Mainstream Media, Pagans and the Air Force

Mainstream Media, Pagans and the Air Force November 28, 2011

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:

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