Can the press cover traditionalists with justice and decency?

Thanks to the many readers who sent in kind words regarding my piece last week on the Washington Post ombudsman column that shed light on how bigoted some in the media are when it comes to covering those who oppose changing marriage laws to include same-sex couples.

That column, which quoted directly from a shockingly ignorant and contemptuous Washington Post reporter’s email — and then piled on with some further ignorance about arguments regarding same-sex marriage law — has generated quite a bit of coverage.

I wanted to look at one response to my original piece that ran on The Atlantic‘s web site. But first, a few items. Let’s note how the New York Times pitched a recent piece that adopted the arguments of those seeking to change marriage laws. Here’s how the reader submitted it to us:

From this afternoon’s NY Times e-mail:
Common Sense
Refusing to Arrive Late on Same-Sex Marriage

By JAMES B. STEWART
Corporate America has historically been slow to take up civil rights issues, but companies have rushed to sign the briefs filed with the Supreme Court in support of same-sex marriage.

Can you spell “a-d-v-o-c-a-c-y”?

Yes, I can! And that’s exactly how you spell it. Advocacy is fine, of course. It has a place. That place is not, as it turns out, on the pages of a media outlet that claims to be presenting news, but it does have a place.

I also made it through the beginning of this other New York Times advocacy piece that found the actual words of a source not compelling enough for the story’s campaign objective. The premise is that a reporter is interviewing a family friend who is a pastor:

As I sat across from him at the kitchen table, drinking mint tea, I turned on my recorder and took a breath. Has the Christian church adopted a don’t ask, don’t tell policy? I asked.

“I would have to say yes,” he answered, shifting in his seat a little nervously, it seemed to me. He noted that many black churches like his own had made concessions to accommodate the growing acceptance of same-sex lifestyles. “There is a compromise because there is such a prevalent hard-core view on what’s considered right and wrong. People are feeling that in order to even retain a certain amount of membership, you can’t be very dogmatic about any of their sins.”

Said another way: If a minister is too rigidly homophobic, it could scare away members, which would decrease contributions and might ultimately be the end of a family-owned church.

I don’t know who is responsible for the, “Said another way” line, but Oh. My. Goodness. Now, nothing in the quote suggests that the pastor was AFRAID of homosexuals, so why would you ever use the bullying phrase of “homophobic”? But if you need to completely rewrite something in “another” way than your source said it, you are just making stuff up. Don’t do that. I’m not even going to address the imprecision of the broad, sweeping question about “the Christian Church” or the weird line about a “family-owned church.”

What’s particularly sad about this subsuming of journalism in favor of advocacy is that the interviewee said something really interesting about changing doctrines to be popular. What a wonderful idea to build a story around, but one that doesn’t match the paper’s preconceived ideas about what the story should be (hint: we’re later told he’s “torn” between “humanity” and being “welcoming” and his “religious beliefs.”). (Cue: Triple sign.)

Finally, the Washington Post is hosting an online discussion speculating about precisely what role “Christianity” played in the murder of an openly gay politician last week. You may suspect, given that this is considered a perfectly fine thing about which to speculate, that we know that “Christianity” played at least some role. Any role. Even a tiny smidgen of a role. In fact, police have identified a suspect and, well, here’s what a progressive news site called Raw Story says about the suspect Lawrence Reed:

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