Mainstream Media, Pagans and the Air Force

You gotta love mercury retrograde. Weird crap just happens. Really funny things happen. I’m tickled. Here’s why…

See, it all started with Cara Schulz. She’s spent probably about 6 months working on the 2-part Air Force story she published recently. You should read it here and here. It’s really good.

She spent countless hours trying to get people to talk to her, to get people to go on the record and to pull this thing together. When you’re independent media, you have to work a lot harder. Which she did, and the result is really fantastic journalism.

Then, with rather coincidental timing, the LA Times‘ Jenny Deam writes about Pagans in the Air Force 10 days later. And, because I’m an idiot, I didn’t take a screenshot of the article, which has now been edited for tone. (I will always take screenshots going forward, just in case.) Her previously snarky piece is now much calmer, yet still complains that the Air Force is spending money to be inclusive of non-Christians. While I’m glad they removed some of the cheap jokes, I don’t think you should edit an article that much after publication without an editor’s note explaining the change.

Then this morning, TIME‘s Mark Thompson calls the mainstream media out on this double-standard, pointing out the LA Times piece. You can complain they are too Christian or you can complain they are not Christian enough, but you can’t do both. To Schulz’s delight, Thompson links to her original story in his piece.

So here are things that I don’t know whether to laugh or cry about.

  • Schulz’s piece is Creative Commons. The LA Times could have printed it in full without even notifying Cara Schulz as long as they gave attribution. Which would have taken them five minutes. Instead, one of their staff writers wrote an inferior piece on the same topic.
  • So is the LA Times getting story ideas from independent journalists? Did Jenny Deam read Schulz’s piece and spend an hour or two writing a fluff version of it?
  • Jenny Deam could spend less time on her piece and get her quotes easier and faster because she works for the LA Times, which lends her writing the appearance of credible, responsible journalism. Even when she cracks jokes about Pagans that she could never get away with if she were writing about Muslims or Jews.
  • TIME‘s Mark Thompson read the fluff, pointed out how unprofessional it was and in his research found and linked to the article that likely inspired Deams. While Thompson obviously didn’t care for Deam’s piece, he didn’t have anything negative to say about Schulz’s article. In fact, he thought it was decent if he linked to it.
  • Thompson has won a Pulitzer. To my knowledge, Deam has not.
  • Even if the LA Times felt Schulz’s piece lacked polish and needed editing, an editor could have polished it up in far less time than it took Deam to pull together her fluff piece. Schulz has been open about the need for training and editorial polishing in the PNC. She would likely have no objections to being edited for style.
  • So what this boils down to is, the LA Times has paid Deam for a fluff piece that has earned the public scorn of a Pulitzer-winning journalist on a larger media platform, when they could have used a far more interesting article for free, which would likely have generated them more traffic, more link-ins and more discussion.

Cracks me up.

NOTE: If you have a screenshot or cached copy of the original LA Times article, I would love a copy. You can e-mail it to me: sfoster@patheos.com.

About Star Foster

Polytheistic Wiccan initiated into the Ravenwood tradition, she has many opinions. Some of them are actually useful.

  • Guest

    Thank you Carla and thank you Mark from Time for noticing her brilliance. Last and least shame on you Jenny Deam, grow up

  • Corc Hamr

    This truly amuses. 

  • kenneth

    With 15 years as a newspaper writer myself, very little in the world surprises me anymore. Today’s news feed did.  That was some of the sloppiest bush league reporting I have ever seen.  It was a hack job that wouldn’t have survived most editors even in local rags or college papers that I remember. It would have been unthinkable for a major news organization a handful of years ago.  It was pure laziness and an abandonment of the most basic precepts of balanced reporting. This writer decided in advance that pagans were not a serious religion either demographically or theologically.  With that basis, any amount of money spent on the circle was to be considered a waste of tax money and a sop to political correctness.  Any facts gathered from that point on were hand selected to meet that thesis and it’s clear very little digging was done at all. 

  • DragonBreath

    According to Military Religious Freedom Foundation as of six to nine months ago there was an officer at the Air Force Academy who was still very aggressively pushing Christianity in violation of AFA policy. According to MRFF they had received complaints from cadets and were pursuing the matter up the chain of command. 


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