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When it comes to Alex Trebek's 'mind-boggling' cancer recovery, have prayers really helped?

When it comes to Alex Trebek's 'mind-boggling' cancer recovery, have prayers really helped?

In March, when longtime “Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek revealed his diagnosis of stage 4 pancreatic cancer, he pledged to beat the “low survival rate statistics for this disease.”

Trebek, 78, told viewers he’d do so “with the help of your prayers.”

“So, help me,” he concluded. “Keep the faith, and we’ll get it done.”

Today, People magazine reports that Trebek — in a cover story due on newsstands Friday — said he is in “near remission” and has experienced a “mind-boggling” recovery.

To what does Trebek attribute this amazing turn of events?

“Well wishes” is one way to put it, and People uses that phrase.

But is the answer deeper — more spiritual — than that? More from the magazine:

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Friday Five: Twitter mobs, Covington Catholic controversy, ABC journalist's faith

Friday Five: Twitter mobs, Covington Catholic controversy, ABC journalist's faith

In the age of outrage, it’s hard to escape social media mobs.

People screaming from behind smartphones and keyboards feed a seemingly endless loop of headlines like this one: “Twitter rips Savannah Guthrie for 'appalling' interview with Nicholas Sandmann on 'Today.'“

Certainly, Guthrie’s interview of the Covington Catholic High School teen at the center of this past weekend’s viral videos is fair game for criticism and debate. But isn’t there a more productive way to do that than succumbing to a clickbaity “Twitter rips” approach?

What would happen if newspapers such as USA Today stopped biting or at least insisted on doing actual interviews and quoting smart sources with strong, nuanced opinions? That used to be called journalism, right?

Speaking of a better way, over at Poynter, Tom Jones makes a fair, sensible case for why “Guthrie did her best and did well.” He notes:

When you’re getting criticized from both sides, there’s a decent chance you did a good job.

Amen.

Now, let’s dive into the Friday Five:

1. Religion story of the week: The villains were clear — or seemed to be — in the original stories Saturday (examples here, here and here). But by Sunday, a much more complicated pictured emerged. And days later, we’re still talking about this.

There’s still time to catch up on all the excellent analysis and commentary on this subject here at GetReligion:

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Kudos to Washington Post for accidentally revealing diverse forms of Oscar hate/apathy?

Kudos to Washington Post for accidentally revealing diverse forms of Oscar hate/apathy?

I was looking through Twitter and it appears that the Academy Awards were on the other night. Can someone confirm whether or not that's true? Has Snopes looked into that rumor?

Apparently, I was not the only flyover America person (I am not teaching in New York City at the moment) who missed this barometer of trends in American life, humor, politics and virtue.

Besides, I saw very few of this year's films -- again. When it's movie night at my house, we tend to curl up and watch classics like this, this, this or even a modern film like this or maybe even this. Then again, there's always time to visit the doctor.

Anyway, the Oscars were not a big hit there and everyone wants to talk about why. Here are the basics from The Hollywood Reporter:

A comparatively uneventful Oscar telecast led the way on TV Sunday night -- though updated numbers have the telecast somewhat predictably stumbling to an all-time low.
The kudocast, nearly four hours long, stumbled 19 percent from the previous year to 26.5 million viewers. That's easily the least-watched Oscars in history, trailing 2008 by more than 5 million.

When it comes to this "why" question, GetReligion readers will be stunned to know that this was all about politics and, especially, President You Know Who. Thus, the Washington Post opened it's Oscars ratings wreck story like this:

The 90th Academy Awards show was two things: an evening of pointed political statements and a telecast with record-low Oscars viewership. And many on the right have been quick to claim that those things went hand in hand, though the critic-in-chief blamed a lack of star power. ...
The dismal ratings for the ABC broadcast were a hot topic on Fox News, discussed at the top of the hour on both Tucker Carlson’s and Sean Hannity’s evening shows Monday, and again on Tuesday’s edition of “Fox & Friends.”

Now, whether the Post team intended to or not, this same report -- toward the end -- included some interesting voices that hinted that morality, culture and maybe even religion played a role in this story. Hold that thought.

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The Daily Beast digs into case of a generic 'youth pastor' who preyed on young boys

The Daily Beast digs into case of a generic 'youth pastor' who preyed on young boys

It's a truth your GetReligionistas have discussed many times. When you are covering a story about people linked to a faith with a clearly defined hierarchy it's pretty clear who you are supposed to call.

I'm not just talking about Roman Catholics. If a United Methodist pastor gets in trouble, there is a clear regional and national structure linked to the work of the clergy. Southern Baptist congregations are part of regional associations, state conventions and then they have ties of various kinds to the national Southern Baptist Convention. You have some place to start digging.

But when a minister goes REALLY off the tracks, it's hard -- especially in the world of nondenominational, independent evangelicalism or Pentecostalism -- to find a paper trail anywhere, along with people who were responsible for supervising the work of this or that clergyperson. And what about people who were only "sort of" clergy?

I thought of all of that while reading this recent piece at The Daily Beast that had this genuinely hellish tabloid headline: "UNHOLY: Pastor Arrested for Chopping Up Teen Kept Counseling Kids for 23 Years."

