Boy Scouts, Mormons and CNN’s tabloid-style ‘reporting’

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Let’s face it: Most of the mainstream media coverage of the Boy Scouts of America’s decision to delay a vote on possibly accepting gay Scouts and adult leaders was pretty ho-hum.

Here’s how The New York Times boiled down Wednesday’s development in a 65-word lede (sorry, I could not resist counting):

The Boy Scouts of America, which confirmed last summer its policy barring openly gay people from participation, then said last week that it was reconsidering the ban, announced Wednesday that it would postpone a decision once more, until May, as talk of gay men and lesbians in the ranks has roiled a storied organization that carries deep emotional connection and nostalgia for millions of Americans.

The Times and other major media (such as The Associated Press and The Dallas Morning News) relied heavily on a three-paragraph statement issued by the Boy Scouts:

For 103 years, the Boy Scouts of America has been a part of the fabric of this nation, providing its youth program of character development and values-based leadership training. In the past two weeks, Scouting has received an outpouring of feedback from the American public. It reinforces how deeply people care about Scouting and how passionate they are about the organization.

After careful consideration and extensive dialogue within the Scouting family, along with comments from those outside the organization, the volunteer officers of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Executive Board concluded that due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy.

To that end, the National Executive Board directed its committees to further engage representatives of Scouting’s membership and listen to their perspectives and concerns. This will assist the officers’ work on a resolution on membership standards. The approximately 1,400 voting members of the National Council will take action on the resolution at the National Annual Meeting in May 2013.

Over at Religion News Service, national correspondent Adelle M. Banks noted:

The decision by Boy Scouts of America to postpone any change in policy about gay membership was fueled by an “outpouring of feedback.” Much of that reaction came from a sector with strength in numbers: the religious groups that comprise the majority of the Scouts’ chartered organizations. …

There is simply no denying the influence of religion in the Boy Scouts, a group that includes “my duty to God’’ in its oath. According to the BSA, religious organizations comprise 70 percent of its sponsoring organizations. Mormons, United Methodists and Catholics — the three largest groups — sponsored more than 1 million of the current 2.6 million Scouts in 2011.

Alas, it seems that only one news organization snagged the real story. And trust me, it’s much less ho-hum than the scripted Boy Scout statement and predictable quotes from gay-rights supporters and religious conservatives on which the other media depended. Of course, the same might be said of the reporting in the Weekly World News.

Congratulations go to CNN, which managed to grab the scoop without revealing any sources (or presumably, interviewing anyone) at all — always an accomplishment among “journalists.”

Click this link for the full report from CNN’s Erin Burnett, but here’s the story in a nutshell:

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Gays, Boy Scouts and the religion angle

I’ve been swamped with my regular job the last few days, so I have not had as much time as usual to peruse religion headlines.

However, news that the Boy Scouts of America may drop its ban on gays has been impossible to miss.

The Associated Press has a rapid-fire second-day story that includes input from a variety of  sources — pro and con — on the possible change:

NEW YORK (AP) — The Boy Scouts of America’s proposed move away from its no-gays membership policy has outraged some longtime admirers, gratified many critics and raised intriguing questions about the iconic organization’s future.

Will the Scouts now be split between troops with gay-friendly policies and those that keep the ban? What will a National Jamboree be like if it brings together these disparate groups with conflicting ideologies? Will the churches long devoted to scouting now be torn by internal debate over the choices that may lie ahead?

After those opening two paragraphs, AP immediately turns to a source in the religion world:

A top official of the Southern Baptist Convention, whose conservative churches sponsor hundreds of Scout units that embrace the ban, was among those alarmed that the BSA is proposing to allow sponsoring organizations to decide for themselves whether to admit gays as scouts and adult leaders.

“We understand that we are now a minority, that it is not popular to have biblical values, not popular to take stands that seem intolerant,” said Frank Page, president of the SBC’s executive committee. “This is going to lead to a disintegration of faith-based values.”

Later, the story includes comments — or lack of comments — from Mormon and Roman Catholic officials:

[Read more...]


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