Church of the Holy Sepulcher

Dear Condé Nast Traveler: Religious details should matter in your stories

Dear Condé Nast Traveler: Religious details should matter in your stories

Condé Nast Traveler is what it purports to be: a publication for the rich, discerning and leisure class traveler for whom the word “budget” is not an option. So one would think it would have the money to pay for knowledgeable copy editors

Or maybe not. According to glassdoor.com, a fair share of employees report low pay, long work hours, no work/life balance, that sort of thing. So maybe their copy desk isn’t top of the line.

Whatever the case, the magazine needs some folks who know the basics of world religions, including the central Christian doctrine resurrection of Jesus. My case in point is a piece written by Brooklyn, N.Y., writer Bliss Broyard out this month that is called “I took my kids out of school for three months of travel.”

The stops included sojourns in Jerusalem, Athens, Istanbul, Rome and Oslo and being Jewish, they wanted to their kids to experience Israel, so that’s where they headed first. All went well until:

The next day, while my husband and E. wait in line to enter the Muslim holy site, Haram Al-Sharif (called the Temple Mount by non-Muslims), R. and I run over to the Church of Holy Sepulchre, where we’re carried on a tide of people through the entrance and up some worn stone stairs, polished and slippery from centuries of the faithful’s footsteps.

We wait our turn to lie on the floor and reach down into a hole to touch the tomb that is said to hold Jesus’s bodily remains. I can see that R.’s curiosity is piqued: whether by the chance to lay his fingers on a tangible relic of history, or a kid’s conditioned desire to join any long queue because it must lead to something cool, I have no idea.

Then we overhear a tour guide saying in a well-practiced phrase that the wait can be over an hour, and it’s not even certain that Jesus is buried there. So we hustle back to the Temple Mount for a chance to see the spot where the Prophet Mohammed allegedly rode his mythical stallion to that final mosque in heaven.

The tomb “that is said to hold Jesus’s bodily remains?” Seriously?

Actually, no one has ever found Jesus’s body that we know of. The whole paragraph would have been improved if it had all been put into the past tense. Or was the author sending the message she doesn’t give a rip about what Christians believe and that as far as she’s concerned, Jesus’s body is still somewhere around? Hard to tell if it’s just sloppy phrasing or something more.

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Holy Moses! Yet another religion correction for the ages, this one from Wall Street Journal

Holy Moses! Yet another religion correction for the ages, this one from Wall Street Journal

Hey journalists, thou shalt not do this.

Except -- let's be honest -- we really enjoy it when you do.

Regular GetReligion readers know that this journalism-focused website loves to highlight the best -- and by best, we mean worst -- corrections in the world of religion news.

For example, just last month, The Associated Press merited a post when it mistook a comment about "sitting shiva" with "sit and shiver."

And who can forget a few years ago when The Times of London reported that John Paul II was the first non-Catholic pope? They meant first non-Italian pope.

But today's correction for the ages come to us courtesy of the Wall Street Journal and involves Moses -- yes, the one who led the Israelites out of Egypt. 

Here is the correction that quickly went viral on social media:

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Here we go again: Has anyone at Newsweek (or Yahoo) heard of that whole 'Easter' thing?

Here we go again: Has anyone at Newsweek (or Yahoo) heard of that whole 'Easter' thing?

OK, this is going to be a rather short post. Here is the big news, in the words of a faithful GetReligion reader: "Oh no. They did it again."

Who is "they" in that sentence? Basically, "they" are one or more Internet journalists somewhere who wrote and approved a headline without stopping and thinking about it.

What is the "it" in that sentence? Pay attention as I dig into this a bit. Then we'll get to the use of the word "again."

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem is a one-of-a-kind holy site, with various ancient Christian churches in control of this large and complex sanctuary. At the moment, there is a big story unfolding there. Here is the top of a Newsweek report, as run at a Yahoo news site:

Christian leaders have closed the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, said to be built on the site of Jesus’s crucifixion and burial, in a protest at Israeli tax policy which they say unfairly targets Christians.
In a rare move, leaders from the Greek, Armenian and Catholic denominations said they were indefinitely closing the church because of a “systematic campaign” by Israeli authorities.

Well, yes, that's one way to say it. The church does contain a shrine built over the tomb of Jesus. However, if you know  anything about Christianity -- anything AT ALL -- you probably remember something very important about that tomb. It's the whole Easter thing.

Thus, the reader sent me this headline -- which is the "it" n this sad tale. Here we go:

Jerusalem Church Where Jesus Is Said to be Buried Closed After Tax Dispute With Israeli Government

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The continuing journalism saga of, 'Will someone please explain Christianity to ...'

The continuing journalism saga of, 'Will someone please explain Christianity to ...'

Welcome of episode three (yes, the podcast) of the ongoing saga of mainstream journalists wrestling with the picky details of Christian tradition and doctrine (that whole Bible thing, you know) about the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.

To catch up on this drama, you may want to glace at "Here we go again: Will someone please explain Christianity to the Associated Press?" and then "Seeking correction No. 2: Will some please explain Christianity to the AP photo desk?"

Concerning that second item, I must report -- sadly -- that, as of this morning -- the Associated Press website still contains the inaccurate photo tag line that reads:

The renovated Edicule is seen in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, traditionally believed to be the site of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, in Jerusalem's old city Monday, Mar. 20, 2017. A Greek restoration team has completed a historic renovation of the Edicule, the shrine that tradition says houses the cave where Jesus was buried and rose to heaven. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

To repeat the main point here, Christian tradition (that whole Bible thing, again) teaches that -- after his resurrection -- Jesus spent 40 days with his disciples, was seen by crowds, etc., before his ascension into heaven. Journalists do not have to believe these doctrines. They do, however, need to report the beliefs accurate in stories linked to these sites, biblical passages, holy days and rites.

At the moment, reporters are veering into this territory, of course, because Holy Week and Easter are getting closer. Editors and producers know that it's time to put something into print and video about Easter, a holy day that isn't nearly as commercial and fun (in secular terms) as the season previously known as the Nativity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

That was the starting point for this week's "Crossroads" podcast. How many times have you seen stories linked to Easter that either mess of the basics of Christianity or actually attack them? We are talking about television specials, covers of major newsweeklies and so forth and so on.

'Tis the season, you know.

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Seeking correction No. 2: Will some please explain Christianity to the AP photo desk?

Seeking correction No. 2: Will some please explain Christianity to the AP photo desk?

Concerning the strange tale of the Associated Press and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre: I have some good news, some bad news, a disturbing update and one very good question from a reader.

First the good news.

If you will recall, my earlier post on this topic -- "Here we go again: Will someone please explain Christianity to the Associated Press? -- asked for a correction in an AP story that mixed up some crucial details in 2,000 years of Christian beliefs about the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. This is the kind of information that isn't hard to get online or, for that matter, in a Bible at the newsroom reference desk.

Well, I am happy to report that this story, at the main AP site, now opens with a clear correction, which is even flagged in the headline. The correction states:

JERUSALEM (AP) -- In a story March 20 about renovations at the tomb of Jesus, The Associated Press reported erroneously that the Edicule is revered by Christians as the site where Jesus rose to heaven. Tradition says the Jerusalem shrine is the site of Jesus' resurrection, not the ascension to heaven.

The crucial issue, of course, is whether the newspapers that carried this report, in America and around the world, will run this same correction. GetReligion readers who saw this report in their local newspapers may want to let us know in the comments section.

What about the bad news?

Well, it does appear that someone still needs to explain basic Christianity to the photo-desk at the main Associated Press office. You see, as if this morning, the tag line for the main photo released with this fine feature still reads as follows:

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Here we go again: Will someone please explain Christianity to the Associated Press?

Here we go again: Will someone please explain Christianity to the Associated Press?

Maybe it's time to cue the theme from "Jaws" at copy desks in major newsrooms.

We are halfway through the season of Lent, and you know what that means. Once again, we are approaching the most important days on the Christian calendar, as in Holy Week and Easter. Editors should note that Easter in the West (Gregorian calendar) and Pascha in the churches of the East (the older Julian calendar) are on the same date this year.

This time of year is dangerous for editors because the odds rise that they will need to handle news stories that are supposed to contain accurate references to church history and basic Christian beliefs. This has, in the past, been a challenge in some newsroom, even at the most elite levels of the news food chain. Take, for example, the New York Times and its ongoing struggle with the details of the Resurrection.

This brings us to an Associated Press news feature about the efforts to restore the main shrine in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. See if you can spot the problem here:

JERUSALEM (AP) -- The tomb of Jesus has been resurrected to its former glory.
Just in time for Easter, a Greek restoration team has completed a historic renovation of the Edicule, the shrine that tradition says houses the cave where Jesus was buried and rose to heaven.
Gone is the unsightly iron cage built around the shrine by British authorities in 1947 to shore up the walls. Gone is the black soot on the shrine's stone façade from decades of pilgrims lighting candles. And gone are fears about the stability of the old shrine, which hadn't been restored in more than 200 years.

Did you see the problem?

