A more graceful Ross joins GetReligion crew

Some folks get annoyed when they read a news story with holes, a piece with errors, prose with pockmarks. Me? I see it as an opportunity to learn and to teach. And when there’s nothing to fix, when all angles are covered and no questions remain by the ending, I rejoice and join in the celebration of good journalism. Everyone wins!

That’s part of why GetReligion captivates me, and it’s a big reason why I’m thrilled by the opportunity to join this stellar group of religion news hounds.

I’ve been reading this site for years, since my husband Bobby Ross Jr. turned me on to its efforts to shine a bright light on the dimly lit ghosts of secular religion coverage. I’ve always thought the Almighty has a sense of humor, and the commentary here affirms that for me. I love journalism, too, and that’s what this blog is all about.

Besides loving a good laugh, though, who am I really? A good friend calls me Jobette, the feminine form of the Bible’s most prolific yet long-suffering man. I think that’s much better that being called Sarah/Sarai, though, because that wing of the house is firmly closed.

I ended my 20-year career in journalism in 2012 after a trio of as-yet-untamable autoimmune diseases made it impossible to stay vertical for even moderate periods of time, much less type, travel or transcribe notes. During my byline years, however, I worked as religion editor for The Oklahoman, promoted up from copy editor and assistant features editor. I’ve also done freelance work for The Associated Press and United Methodist News Service. My most recent gig was with The Christian Chronicle, which truly was a homecoming for me, as I interned there during my college years at Oklahoma Christian University.

I ended my 43-year career as my mother’s favorite (and only) daughter just three weeks ago after she suffered a massive heart attack and died 48 hours later. I sat with my dad in a different heart hospital three days after her memorial service and listened as he described for doctors numbness, tingling and pain I had never heard about before. (My own ticker seems to be keeping excellent time at the moment, in spite of its brokenness.)

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Another hack piece by CNN … maybe (Updated)

Screenshot from CNN.com home page

What’s good for the goose is good for, um, Sarah Pulliam Bailey.

Right?

Sarah, former online editor for Christianity Today and now managing editor for Odyssey Networks, spent three years as a GetReligion contributor before leaving us this past October.

To be honest, I still haven’t forgiven Sarah for giving up her high-paying gig as a GetReligionista. How dare she abandon our close-knit team of blogging professionals?

But anyway, this tweet by Sarah caught my attention today:

I tweeted back:

So here we are, with me about to treat Sarah to a big ole helping of the no-holds-barred media criticism that she doled out so often herself. (After typing that, why do I feel a sudden urge to take a break and watch some professional wrestling?)

Actually, in case you couldn’t tell, I’m delaying the inevitable part of the post where I have to say what a great journalist Sarah is and how much I enjoyed her 2,800-word story because, well, you know how much GetReligion readers hate posts that actually praise mainstream media coverage of religion.

Right?

Here’s the top of Sarah’s story:

Wheaton, Illinois (CNN)– Combing through prayer requests in a Wheaton College chapel in 2010, then-junior Benjamin Matthews decided to do something “absurdly unsafe.”

He posted a letter on a public forum bulletin board near students’ post office boxes. In the letter, he came out as gay and encouraged fellow gay Christian students — some of whom had anonymously expressed suicidal plans in a pile of the prayer requests — to contact him if they needed help.

In a student body of 2,400 undergraduates in the suburbs of Chicago, at what is sometimes called the Harvard of evangelical schools, Matthews said that 15 male students came out to him. Other students seemed somewhat ambivalent about his coming out, he said.

No one told him he was wrong or needed to change, Matthews said some students were obviously uncomfortable with someone who would come out as gay and remain a Christian.

“I don’t think most Wheaton students knew what to do because they’ve been given ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ rhetoric, but they don’t know how that plays out in real life,” said Matthews, who graduated in 2011. “They would mostly just listen, nod and say, ‘Yeah man, that’s hard.’”

Sarah packs the report with diverse voices, relevant context and history, strong survey data and important nuance that recognizes the complex nature of the issues at play. All in all, it’s an extraordinary story, worthy of the lead spot that it occupies on CNN’s home page at the moment I type this.

If I have any criticism, it’s that the story takes too long — in my humble opinion — to quote any Wheaton officials. We’re nearly 900 words into the piece before we get to this:

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A stone, but no tablet, at the emergency room

It’s been a difficult few weeks for your friendly neighborhood GetReligionistas.

First, George endured major spinal surgery.

Then Mollie seriously injured her ankle.

I’ve got to tell you: I’ve been praying hard that tmatt — and not me — would be the next member of our team struck by a painful malady. But apparently, GR’s head honcho has deeper connections than I realized.

For me, that realization came just before midnight Friday when an excruciating pain struck my lower back. I immediately suspected the culprit: a kidney stone.

I had experienced the same ailment last summer and figured I knew how to treat it. I started chugging water and popping Tylenol and Lortab. I ran repeated hot baths and found a little relief in the tub. I repented of many sins and asked God to take away my punishment (I don’t claim perfect theology in the state I was in!).

Mainly, I lay on my bed and alternated between moaning and groaning.

I was home alone — with my wife and daughter visiting my in-laws in southeastern Oklahoma and my sons enjoying down time in San Antonio after a spring-break mission trip to Mexico. At some point, I decided I needed to go to the emergency room, but I didn’t want to call and wake up any of my local friends in the middle of the night.

By 7 a.m., I couldn’t take it anymore.

I grabbed the previous day’s pants out of the hamper and put on my Nikes (sans socks). And I drove to the hospital. Fortunately, we don’t live far from Mercy Health Center in Oklahoma City.

Before I even got to the end of our street, I realized that I had left my cell phone on the kitchen table. For a split-second, I considered turning around and going to get it. I quickly decided against it. I did remember to bring my insurance card.

The kind folks at Mercy got me into a room quickly. The nurse gave me a gown to change into and a plastic bottle in which to provide a urine sample. I was a little slow providing the sample. So I was standing in my boxers — having not yet put on the gown — when the nurse returned. The good news: I was in no condition to be embarrassed.

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