Who’s this guy giving Obama’s benediction?

Who’s this guy giving Obama’s benediction? January 9, 2013

Two days ago, I wrote a post in which I suggested that the ginormous Passion 2013 conference down in Atlanta might have received even a tad more coverage. There were, reportedly 60,000 people there and yet there was almost no coverage. I thought it maybe a bit too much in the lack-of-coverage direction.

Reader responses varied. For instance, here’s Hemant Mehta:

But what would the story here be? That young Christians exist? That they gather at conferences? That’s hardly newsworthy. Did they do anything at the event that was different from what Christians typically do? (I’m asking that seriously.)

I argued that in this year, with the media focus on “the nones,” the existence of these young, motivated Christians actually would be sufficient for a story. But, further, I said it’s hard to know what was newsworthy because no one was there to cover it. Various readers agreed with Mehta.

Then reader Daniel said:

Being new on the political scene doesn’t seem to really be a standard used by journalists. If something has been going on for more than twenty years it still gets covered. What gets covered is what reporters advocate, and that’s about as far as we can get from fairminded. Lets use words like cool, trendy, unique! They sell.

The Old Bill had an idea for how to get media coverage:

Maybe if the Nuns On a Bus had been the opening act …

And journalist Jeffrey Weiss had some thoughtful comments:

Years back, I *was* the Dallas Morning News reporter who wrote long and hard about the Promise Keepers rallies hereabouts. Finding news in the events was always something of a challenge. The question I always asked — there and at other such events — was: How will the world be different because this event happened? Whatever answer I got was a perfectly acceptable answer. But to the extent that the answer was specific, verifiable, and not limited to inside the head of the person offering the answer, that made it more newsworthy. If it turns out that this 60k can, a year from now, point to specific differences in the world as a direct result of this event, that would make for a pretty good news story. (I will bet that such evidence will be hard to come by, based on my experience with such, but I’ve been surprised before.)

The one exception to that question/rule had to do with how unusual the event was, how unfamiliar to readers. So an akhand path, a routine event for Sikhs, became a way for me to introduce Dallas readers to an unfamiliar faith. This meeting is not in that category.

Numbers don’t mean news, either. Here in Dallas we have a couple of churches that pull together more than 10,000 people *every* blamed Sunday. And tens of thousands every Christmas. That’s not news, either

Having said all that, I betcha a good reporter could have found a story there. But the reality is that the weekend crews for many newspapers are down to less than a skeleton. So there’s a practical question to be addressed here, too.

To this, I noted that a few reporters contacted us to say that the first thing they heard of the Passion event was from our blog. It’s very difficult to cover an event when you don’t know it’s going to happen — and in this environment of tight travel budgets, reporters need advance planning and a super-compelling reason to ask editors for plane tickets.

Anyway, I didn’t expect my suspicions that there should be more coverage to be vindicated so quickly, but yesterday I woke up to the news that two prayer-givers had been announced by the inaugural committee. One was Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of civil rights hero Medgar Evers (and resident of the same town my husband is from in Oregon). The other was someone I wasn’t familiar with. His name was Louie Giglio.

Who is Louie Giglio you ask? Well, according to the Washington Post:

The inaugural committee Tuesday plans to announce that the benediction will be given by conservative evangelical pastor Louie Giglio, founder of the student-focused Passion Conferences, which draw tens of thousands of people to events around the world.


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  • Darren Blair

    I’m one of the local-level public affairs representatives for my denomination (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, better known as “The Mormons”).

    I keep having to tell people that
    [1] If they want something in the paper, they need to tell me about it.
    [2] When they tell me about it, they need to also give me something “official” (like a press release, something on church letterhead, or an official handbill) so as to give it legitimacy with the local newspaper.

    Folks don’t seem to understand why I can’t just stroll into the office and get something published just on my word.

  • Bob Smietana

    Let’s turn this post on its head for a second.
    Did the folks from Passion want any coverage?
    They had an event that attracted a lot of young people at a time when fewer young folks go to church, where they were doing good work by raising funds to fight human trafficking, and in one of the media centers of the US, which is also home to a one of the most influential Christian PR firms in the US.
    If they wanted more coverage, it would have fairly easy to get more.
    The coverage they got was from local outlets, which made sense, as well as friendly Christian media, which is likely what what they wanted.
    I don’t recall the Passion folks doing much press outreach — outside of the announcement that Giglio is praying at the inauguration.
    They’ve gotten major press before so it’s not that they don’t know how to engage the media.

