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:
— Scott Lybrand (@scottlybrand) October 22, 2013
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:
— Greg Kendall-Ball (@gregkb) October 22, 2013
— Bobby Ross Jr. (@bobbyross) October 22, 2013
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: