headlines these days as the home congregation of the Robertson family of “Duck Dynasty” fame.

For me, mention of the White’s Ferry Road church brings back fond memories totally unrelated to duck hunting or reality television. That’s because — for two years during my early childhood — the Ouachita River community of West Monroe was my hometown and the White’s Ferry Road church my home congregation, as I shared in a 2012 column.

In light of the controversy over “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson’s comments on homosexuality, The Associated Press sent a reporter to cover Sunday services at the Louisiana church this past weekend.

The top of the story:

WEST MONROE, La. (AP) – “Faith. Family. Ducks.” It’s the unofficial motto for the family featured in the TV reality show Duck Dynasty and that homespun philosophy permeates nearly everything in this small north Louisiana town.

It’s perhaps most on display at the White’s Ferry Road Church of Christ in West Monroe, where the Robertson family prays and preaches most Sunday mornings.

The family — including patriarch Phil Robertson, who ignited a controversy last week when he told a magazine reporter that gays are sinners and African-Americans were happy under Jim Crow laws — were in a front pew this past Sunday. And standing by beliefs they say are deeply rooted in their reading of the Bible.

The rest of the flock, decked out in Duck Dynasty hats and bandannas, stood by the family and the sentiments Phil Robertson expressed.

Alan, Robertson’s eldest son, helped deliver a Christmas-themed sermon. He started off by referring to last week’s controversy.

“Hope your week went well,” he dead-panned. “Ours was kinda’ slow.” He was referring, of course, to Phil’s forced hiatus: TV network A&E suspended Phil last week after remarks about blacks and gays caused a public uproar.

So far, so good.

But then came this spit-out-out-your-Diet-Coke transition, if you happen to be a part of this particular branch of the Christian faith:

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A same-sex marriage story that makes you go hmmmmm …

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Here at GetReligion, we’ve repeatedly highlighted the apparent new normal on mainstream media coverage of same-sex marriage.

I’ve complained (more than once or twice) that The Associated Press seems to have decided to quote only same-sex marriage proponents — and not opponents — in its stories.

So as I was scanning the headlines on the Pew Research Center’s “Religion in the News” page (one of my favorite bookmarks), this one caught my attention:

AP: Gay rights fight comes to Texas, despite ban

A native Texan, I clicked on the story link, curious if the story would conform to the new normal or actually quote key voices on all sides of the reported fight.

Let’s start at the top:

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — One couple wants to get married, while the other just wants theirs recognized. A third couple wants a divorce, while the fourth wants theirs finalized. If all win their lawsuits, they could overturn the Texas ban on same-sex marriage.

A federal court in San Antonio will hear arguments next month from the attorneys representing the couples who want to live lawfully wedded. The Texas Supreme Court is considering the cases of the couples who want their out-of-state marriages legally dissolved.

They are challenging a constitutional ban on gay and lesbian marriages approved by 1.7 million Texas voters in 2005. At the time, only Massachusetts allowed gay marriage and conservatives hoped to pass a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

Eight years later, 16 states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriages, and New Mexico is allowing marriages pending a decision by that state’s Supreme Court later this year. The U.S. Supreme Court has also struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, saying federal authorities cannot deny the rights of couples legally married under state law.

Well, four paragraphs in, the story really hasn’t quoted anyone.

I kept reading, and the entire story — all 660 words of it — reads more like a boring research paper than an actual enlightening piece of journalism.

The couples who sued are never identified. The only actual humans named are U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. But the story — if you want to call it that — contains not a single comment inside quote marks, pro or con.

Yawn.

Attribution — by which quality journalism identifies the source of its information — is just as lacking.

For example, consider this paragraph:

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Still another one-sided same-sex marriage story

Here we go again.

A major media organization has published still another one-sided story on the religious debate over same-sex marriage.

This time, the guilty party is not The Associated Press. Rather, it’s USA Today, which as you might recall used to employ an actual religion writer. It could use one right about now.

This story, which originated with Gannett sister paper The Tennessean, is a long, winding ode to same-sex marriage disguised (not extremely well) as a news story.

Let’s start at the breathless top:

The couple buys a marriage license, a recognized officiant signs it and it’s refiled with the local government. That’s a legal marriage, and in 14 states — with Illinois just the governor’s signature away from becoming the 15th — that’s a process open to both straight and gay couples.

Getting the church on board is a little more complicated. The issue of whether clergy should officiate same-sex marriages is dividing an increasing number of denominations.

Now, a retired Nashville bishop has become the latest to draw headlines on the issue — reversing course from a path that, four decades ago, had him playing a key role in sending the church down a path of resistance to change.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America began allowing individual congregations to recognize same-sex marriages in 2009. Episcopalians adopted a same-sex marriage rite in July 2012, although a number of individual dioceses — including the one in Tennessee — chose not to allow it. The Presbyterian Church (USA) came close to approving same-sex marriages in 2012 but narrowly defeated the measure.

And United Methodists, the nation’s largest mainline Protestant denomination, are nowhere close after debating the issue for decades.

That hasn’t stopped pastors nationwide from defying church doctrine and performing those ceremonies. Some call it ecclesiastical disobedience. Others call it biblical obedience. Either way, it’s exposing them to church discipline, with potential punishments ranging from verbal rebukes to loss of their ordinations — and the financial implications that go with it.

Um, OK. Did everyone learn something new? I had no idea same-sex marriage was causing debate within denominations.

Apparently, the news peg is that a retired bishop (a Methodist, we find out deep in the story) performed a same-sex marriage:

Despite warnings from his denomination that he’d be violating the faith’s Book of Discipline, Bishop Melvin Talbert traveled from Nashville to near Birmingham, Ala., to perform the Oct. 26 wedding of Joe Openshaw and Bobby Prince. They were legally married Sept. 3 in Washington, D.C., but wanted a church wedding. Openshaw said he specifically wanted Talbert to officiate since the bishop had spent years supporting Methodist gays and lesbians.

