“From football to faith,” the TV reporter begins, “you’ve heard that before….But this story is different. You are about to meet a former NFL player from Miami who has to be the only ultra- Orthodox Jew who wears a Super Bowl ring when he prays.”
There was something about the story in Monday’s New York Daily News that just didn’t have the ring of truth. The headline was “New Riverside Church Pastor Says His Raise Was Lord-Approved” and it began like this:
The details were numbingly horrible from the start: a 4 year old girl, the subject of a bitter custody battle, witnessed her father gunned down in front of her in a Queens, New York park. Both her parents were doctors and both were immigrants from Russia.
Today’s Times of London has a major story on a reconciliation program in Northern Ireland that has brought together Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants, including a woman who had prepared to be a suicide bomber. Here is the beginning of the story:
Anyone who respects good religion coverage in the mainstream media has to shed a tear for the fast-disappearing City Section of the New York Times, which is down to eight pages today and will soon vanish both on paper and on line. The heart of the section, which circulates only in the New York area, are the Neighborhood Reports that cover events, people and places not normally covered in a big city newspaper.
Journalism can cause some strange pairings simply because two things happen on the same day. World Series games and natural disasters, for example. Often that means that two disparate events end up in the same newspaper, but that doesn’t mean they should be in the same story.
If great religion journalism is going to survive, it is going to be because of the writing and not because of the pictures, graphics, videos or even blogs. That was driven home to me today when I read Andrew Rice’s masterful piece in the New York Times Magazine on the Redeemed Christian Church of God, one of the African missionary churches that the Times says is transforming Western Christianity.
Passover, a time of family gatherings and a myriad of rituals, comes once every year. Birchat HaChama, the blessing of the sun, comes once every 28 years on the Jewish calendar. Owing to the journalistic principle that the rare story is often the better story, Birchat HaChama has been getting an inordinate amount of coverage this year. Both arrive on Wednesday and it looks like Birchat HaChama has already outshone Passover.
The custom around these parts is to tell about yourself before entering the blogging fray. It seems only right, rather like a shrink who must submit to therapy before taking on his own patients.