Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

Washington Post attempts near-impossible: Profiling Virginia's Tony Bennett without mentioning faith

Washington Post attempts near-impossible: Profiling Virginia's Tony Bennett without mentioning faith

Tony Bennett — the coach, not the singer — is quirky. Mysterious. Someone who believes "it's okay to be different."

That's the basic storyline for an in-depth Washington Post profile of Bennett, whose Virginia Cavaliers men's basketball team enters March Madness as the No. 1 overall seed.

Strangely enough (ghosts, anyone?), the Post manages to write 1,850 words about Bennett without any reference to terms such as "faith," "Christian" and "prayer."

Those familiar with Bennett will understand why that's so remarkable. More on that in a moment.

But first, the Post's haunted opening paragraphs:

CHARLOTTESVILLE — Most everyone had taken shelter by now, but Tony Bennett was walking in the rain. In his mind, some things are worse than a downpour.
Bennett was making his way to work 87 minutes before tip-off against Virginia Tech, a late arrival for most college basketball coaches but early for the Virginia coach, a man who detests idle time. And though a cozy security tent sat a few dozen yards away, a crowd was beneath it on this February afternoon, so Bennett made his way between a wall and a television truck.
Even Bennett’s staff used to find some of his quirks odd, but when you’re the coach of the nation’s No. 1 team and the architect of an ACC powerhouse, it’s all part of the plan.
“Certain things are sacred to me,” Bennett would say a bit later, and among those are efficiency, maximizing potential and — perhaps most precious in a profession filled with self-promoters — his privacy.

Hmmmm. Are those really the only things sacred to Bennett?

Let's keep reading:

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Franklin Graham isn't preaching in England for another nine months, but already he's getting trashed

Franklin Graham isn't preaching in England for another nine months, but already he's getting trashed

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at how one-sided some British newspapers can be, since we're talking about a land in which advocacy, partisan journalism is the norm.

However, I kind of thought that The Guardian was a cut above the rest. But their religion correspondent’s hatchet job on the Rev. Franklin Graham’s upcoming crusade in Blackpool is tabloid-level coverage –- at best.

Last March, I wrote about the alarmist coverage of Graham’s Vancouver, B.C., crusade where everyone from the mayor on down predicted an orgy of anti-gay and anti-Muslim violence would break out on city streets if the evangelist was allowed to speak. When nothing happened, Graham’s detractors vanished and a lot of media simply refused to cover the peaceful event that the crusade turned out to be.

I don’t know Graham and I’ve only interviewed him once in my life, but I do know he’s not one to back down once a coalition of Christian leaders has invited him to show up. Which is why I wonder if all the ruckus in the U.K. is simply grandstanding. Here’s how the piece by Harriet Sherwood began:

Opposition is mounting to a planned visit to the UK by a leading American conservative evangelical Christian who has made Islamophobic and anti-gay statements, with critics saying it will promote prejudice and damage interfaith relations.
Several MPs, including a government minister, have urged the home secretary to consider refusing UK entry to Franklin Graham, with some suggesting his comments contravene British laws on hate speech. A petition against Graham being granted a visa has gathered more than 4,600 signatures.

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AP deploys full Kellerism to summarize North Carolina's 'bathroom bill' business price tag

AP deploys full Kellerism to summarize North Carolina's 'bathroom bill' business price tag

North Carolina's HB2, the so-called "bathroom bill," is again making headlines, this time in a rather large and detailed Associated Press account of the economic losses the news organization reports the Tar Heel State has suffered:

Despite Republican assurances that North Carolina's "bathroom bill" isn't hurting the economy, the law limiting LGBT protections will cost the state more than $3.76 billion in lost business over a dozen years, according to an Associated Press analysis.
Over the past year, North Carolina has suffered financial hits ranging from scuttled plans for a PayPal facility that would have added an estimated $2.66 billion to the state's economy to a canceled Ringo Starr concert that deprived a town's amphitheater of about $33,000 in revenue. The blows have landed in the state's biggest cities as well as towns surrounding its flagship university, and from the mountains to the coast. ...
The AP analysis (http://apne.ws/2n9GSjE ) -- compiled through interviews and public records requests — represents the largest reckoning yet of how much the law, passed one year ago, could cost the state. The law excludes gender identity and sexual orientation from statewide antidiscrimination protections, and requires transgender people to use restrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates in many public buildings.

While it may surprise some folks that the 76-year-old former Beatle, born Richard Starkey, is still touring, it seems equally surprising that the AP, once held up as an example of objectivity and down-the-middle reporting, has produced a report laden with advocacy language. The piece lacks almost any perspective from those who believe HB2 has its merits, particularly on faith-based grounds and the protection of women and children. (I say "has" instead of "had" because, despite efforts to repeal the law, HB2 remains on the books, as the ABC News video above shows.)

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Why did Vancouver media pass on covering Franklin Graham's controversial crusade?

Why did Vancouver media pass on covering Franklin Graham's controversial crusade?

Maybe most of you in the lower 48 weren’t following this, but the Rev. Franklin Graham just survived the worst publicity ever for one of his crusades. In this case, it was his March 3-5 “Festival of Hope” in Vancouver, B.C., which I wrote about earlier.

When even Christianity Today goes after Graham, you know the outlook is bad.

As for the secular media, it was like Attila the Hun was showing up, live and in person. Some 327 local churches had combined to host the Graham crusade but you’d never guess that from the coverage he got.

Here's a sample of what was airing the weeks before, courtesy of CTV Vancouver

A famous American evangelist known to denigrate gay people and the Islamic faith is headlining the Greater Vancouver Festival of Hope, triggering backlash from some in the religious community.

Talk about a loaded lead sentence.

The three-day festival, which is taking place at Rogers Arena next month, was put together in partnership with local churches and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Graham's son, Franklin Graham, is scheduled to appear every night.
That's not sitting well with some local faithful, who are speaking out against the younger Graham over his more contentious views.
"Although this event is supported by many local churches in the area, there are many others in the Christian community who are uneasy with having Franklin Graham speak in Vancouver, in light of his outspoken bigotry," reads a petition organized against the event.
The creators of the petition, which has been signed about 500 times, said their goal is to "stand in solidarity with marginalized and minority groups" that Graham has attacked.

The Christianity Today story was only a little less withering.

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Gay and transgender issues underscore a Godbeat rule: Carefully monitor parochial media

Gay and transgender issues underscore a Godbeat rule: Carefully monitor parochial media

In late 2016 the Colson Center for Christian Worldview assembled endorsements from dozens of Christian leaders for a conservative declaration decrying problems with religious freedom with the gay and rapidly emerging transgender issues.

Coverage to date underscores a perennial rule of thumb in religion coverage: Carefully monitor parochial religious media -- and in this case also gay media -- to catch developments that might have broader significance.

Apparently the earliest story on this occurred in the Seattle Gay News (December 2), and then online postings by religious and conservative media. Eventually, mainstream press articles appeared, but in outlets like the Deseret News of Salt Lake City (January 12) and Colorado Springs Gazette (January 13).  As of this writing, The Guy found nothing in major national media (or The Advocate).

Did the sponsors try and fail to gain publicity? Or was this designed to rally activist insiders, not to sway public opinion?

Either way, there’s ample room left for reporters to take a look.

Activists and ideologues continually pepper the media with such petitions on this or that, signed by the highest-profile endorsers they can manage to muster. Amid the glut, why would this document be worth journalistic consideration? Hold that thought till we scan what the text says.

It contends that laws and administrative rulings to protect “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (SOGI) interests “threaten basic freedoms of religion, conscience, speech, and association” and “violate privacy rights.” Such pressures “attempt to compel citizens to sacrifice their deepest convictions on marriage and what it means to be male and female,” through a range of penalties for both individuals and organizations.

On marriage, it explains, a small business may be willing to “serve everyone” yet in conscience cannot be involved with a same-sex wedding. On the transgender question, people may want “to protect privacy by ensuring persons of the opposite sex do not share showers, locker rooms, restrooms, and other intimate facilities.” 

What’s significant?

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Better late than never: New York Times gets around to running a Cliff Barrows obituary

Better late than never: New York Times gets around to running a Cliff Barrows obituary

Through the decades, I have been assigned many different tasks as a journalist -- but I have never had to write a full-scale obituary. Thus, I admit that I don't know how long it takes to write one of those features.

Oh, I've written plenty of columns about religious leaders who have died, columns that served as features or sidebars adding (I hoped) interesting details to the coverage that newsrooms were providing in traditional obits. But I have never written one of those long, detailed obituaries that attempts to provide an overview of a public figure's life.

Of course, the more important the public figure -- at least in the eyes of journalists -- the earlier editors will assign an obit specialist or feature writer to put some basic material on file, "just in case." I am sure that elite American newsrooms already have large packages of features ready on Caitlyn Jenner and the Kardashian crew.

So what does it mean when a newspaper of record -- that would be The New York Times -- produces its own obituary about someone's life almost two weeks after the person died and obits ran in other publications? In other words, what is the statute of limitations on an obituary? Better late than never?

Quite a ways back -- Nov. 16, to be precise -- I ran a post focusing on the obituaries for the Rev. Cliff Barrows, the musical director for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association who was also one of the famous evangelist's closest friends and advisors. The local paper on this story, The Charlotte Observer, tried to show the behind-the-scenes role that Barrows played in Graham's life and work. In other words, there was much more to this story than a man directing giant choirs at evangelistic crusades. The Associated Press obit? No need to go there.

I noticed, at the time, that The New York Times ran the AP story on its website. This did not surprise me. I would imagine that the life and work this Graham associate was not on the radar of many editors in that newsroom.