Now, in terms of facts linked to church life, the key word in that headline is "pastor."

When you hear "pastor," you kind of assume that we are talking about an individual who has gone to seminary, been ordained and has a pulpit somewhere in a church. Pastors fill a specific leadership role in a specific faith community, one with a tradition of some kind (even if its an independent local congregation). You hear "associate pastor" and you think someone who carries out a specific ministry, working in a larger church that has a senior pastor in the pulpit.

Now in this case, things are much murkier and the Daily Beast team never offers readers a clear look at the facts, in terms of the man at the heart of this nightmare. Once we make it past the mysteries linked to the sniffing dog and the headless torso, what we get is this:

Fred Laster, 16, was last seen with local youth pastor Ron Hyde several days earlier. Laster hitched a ride with Hyde after a family argument, according to his sister. Laster and his five siblings were living with their elderly grandparents at the time, after their mom died from cancer four years earlier.

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'They say the press doesn't cover them': Trump weighs in on March for Life

'They say the press doesn't cover them': Trump weighs in on March for Life

Friday's March for Life is gonna be yuuuuuge.

President Donald Trump said so.

In an interview with ABC News' David Muir, Trump was asked about last weekend's Women's March on Washington: 

"I couldn’t hear them, but the crowds were large," Trump responded. "You’re gonna have a large crowd on Friday, too, which is mostly pro-life people. You’re gonna have a lot of people coming on Friday, and I will say this, and I didn’t realize this, but I was told, you will have a very large crowd of people. I don’t know – as large or larger – some people say it’s gonna be larger. Pro-life people. And they say the press doesn’t cover them."

The newly inaugurated president obviously hasn't spent enough time reading GetReligion — or he would be better informed on the longstanding and indisputable problem of news coverage heavily favoring the pro-choice side. Specifically regarding the March for Life, our archive is filled with posts on the (lack of) coverage.

But guess what? The Trump effect already seems to be making a difference. First, the Dow Jones industrial average closes above 20,000 for the first time. Then — the morning after Trump mentions the March for Life on ABC — the annual pro-life march makes the front page of today's Washington Post:

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That child beating case in Indy: More 'religion' coverage that marginalizes religion

That child beating case in Indy: More 'religion' coverage that marginalizes religion

You know those pseudo-fruit drinks like Tang and Country Time -- you know, tasting vaguely like orangeade and lemonade without the actual fruit? Well, mainstream media come close to that "ideal" in coverage of a woman who gave religious reasons for beating her son.

The stories, like this one in USA Today, have Kin Park Thaing quote Scripture to defend her taking a coat hanger to her child's back, arm and thigh. Nothing on what her church or pastor might say about it:

INDIANAPOLIS (USA Today) An Indiana mother who beat her 7-year-old son with a coat hanger is citing the state’s religious freedom law as a defense against felony child abuse charges, saying her choice of discipline comes straight from her evangelical Christian beliefs.
The Indianapolis woman quoted biblical Scripture in court documents. She said that a parent who “spares the rod, spoils the child,” and: “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.”

We'll leave aside the fact that "Spare the rod and spoil the child" is not in the Bible; it's actually a digest of several verses by 17th century poet Samuel Butler -- something a religion news specialist likely would have caught. Let's look instead at the gaping holes in the coverage.

There is no denying the brutality of the mother's attack:

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For new 'bathroom law,' Charlotte Observer masks an opinion piece as a news story

For new 'bathroom law,' Charlotte Observer masks an opinion piece as a news story

The Charlotte Observer is straying again -- allowing opinion-driven pieces to wander into its news sections. This time it's on House Bill 2, a North Carolina law that took effect March 23.  

The law excludes sexual orientation from anti-discrimination laws, including municipal ordinances. It also declares that people must use school and governmental bathrooms that correspond to their biological gender, whatever their claims of gender identity.

You can see how that would upset LGBT groups, as well as companies that want to seem egalitarian. But that doesn't mean the Observer should tilt a news story to favor them.

We'll start with the "Duhh" headline: "NC Gov. Pat McCrory says it’s unfair to compare HB2, religious freedom bills. Critics disagree." By definition, critics always disagree.

The Observer then quotes McCrory's interview on NBC's Meet the Press, but only as a setup for a sermon to repeal the law:

In defending House Bill 2, N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory has said the controversial legislation has been unfairly compared with "religious freedom" legislation that is now law in Mississippi, and nearly passed in Georgia and Arizona.
McCrory has said HB2 isn’t perfect, but he has cast it as more benign than the religious freedom legislation introduced in other states.
"This was not a religious freedom bill," McCrory said on "Meet the Press" Sunday. "We have not had any religious freedom bill introduced in the state of North Carolina. One reason is because I’m governor."
But some say HB2 does more to limit the rights of LGBT people.

Let's also note those sarcasm quotes around "religious freedom," which has become a favorite dash of hypocritical propaganda in mainstream media. Hypocritical, because such articles never treat the phrase "LGBT rights" or "transgender rights" with the same narrow-eyed skepticism. Propaganda, because they seldom use any neutral phrase such as religious exemption -- a suggestion made earlier this month by Prof. Mark Silk of Trinity College.

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