Southern Religion

About John Allen’s advice …

Mark Silk asks ifThis is journalism?”

No, we don’t think it is.

Justice does not mean letting any of the abusers go unpunished and journalism does not mean leaving any of the abuse unchronicled.

February 9, 2011 Posted by | Catholic, children, Crime | , , | Comments Off on About John Allen’s advice …

Pro-Obama Catholics to launch news service?

The story is not only vague but also bereft of useful details.The Global Catholic Network, ETWN News, reported today:

Chris Korzen [twitter], Executive Director of Catholics United, told EWTN News in an e-mail last Friday that his group is getting ready to launch a news organization of its own.

EWTN News had contacted Korzen to confirm whether or not the organization Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good (CACG) had gone out of business. Korzen refused to answer any questions about the status of CACG, claiming that EWTN News has not made clear “what your real motivations are” in asking questions about Catholics United and CACG.

Nevertheless, in his e-mail, Korzen revealed that “Catholics United is moving into the news business.”

More, later.

September 4, 2010 Posted by | Catholic, news | | Comments Off on Pro-Obama Catholics to launch news service?

Catholic News Agency blistered for journalistic malpractice [Addendum]

USCCB [US Council of Catholic Bishops] Media Blog called out the right-leaning Catholic News Agency this week for “fabrication.”

Bold Faith Type deftly summarizes:

Helen Osman, the Secretary for Communications at the bishops’ conference, writes in the USCCB blog that the Catholic News Agency simply “cobbled together its own fabrication of the session.” Osman, who attended the executive session closed to reporters, also went back and reviewed the transcript to verify the errors. In contrast to CNA’s report, Cardinal George “never used the phrase ‘so-called Catholic,’ accused the Catholic Health Association of creating a ‘parallel magisterium’ or said the meeting of the three bishops with Sr. Keehan had ‘frustrating results,” Osman writes. Disagreement between the USCCB and CHA over health care legislation has been well documented. But, as Osman points out, to “confuse the situation with quotes that aren’t true is just plain dishonest.”

Osman also called out CNN:

For CNN to elaborate even more on what CNA said in error is even more disturbing. If CNN had tried to verify the citations, it would have learned that CNA fabricated quotes. It also would not have made its huge and erroneous assumption that the issue in question was an example of the bishops at odds with the sisters.

None of this appears to undercut analysis based upon the reporting of the National Catholic Reporter’s John L. Allen Jr., who also covered that meeting. Using Allen’s account, Mark Silk argued:

So now we know: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops cares more about its authority than being right. That’s the clear import of a fine piece of reporting by NCR’s John Allen on the split between the USCCB and the Catholic Hospital Association (CHA) over the health care bill (which, you’ll recall, the former opposed and the latter supported).

Nor would it be fair to argue (we were tempted) that the sting from such analysis helped prompt the corrective, which stands quite well on its own merits.


CNA stood by its story.

The Catholic weekly America averred that perhaps the USCCB and CNS were “telling the truth,” albeit “In very different ways, and that is the bad news.”


es, Helen Osman was in the room, CNA was not, and we have no reason to doubt that the quotes she mentioned were, in fact, fabricated. Even though CNA is a tendentious and slanted media outlet, fabricating quotes goes beyond the pale. Why anyone would trust them before this is beyond me, but now their reputation is in tatters. You do not put a person’s remarks in quotes unless you know that they said it. This is reason enough for Bishop John Wester, who has a column at CNA, to disassociate himself from the organization immediately.

CNA would argue that their sources – “several bishops” – provided the quotes, leading me to think that no one at CNA ever played the game of telephone, in which a group of people sit at a table, and the leader whispers something into the ear of the person on their right. The whisper goes around the table and it is often unrecognizable by the time it gets back to the leader. The “several bishops” may have heard what they wanted to hear, that is to say, they placed their own prejudices and arguments in Cardinal George’s mouth. CNA needs to evaluate these “several bishops” as sources going forward but, arguably, the reporters and editors at CNA thought when they published their original article that the quotes were accurate.

But, here is where it gets dicey. What if the quotes are not “fabrications” and “several bishops” did tell CNA what they thought Cardinal George had said. It is one thing for Cardinal George to have difficulty with a fringe right-wing media outlet. It is a different, and larger, problem to have “several bishops” who have decided to leak to the press in order to push the USCCB towards their more conservative position. Cardinal George’s first task as leader of the USCCB is to keep the body of bishops on the same page, to keep them together and I think a case can be made that while his raw intelligence has helped, the principal reason for his success as president of the Conference is that all the bishops trust him. The question now is: Can he trust them? Why did these “several bishops” go leaking to the press after the meeting? Given the nature of the quotes, they obviously want some severe sanctions taken against the Catholic Health Association, they want some kind of showdown and, I think it is safe to venture that, not detecting sufficient movement in their direction at the USCCB meeting, they decided to take their arguments to the press.

Which, if they were thus taken in, does little to redeem CNS. Being aware that axes are being ground, and communicating that, is after all part of a journalist’s job.

June 23, 2010 Posted by | Catholic, Religion | , , | Comments Off on Catholic News Agency blistered for journalistic malpractice [Addendum]

Scientology fights back toward decline

Guy Fawkes mask (anonymous)

Hiring veteran journalists to counter-investigate the St. Petersburg Times was a strategy with something of a reverse twist. Scientology is under scrutiny in Australia [1,2,3], headed for the silver screen in Germany and still on the pages of U.S. news publications [1,2,3].

Just for example, you understand.

All of the well-known Scientology strategies keep applying, as makers of the film “Bis Nichts Mehr Bleibt” (Until Nothing Remains) illustrated when they reported via the Guardian:

The film team said it had been “bombarded” with phone calls and emails from the organisation during production. The head of the Southwest German broadcasting organisation, Carl Bergengruen who was involved in the project, said Scientology had “tried via various means to discover details about the film” and that the film crew was even tailed by a Scientology representative.

“We are fearful that the organisation will try to use all legal means to try to stop the film being shown,” he said.

The film itself sounds like a classical Scientology exit story with an especially tragic conclusion:

According to the makers of Until Nothing Remains, the €2.5m (£2.3 m) drama, which is due to air in a prime-time slot at the end of March, is based on the true story of Heiner von Rönns, who left Scientology and suffered the subsequent break-up of his family.

Scientology calls the film false and intolerant, and distributed flyers at a Hamburg preview, accusing the filmmakers of aiming to “create a mood of intolerance and discrimination against a religious community.”

All of that effort to defeat critics while building attractive homes for the church. Yet as PZ Meyers pointed out from his reading of the NY Times investigation, they’re apparently shrinking:

The church is vague about its membership numbers. In 11 hours with a reporter over two days, Mr. Davis, the church’s spokesman, gave the numbers of Sea Org members (8,000), of Scientologists in the Tampa-Clearwater area (12,000) and of L. Ron Hubbard’s books printed in the last two and a half years (67 million). But asked about the church’s membership, Mr. Davis said, “I couldn’t tell you an exact figure, but it’s certainly, it’s most definitely in the millions in the U.S. and millions abroad.”

He said he did not know how to account for the findings in the American Religious Identification Survey that the number of Scientologists in the United States fell from 55,000 in 2001 to 25,000 in 2008.

If you make projections from those numbers, as Meyers did, Scientology appears to have done some magnificent architectural restoration without building a future.

March 12, 2010 Posted by | Cults, WWW | , , , , | Comments Off on Scientology fights back toward decline

Not enough religion coverage for current consumers

Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism found among the topics that don’t get enough journalistic attention:

Religion and spirituality: 41% of Americans say there is not enough coverage of religious and spiritual issues. Women (44%) are more likely than men (37%) to seek more coverage of this area; young adults ages 18-29 (49%) are more likely than those over age 50 (35%) to say this; and bloggers (50%) are more likely than non-bloggers (40%) to say this. Race/ethnicity is also a factor, with African-Americans (57%) significantly more likely than both whites (38%) and Hispanics (43%) to say they would like to see more coverage of religion and spirituality.

March 5, 2010 Posted by | WWW | | Comments Off on Not enough religion coverage for current consumers

Update: ‘Irish anti-clericalism’ arson ruled out

The London Telegraph’s Will Heaven was apparently first among the bloggers (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) to react to the St Mel’s Cathedral fire with lurid fantasies of “Irish anti-clericalism” gone to arson. And as lurid fantasies often do, it is coming to nothing that one has come to notning:

Longford Gardai have confirmed that they are no longer treating the fire at St Mel’s Cathedral as arson.

Chief investigation officer Inspector Joe McLoughlin told that the Garda Technical team completed the technical examination of the Cathedral today.

“We are no longer treating the fire as suspicious,” Inspector McLoughlin stated. However he added that Gardai were not in a position to confirm what caused the fire which destroyed the Cathedral on Christmas morning but the Garda Forensic Team is expected to furnish a report on the fire soon.

Yet Christmas season insinuations of arson were directed at the victims of abuse. For example, Heaven wrote:

Given the recent resignation of a second Irish bishop after a report revealed the cover-up of child sex abuse in the Dublin Archdiocese, it could be that this was a deliberate attack on the Irish Catholic Church. If so, it marks a new chapter of anti-clericalism in Ireland.

There was no supporting rich history of the victims of clerical sex abuse torching church facilities.

Thus the cry of “deliberate attack on the Irish Catholic Church” was a groundless allegation which tended to tar the victims of other crimes.

It was despicable and now that it is proven false, corrections and apologies are owed by all who made the claim.

January 19, 2010 Posted by | Catholic, Crime | , , , , | Comments Off on Update: ‘Irish anti-clericalism’ arson ruled out

A story about a security company

This is a story about a security company, although it focuses on the assertion that “More than 1,200 crimes were committed against Christian churches and ministries in 2009.” And on apparently related statistics.

Nothing wrong with that, although the readers would have been better served if the story had detailed the underlying sources used to develop the statistics cited (the proprietary report upon which the story is based apparently is no longer available online). And it would have been helpful if the story had included illuminating comments from academics who have appropriate expertise in the analysis of such statistics. Just so the readers could make well-reasoned judgments about the validity of the numbers.

Absent that kind of balancing and enlightening detail, it isn’t journalism. It’s a form of advertising for the source of the material.

January 7, 2010 Posted by | Churches | , , | Comments Off on A story about a security company

Top-ranked 2009 religion stories/topics/typo

The Religion | Newswriters Association offers Top Religion Stories of 2009 – the result of a survey of more than 100 religion journalists. They emphasize the top 10 but actually offer the top 23 stories, beginning with Obama’s June speech “pledging a new beginning in Muslim-U.S. relations.” Of that, the Springfield News-Leader wrote:

Obama extended a hand to the Islamic world in a speech in Cairo while quoting from the Quran, the Gospel of Matthew and the Talmud, the collection of Jewish law.

“So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, those who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity,” Obama said in the speech. “And this cycle of suspicion and discord must end.”

Time Magazine has its Top 10 Religion Stories for 2009, although they are more topics than stories.

The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty offers the top 10 religious liberty stories of 2009 (in reverse order). Some are stores in the journalistic sense. But as with Time, most are topics attended by brief essays. Number one, for example, is “New President brings change, but delays some tough decisions.”

Catholic News Service tells us 2009 was a busy year for the pope, reviewing those top stories, albeit without enumeration. Not critical reviews, BTW.

The London Telegraph’s Martin Beckford (religion and social affairs correspondent) has his own Top religion stories of 2009. In his view, “Following a year of turmoil in the worldwide Anglican Communion over women bishops and homosexuality, over the past 12 months most of the newsworthy events seem to have involved the Roman Catholic Church and Britain.”

Regret The Error’s Typo of the Year (amid its top corrected journalistic errors of 2009) is about religion:

The Daily Universe, a student paper at BYU, recalled and trashed 18,000 copies of an edition after discovering a typo. Notably, it was a typo that could have offended the Mormon church. The paper issued a brief apology and also published a lengthy article to explain the error.

That can happen when one substitutes “apostate” for “apostle” thus referring in a photo cutline to a nonexistent Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints group called, “Members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostates,” when Members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles is intended.

December 20, 2009 Posted by | Religion | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dickson deserved better, don’t you think?

Baptist Bloggers sometimes embarrass themselves with verbal brawling, ordinary errors and deception.

But we have seen nothing in BaptistWorld quite like the flood of unmerited derision which pursued Akeya Dickson across the Web after a Washington Post copy editor inserted an error [now corrected] into her story.

Just a little more thought about how large newspapers actually work, and a little less jumping to conclusions, and she would have been spared.

December 15, 2009 Posted by | WWW | , , , , | Comments Off on Dickson deserved better, don’t you think?

When journalists fumble

Mollie doesn’t like it when journalists fumble, attributing to entire organizations words that they didn’t say.

November 12, 2009 Posted by | Politics | | Comments Off on When journalists fumble