I am not sure why CNN’s Money page recently offered a piece on gay clergy, but in this era of media belt-tightening one is glad for religion news anywhere one can get it. Still a piece titled “LGBTQ clergy tackle tough issues ahead of Trump presidency” does raise the question of why it’s not in the Belief section.
Maybe it’s because the network’s “race and inequality” correspondent is covering the issue. I sure wish CNN had put a religion specialist on the story , as the assumptions in this piece make it obvious this reporter knows little about this subject.
This news feature begins as follows:
Transgender rights. Same-sex marriage. Federal protections against discrimination.
In the wake of Donald Trump's election, some of the hard won rights and protections that the LGBTQ community have gained in recent years are once again in the national spotlight.
President-elect Trump has appointed several members to top government posts that have supported so-called religious freedom laws and opposed same-sex marriage, leaving many in the LGBTQ community concerned that their civil rights hang in the balance.
Now Trump has said post-election that he’s “fine” with the Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling on gay marriage, but this reporter notes that Trump could nominate a justice who will help overturn the ruling.
The remote chance of the court, with only one change in personnel, taking that action is not brought up in the piece. The story continues:
"Rather than getting a respite we've got almost an overload of emotion because things are heating up," said Joshua Lesser, a gay rabbi in Atlanta. Rabbi Lesser is one of three openly gay clergy members CNN interviewed who say they are not only worried about their own rights, but they've been busy counseling a number of parishioners about a wide range of issues since Trump was elected.
Is three clergy officially a trend? Anyway, the piece goes on to set out a list of possibilities that might happen under a Trump White House.
Rabbi Lesser said he and other gay couples he knows are considering moving up their wedding plans so they can be registered before Trump takes office in January. Lesser, who watched the election results with his partner, said he got tearful and "felt existential dread" when Trump was declared the winner. "It was the immediate sense that I'm not safe," Lesser said.
Although the reporter said a call to Trump’s people got no response, how hard did she really try? I watched the video that accompanied the article up until today (Wednesday). It is called “Unstereotyped gay clergy.” Researched by a different reporter, the video feature is a lot more inflammatory than the written piece.
For example: “The increasing secularity of the American populace more generally has made the religious homophobes more marginal,” Columbia University professor Katherine Franke is quoted as saying at the beginning.
Can we have a response to that? It would appear not. Let unspoken is a different question: Rather than losing gay-marriage rights, is there a chance of future decisions -- at the high court or in the White House -- that would leave those changes intact, but strive to find ways to protect the religious liberty rights of Americans who wish to dissent.
Once again, this is "Kellerism," a journalism trend that is well known to readers of this blog. It means that journalists at a given media outlet have made up their minds on a certain hot-button issue to the point where there is no need to offer fair, accurate information on another side to the story. It's as if that side is not legitimate. Thus, it does not exist.
Oh, but it does, which is one reason why Trump, not Hillary Clinton is headed for the White House. The video is a weird mix of topics. It has to do with coming out gay, with religious eclecticism and with the “nones” in American religion,
“There is a battle,” the reporter says to the rabbi midway through the video, “between religious freedom and civil rights and we're seeing it with the bathroom laws and bakers who don’t want to bake wedding cakes for gay marriage, etc….
The rabbi answers that the religious folks can be the biggest discriminators. And on it goes. It looks as though CNN had one reporter film the video, then enlisted another to pull out a few quotes concerning the fear and loathing these gay spokespeople feel post-election.
So here we have a puff piece of a video with no dissenting voices at all and a speculative print piece about the bad things that might happen with no proof they will. Once again, there’s no dissenting voice. Earth to CNN: A desultory phone call to an overworked Trump press person does not an objective article make.
And, Franke admitted five years ago she is a lesbian in this New York Times piece. So this piece has four gay spokespeople cited and –- who else? There is no other side quoted.
Yesterday, I was scrolling through a Facebook post by my friend Jeffrey Kuhner, a talk show host with WKRO Radio in Boston, who wrote this piece in the World Tribune about what he calls the “fake news narrative” about Vladimir Putin stealing the election. One thing he said about the media’s role in election coverage applies to my discussion here:
The 2016 campaign will be known as the year the mainstream media died. Journalists were transformed into Democratic operatives with a byline. Whatever shred of credibility they had left was destroyed in an orgy of hysteria and rabid anti-Trump invective.
That says it better than I can. Here at GetReligion, tmatt has been worrying out loud about the slow death of the old-school "American Model" of the press, with its stress on accuracy, fairness and balance. That's part of this big picture, too.
So have media professionals learned nothing in the past month? Why is CNN throwing around, in a news story, the term “so-called” as a modifier to religious freedom laws? Why is it setting up a straw man of a GOP Taliban that CNN is telling us will come into power as of Jan. 20? By trying to be prescient, these reporters end up sounding silly about the coming GOP stormtroopers massing in the streets.
I’m afraid we’re going to see a lot more, not less of this as the days go by.