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And now, this just in from The New York Times: The tomb of Jesus remains empty

And now, this just in from The New York Times: The tomb of Jesus remains empty

Every now and then, it's good to see all kinds of people -- religion-beat professionals included -- using social media to celebrate a major news report.

Let me be clear: I am not saying that other journalists celebrated the contents of the story -- "Crypt Believed to Be Jesus’ Tomb Opened for First Time in Centuries" -- as in celebrating its theological implications.

No, I'm saying that lots of people simply celebrated the fact that the New York Times ran a nice, solid news feature on efforts by priests, monks, scientists and construction workers to study and repair the shrine surrounding the tomb of Jesus. To be honest, however, some would say that they celebrated the fact that the story mentioned that millions of Christians do, in fact, believe in that whole "Up From the Grave He Arose" thing.

In other words, we do not have a new entry in our occasional GetReligion series on the Gray Lady offering the opposite point of view, as in our recent post: "Believe it or not: The New York Times has quietly returned to its 'Jesus is dead' theme."

Still, there is one rather strange thing, in terms of journalism, about this news story (emphasis on the word "news"). Let's see if you can spot it. Here is the overture:

JERUSALEM -- The only mystical power visible was the burning light from seven tapered candles. And yet for ages, the tomb that sits at the center of history has captured the imaginations of millions around the world.
For centuries, no one looked inside -- until last week, when a crew of specialists opened the simple tomb in Jerusalem’s Old City and found the limestone burial bed where tradition says the body of Jesus Christ lay after his crucifixion and before his resurrection.
“We saw where Jesus Christ was laid down,” Father Isidoros Fakitsas, the superior of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, told me. “Before, nobody has.” Or at least nobody alive today. “We have the history, the tradition. Now we saw with our own eyes the actual burial place of Jesus Christ.”
For 60 hours, they collected samples, took photographs and reinforced the tomb before resealing it, perhaps for centuries to come.

Need another hint? The next sentence adds:

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Believe it or not: The New York Times has quietly returned to its 'Jesus is dead' theme

Believe it or not: The New York Times has quietly returned to its 'Jesus is dead' theme

Let's start with a flashback.

Perhaps you remember a 2014 piece at The Federalist by one M.Z. "GetReligion emerita" Hemingway that ran with the headline, "Will Someone Explain Christianity To The New York Times?"

It focused on a travel piece that, once corrected, included the following material about tourism in the tense city of Jerusalem. The crucial passage stated:

On a recent afternoon in the Old City of Jerusalem, while fighting raged in Gaza, Bilal Abu Khalaf hosted a group of Israeli tourists at his textile store in the Christian Quarter -- one of Jerusalem’s tourist gems.
Dressed in a striped galabiyya and tasseled red tarbouche, Mr. Abu Khalaf showed his visitors exotic hand-loomed silks and golden-threaded garments from Syria, Morocco and Kashmir that adorn Israel’s most luxurious hotels and ambassadors’ homes. ...
Nearby, the vast Church of the Holy Sepulcher marking the site where many Christians believe that Jesus was buried, usually packed with pilgrims, was echoing and empty.

Yes, that was what the Times piece said after it was corrected. What did it say before that? Believe it or not, it said, "Nearby, the vast Church of the Holy Sepulcher marking the site where many Christians believe that Jesus is buried, usually packed with pilgrims, was echoing and empty."

In this case, it's easy to discern what the meaning of the word "is" is.

Hold that thought.

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Plant. Face. Palm. Did Facebook team say Jesus is buried in Church of the Holy Sepulchre? (Updated)

Plant. Face. Palm. Did Facebook team say Jesus is buried in Church of the Holy Sepulchre? (Updated)

Just what we need, another controversy involving Facebook and its "trending" news feature, which is apparently important for legions of social-media content consumers.

But in this case, I really need to ask, "Can I get a witness?"

What I mean is this: Does anyone out there in cyberspace have evidence -- perhaps a screenshot or a URL in a way-back storage program -- to back up those #bangingheadondesk items about an alleged Facebook "trending" story that ran with this headline?

Church of the Holy Sepulchre: Renovations Begin on Site Where Christians Believe Jesus Is Buried

Oh my. And we now have an update from a reader! We have a screenshot.

Now that we have that taken care of, let me note that the principalities and powers at Facebook headquarters can take some comfort in the fact that they are not the first folks in journalism to make that error.

Some of you might remember a 2014 item on this here weblog that ran with this headline: "Revenge of GetReligion MZ: Concerning the NYTimes effort to bury Jesus."

That post focused on an MZ piece at The Federalist in which she dissected a New York Times travel feature that, while focusing on life and commerce in Jerusalem's Christian Quarter said:

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