Sensing a ghost on NPR: So why did that white DC suburban family move to Anacostia?

Truth be told, it's hard for your GetReligionistas to do much in the way of blogging about news reports that show up in media settings other than digital print or in video reports that make it into the sprawling universe called YouTube.

Take visual media, for example. When it comes to covering television news reports, we have found that the software gods rarely get along. It is rather hard, in some online platforms, to embed videos from the major video newsrooms. We are talking Tower of Babel level coding issues here, unless something -- like I said -- ends up on YouTube. Sigh.

And then there is radio. Luckily, NPR has a fantastic website that handles most of its content in a multi-platform manner, offering news consumers print versions of reports or transcripts of what went out on the air. That really helps.

But here is a case in which a faithful GetReligion reader who lives in DC Beltway-land thought she heard a religion-news ghost slip past during a feature on WAMU (American University Radio) in Washington, D.C.

If you follow the link she sent us, you hit a wonderful audio-only "Anacostia Unmapped" feature with this headline: "Meet The New Neighbors." (What you see below is a screenshot, so you can't click on the "PLAY" button.)

However, you really need to listen to this piece in order to "hear the ghost."

So click here and do so, please.

OK, what was the key moment?

Well, for one thing, listen to the repeated reference to the "spirit" that led this white suburban couple to pack up their children and to move into one of Washington's most "urban" settings.

Then, there is the crucial moment at the 3:00 point in the feature. When I asked the GetReligion reader to articulate the "ghost" she heard, here is what she said, via email:

Because she talks about how they prayed about how to respond to the teenager messing around with the car mirror, and the intentional goal of fostering community building in the neighborhood, AND the fact that they moved to Anacostia with three children from Annandale.
Maybe I have just lived in DC too long ... but a number of evangelical/Reformed churches on the Hill have fostered pretty intentional efforts for people to move to SE and inner Prince George's. I don't know if these folks are among those, but I would be willing to bet.
It's the "we prayed about it" that was the main thing to me. They weren't talking about acquiring historic real estate. ...

The listener is right. During the past decade or so, there have been efforts by major churches -- black and white -- to invest in the rebirth of the historic Anacostia neighborhood in projects that involve "boots on the ground" as well as finances. Some church folks are investing their lives there. We saw this during the early years of the Washington Journalism Center, when some of my students lived in "home stay" arrangements with African-American Christians who were part of those efforts.

Now, it's possible that the interviewer -- an Anacostia resident -- heard that reference to prayer and simply didn't think twice about it. Anyone who has worked in urban DC knows that many people there talk about their faith quite naturally. There is no separation of church and lingo in the African-American community.

But did this report miss a chance to actually discuss this family's motive for making this move? Would it have helped to have ask a question about faith?

Listen to the WAMU report again. What do you think?

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