Later -- as in Nov. 25 later -- the Times ran its own Barrows obit. Why the delay? Did someone simply forget to do one? Did it take that long to get an in-depth feature done?

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Memory eternal, Cliff Barrows: A strategic voice inside the Billy Graham team

Memory eternal, Cliff Barrows: A strategic voice inside the Billy Graham team

Back in the mid 1980s, people were already starting to talk about the Rev. Billy Graham doing his "final crusades." Thus, when the Graham team came to town for the Rocky Mountain Crusade in 1987, that event was hailed as the great evangelist's last major event in Denver and the press handled it that way.

I was at the Rocky Mountain News (RIP) at the time and flew back to Charlotte, where I had worked for the Charlotte News and the Charlotte Observer, and then drove up into the mountains to spend most of a day interviewing Graham. I was planning on writing a magazine piece on Graham's marriage to the brilliant, and very independent, Ruth Bell Graham -- so we talked quite a bit about issues linked to marriage and family.

In that context, Graham made an interesting comment about the core team that built the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and made the strategic decisions that set its course.

For some reason, he said, writers keep underestimating the role played by music director Cliff Barrows. The youngest member of the team was much more than the man who directed stadium-sized choirs and served as emcee for Graham events of all kinds. What they didn't understand was how important his voice was in private, offering counsel and advice at strategic moments, stressed Graham.

Now Barrows is gone, at age 93. Sure enough, the Associated Press obituary for Barrows -- at least the one I am seeing online -- is 126 words long and it seems even shorter than that. The basics are there, barely.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Cliff Barrows, the long-time music and program director for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, has died after a brief illness. He was 93. ...
The two men met in 1945 while Barrows was on his honeymoon, and together they went on to form the association. Barrows traveled the world with Graham since his first crusade in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1947. Barrows also hosted the weekly Hour of Decision radio program for more than 60 years.

As you would expect, the tribute in The Charlotte Observer is much, much longer and captures more of this man's role in the Graham organization, even if key links are not made explicit.

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It’s God-and-country time for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

  It’s God-and-country time for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

The new year will bring a significant strategic shift for the Charlotte-based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which remains influential among U.S. conservative Protestants and has $371 million in assets.

Since 2000 the BGEA has been led by the great evangelist’s son Franklin, who kicks off the new look in Des Moines on Jan. 5.

That’s when Franklin launches his politically-tinged “Decision America Tour" series of prayer rallies that starts off in Iowa and includes the other early voting states of New Hampshire (Jan. 19) and South Carolina (Feb. 9). He plans to preach and tweet his way through all 50 states by Election Day.

Though Billy Graham has befriended politicians and uttered socio-political comments over the decades, his revival meetings always focused hard on appeals for attendees to personally accept Jesus Christ as their savior from sin or to renew such commitments. Franklin will likewise “preach the Gospel.” But he’ll also be urging the Lord’s people not only to pray for the nation but “take action” by being sure to register and vote at all levels of government, and to consider runs for office.

The campaign will also ask Americans to sign a pledge that “where possible” they’ll vote for candidates who “uphold biblical principles, including the sanctity of life and the sacredness of marriage.” Franklin cites these biblical proof texts: Psalm 139:13 and Proverbs 24:11 on abortion, Matthew 19:4-6 on marriage, and Proverbs 14:34 on civic duty.

Perhaps with the BGEA tax exemption in mind, Franklin won’t be endorsing specific candidates and presents the tour as non-partisan, declaring:

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Franklin Graham's $880,000 annual compensation: Charlotte Observer asks how much is too much

Franklin Graham's $880,000 annual compensation: Charlotte Observer asks how much is too much

Usually, wherever two or three microphones are gathered, Franklin Graham seems to be there.

The voice of Graham — son of renowned evangelist Billy Graham — is missing, though, from an investigative report this week by the Charlotte Observer.

The North Carolina newspaper reports that it made repeated requests to interview Franklin Graham last week but that he was not available.

However, Graham's lack of availability did not prevent the newspaper in his home state from producing a fair, solid piece of journalism:

Six years ago, Franklin Graham decided to give up his pay as head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
“I feel that God has called me to this ministry and that calling was never based on compensation,” he wrote then in a memo to the BGEA staff.
But since 2011, at the urging of the Charlotte-based ministry’s board of directors, Graham has been receiving a salary again.
That’s in addition to the more than $620,000 he receives for his other full-time job, leading Samaritan’s Purse, an international relief agency based in Boone. His 2013 compensation from Samaritan’s Purse alone made him the highest-paid CEO of any international relief agency based in the U.S., according to data provided by GuideStar, the world’s largest source of information on nonprofit organizations.
Graham’s total compensation last year from the two charities was more than $880,000, including $258,667 from BGEA.
That total is less than the $1.2 million he received in 2008, but it’s still more than some nonprofit experts consider appropriate.

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