    • jdl

      I guess I assumed they wanted coverage when Giglio cited, as a major success for the movement, that Obama had taken notice of them at the National Prayer breakfast. If “someone big noticed” is a success, I assumed that coverage would have been a good thing.

  • “Years back, I *was* the Dallas Morning News reporter who wrote long and hard about the Promise Keepers rallies hereabouts. Finding news in the events was always something of a challenge. The question I always asked — there and at other such events — was: How will the world be different because this event happened?”

    Who does Jeffrey Weiss think he is to determine what is news, what questions need asked, and how those questions can be answered? I thank God every day for the Internet with independent and blog reports, and the devaluation of today’s “news” papers.

    • Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz

      Jettboy, Jeffrey Weiss was doing what a journalist is trained and paid to do — determine what is news and what isn’t.

    • Alan

      “Who does Jeffrey Weiss think he is to determine what is news, what questions need asked, and how those questions can be answered?”

      The guy who was being paid to do that job.

      “I thank God every day for the Internet with independent and blog reports, and the devaluation of today’s “news” papers.”
      Not to mention the devaluation of accuracy,thoughfulness and copy editing

  • Jettboy, that *is* sorta the job description. A good mechanic knows what’s wrong with your car. A good journalist has a sense of what the news is. I hardly claim that my definition is the only possible one. And one of the good things about having many reporters and media outlets is that many such standards are out there.

    But it’s a guideline that I’ve developed over more than 30 years of working at it. You got a different and/or better approach? Or even a critique about what you don’t like about mine? Please share.

    • Jettboy

      Yes, the better approach is don’t be a reporter. Don’t pretend there is such things as guidelines or standards, and especially that any number of years makes you qualified to say or write anything. Journalism should be done by friends and nieghbors or strangers standing on street corners. Making it a profession makes news a lie done by confidence men who have no real connection to the communities they write about. I trust all the devaluation of accuracy, thoughtfulness, and copy editing more than the carefully crafted hucksterism of today’s print. I have as many problems with reporters as I do with reporting.

  • Oh, and Mollie: You are spot-on that Passion events are suddenly a bit more newsworthy…1:-{)>

    (How did he show up on the radar of the Obamoids, I wonder?)

  • Jerry

    Bob’s question illustrates a critical point about media coverage:

    Did the folks from Passion want any coverage?

    Of course the truism about what bleeds leads means that some events automatically receive coverage. And the media is ever alert for stories about political hangnails.

    But what about the quiet events that might slip under the radar? Did the Passion people send out press releases to the regular media about their event this year? Because otherwise, I don’t think the lack of coverage can be faulted.

    CNN’s belief blog did have part of the story http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/01/06/college-students-raise-funds-to-fight-slavery/ That underlines my practice of looking elsewhere for positive stories about people putting faith into action.

  • FWIW .. announcements of the Passion 2012 conference were all over Christian music radio stations, along with some Christian news sites.

  • FW Ken

    I thought editors determined what is news, while reporters do the research and writing. I recognize they are all “journalists”, but seriously, I thought editors really made the decisions about what gets covered and published.

    • Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz

      FW Ken, reporters do have a say in what gets covered. Yes, editors have the final say, but unless reporters are out there finding out what’s going on and what’s worth covering, the editors can’t make the decisions about what gets covered and published. And as reporters are writing their stories, they’re constantly editing — they’re putting quotes in, keeping quotes out, allowing some people to talk and ignoring others. If they’re assigned to cover something an editor thinks is interesting, reporters can come back and say, “That was more boring than watching paint dry.” Or if an editor is down on something, reporters can say, “Oh, but you’re missing out on X, Y and Z elements that make this a really exciting story.”

  • Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz

    Well, that didn’t last long: Pastor withdraws from Obama inauguration after sermon on homosexuality surfaces

  • FW Ken

    Another story on the withdrawal:


    T.A.S. – thanks for the info. Effective organizations generally promote a vertical dialogue in which leadership and line workers work towards common goals. I world think that would be particularly important in a journalistic effort.

  • Liz

    those 65,000 college kids raised over 3 million dollars to fight human trafficking, you can try and dig up all the misinformed info you want, but the fact these kids are filled with the Spirit and are on the move and becoming world changers with love as their motivation. What are you doing to stop human trafficking? or are you just trying to find one more thing to complain about. Why don’t you listen to one of his messages….or would that just be too hard for you and make up your own decision.