Close to home: Those Godbeat changes hit tmatt

What he said:

“I’m glad to hear that Scripps Howard still as a religion writer on its staff. Seriously, I mean it’s a nice thing that, you know, that still exists in the media.”

– Tom Hanks, at a press conference in 2009

For those who have not heard the news elsewhere, out in the Twitter-verse for example, there was a rather stunning announcement made yesterday that the Scripps Howard News Service is shutting down.

That was the first domino.

In my case, the second domino to fall was that the editors at the McClatchy-Tribune wire, which inherited the Scripps costumer list, did not pick up my “On Religion” column for syndication. This should lead to a third domino. If the weekly “On Religion” no longer exists, then it cannot be picked up by the 600 or so small- and medium-sized newspapers in the Newspaper Enterprise Association.

Here’s a clip from the all-to-familiar news obit, care of Bloomberg:

Scripps Howard News Service, which fed syndicated stories to papers across the U.S. since World War I, plans to shut down, becoming the latest symbol of readers’ shift away from print media. …

The Scripps Howard News Service, founded in 1917, supplied newspaper clients with Washington coverage and news from around the world, as well as photos, commentary and editorial cartoons. The operation was a remnant of a once-thriving era of wire services and news agencies, when an insatiable newspaper industry had numerous publications in every city and multiple editions per day. In an age when Internet news is typically free, newspaper consolidation, declining advertising sales and shrinking circulation have crimped demand for wire copy.

Internet news is free, sort of. However, it still costs money to produce real, live news and information.

If you follow the advertising crisis and its side effects, you know that there is great irony in all of this.

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Mixing scales of justice and songs of praise

Strange, strange, strange — like something out of a John Grisham novel.

That was my first reaction to an Associated Press news story about a Tennessee jury accused of singing, praying and reading Bible verses during deliberations:

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The attorney for a man sentenced to death for the torture slayings of a young Knoxville couple says the jury spent the majority of its sentencing deliberations singing worship songs and reading Bible verses rather than discussing the case.

A motion filed on behalf of Lemaricus Davidson was recently unsealed along with pages of handwritten hymns and praise songs used by jurors during Davidson’s 2009 trial. His attorney says the impromptu worship service violated Davidson’s rights to a fair trial, due process and impartial jury.

The AP story is a rewrite of a longer report that first appeared in the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Both pieces impressed me as woefully short on specific details concerning the jury’s alleged infractions. For example, I want to know the specific songs they sang. Did they fancy “Rock of Ages?” Or did they lean more toward “Jesus Freak?” Similarly, I want to know the specific Bible verses they read. Concerning the Scriptures, the original Knoxville newspaper report notes:

The motion is based on a signed affidavit from a bailiff who served during Davidson’s 2009 trial. The affidavit included handwritten notes that said the praise service happened before deliberation, but does not specify a timeline or location of the service. It does show the jury members used copies of hymns while one member led the others in song while playing guitar. Another juror read a Bible verse — Psalm 90, verse 12 — according to the handwritten notes.

The King James Version of that verse says:

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

I’m assuming that the reported details are vague because the court records themselves are vague. Moreover, I’m assuming that the jurors either can’t, or won’t, talk about the case. In other words, the news organizations are reporting what they know, which isn’t a whole lot.

Hopefully, more facts will surface at a hearing on the defense motion set for next week.

Strange, strange, strange.

Image via Shutterstock


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