That wasn’t Talbert’s stance 40 years ago at the 1972 Methodist general conference, which adopted language saying homosexuality is incompatible with Christianity. His views changed several years later, when he was invited to a weekend seminar of gay and straight Methodists; participants could not reveal which they were until the end.

The revelation destroyed his stereotypes. The married father and grandfather brought the issue to a head last year, when the denomination voted against removing the language he had helped put in.

“I declared those laws that prohibited clergy from marrying gay and lesbian folk and using the church for that purpose are immoral, unjust, they are evil, and they no longer deserve our loyalty and support,” he said. “It’s time for us to do the right thing.”

But what about voices within the United Methodist Church who believe Talbert is doing the wrong thing? How do they respond to him defying the denomination and winning swooning headlines?

Ah ha ha. USA Today makes not even a token attempt to quote anyone on the other side.

Just for kicks and grins, what might an opposing viewpoint have looked like in this rambling report? Here’s a chunk of a recent Religion News Service story on the United Methodist debate:

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Yo! NYPost! Did that school have a Catholic covenant?

This story is getting very, very familiar and it’s clear that these lawsuits are happening for a reason.

As The New York Post reports:

A prestigious Catholic high school booted a Bronx senior for being gay, the girl claims in a lawsuit.

Amanda Acevedo, 17, says in court papers that a homophobic administrator at Preston HS in Throggs Neck took exception to her bringing a girl as a date to a school dance and embarked on a two-year campaign of discrimination that culminated in her expulsion in September.

“Such a disgraceful act is proof positive of the fact that they got rid of my daughter because of her sexual orientation,” Acevedo’s dad, John, charges in the suit, filed against the private all-girls school in Bronx Supreme Court last month. “No other reason makes sense. Preston High gains nothing by expelling a traumatized gay child — except a sick sense of pleasure at getting rid of a gay child.”

It’s understandable that the girl’s father does not care whether or not this Catholic school was trying to defend centuries of Catholic teachings on sexuality.

However, The Post team doesn’t get the same exemption from asking basic, logical, journalistic questions about the legal (canon law and secular) tensions inside Catholic education circles today. Your GetReligionistas have seen this syndrome before, as shown here, here and here.

What’s the issue here? Freedom of association for starters, as well as religious liberty.

In previous posts on similar topics (and comments from informed readers), it has become clear that:

(a) Some Catholic schools, especially those attempting to recruit large numbers of non-Catholic students, do not ask students and parents to sign “lifestyle” or doctrinal covenants in which they pledge to affirm, or not to publicly oppose, Catholic teachings and traditions.

(b) Some Catholic schools, however, have created covenants of this kind for employees, as well as students and their parents.

(c) This pro-covenant trend may be on the rise, due to a growing awareness among bishops and Catholic educators that religious institutions that do not set clear doctrinal standards — standards for admissions, discipline cases and faculty hiring and firing — are creating a foggy legal environment in which it is easier to file precisely these kinds of lawsuits.

So do the members of the Post team even know that these issues exist?

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Yet another one-sided AP same-sex marriage story

Over the weekend, I did a post titled “Another one-sided AP same-sex marriage story.”

I complained, not for the first time, that The Associated Press seems to have decided that stories about same-sex marriage need to include only one side: the side excited about same-sex marriage.

My post prompted this comment from a gay-rights advocate who identified himself as Scott L:

Sounds like the AP is behaving like a responsible organization in 2013. Marriage equality is a reality in much of the country. Accept it.

I spiked that comment and a few others that railed against the gay-rights movement because they fell outside our policy for reader feedback:

Engage the contents of the post. This is a journalism weblog. Please strive to comment on journalism issues, not your opinions of the doctrinal or political beliefs of other people.

In a nutshell, as we’ve explained many times, GetReligion is a website that focuses on journalism and media coverage issues. We advocate for fair and accurate news reporting and identify ghosts in religion news coverage. But Scott L took to Twitter to accuse me of bias:

After I encouraged Scott to make his point with a clear journalistic focus, another reader (with whom I have had a few personal and professional ties over the years) chimed in:

I replied:

But as I explained, I couldn’t have a serious discussion in 140-character bits on Twitter. And also, I was on deadline with my real job yesterday.

So here we are … so I’ll attempt to answer the questions.

First, on the notion that pro-gay comments get moderated or deleted. Yes, that’s right. And so do anti-gay comments that have nothing do with journalism. This is not a site to advocate one side or the other. It’s a site to discuss journalism. If you want to suggest that journalism needs to tell only one side of the story, do that and explain why in terms that make it clear you’re not simply arguing the doctrinal or political issues.

Second, on Greg’s question of whether it’s disingenuous to require both sides of every story. There’s nothing disingenuous at all about my contention that fair, responsible journalism should include voices on both (or all) sides of big, important public debates.

Do we ask the KKK to comment on NAACP stories? Not necessarily. But if you’re writing about a KKK rally, yes, try to get a comment from the KKK. Sorry, folks, but that’s journalism. Sometimes, we quote people with whom we vehemently disagree.

I’ve written 450-plus posts for GetReligion since 2010. I’d invite Scott or Greg or anyone else to send me any links to my posts that were advocacy on either side of an important issue and not advocacy for quality journalism.

For Scott and Greg, the debate over same-sex marriage may be over, and they may have strong opinions on which side is correct, which is certainly their right in a free country. But from a journalistic perspective, a responsible reporter can’t make that determination.

The latest example that I’ll use comes from Tennessee, where AP again seems to have decided to tell only one side of the story:

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