Dean Baquet

Think piece: Some 'news' about a stunning lack of intellectual diversity in liberal arts, religion faculties

Think piece: Some 'news' about a stunning lack of intellectual diversity in liberal arts, religion faculties

When you think of centers for right-wing thought, you usually don't think of Brooklyn, as in New York City.

However, a Brooklyn College (that's part of CUNY) faculty member -- Mitchell Langbert -- recently posted an academic paper at the National Association of Scholars website with this title: "Homogeneous: The Political Affiliations of Elite Liberal Arts College Faculty."

Now, the results of this study are stunning, but not all that surprising. By definition, the contents of this academic paper is "conservative news," even though it's from Brooklyn, which is about as hip-left as a zip code can get. You can tell this is conservative news simply by doing a logical search for this study in Google News. Click here to check that out.

Thus, this weekend's religion-news "think piece" is from a conservative source, as in PJMedia.com. Here's the overture:

There are more than ten Democrats for every one Republican among elite professors at America's top liberal arts colleges, a new study found.

Worse, Democrats outnumber Republicans by 70 to 1 in religion departments, and that wasn't the worst disparity.

Yes, we will return to that religion angle. Hold that thought, and read on:

Mitchell Langbert, an associate professor of business management at Brooklyn College, examined the party affiliations of 8,688 tenure-track, Ph.D.-holding professors at 51 of the top 60 liberal arts colleges in U.S. News and World Report's 2017 rankings, and found that there were 10.4 times as many Democrats as Republicans.

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Once again, Charlie Hebdo takes aim at violent Islamists -- this time in Spain

Once again, Charlie Hebdo takes aim at violent Islamists -- this time in Spain

Here we go again.

The French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has published a cartoon on its cover page devoted to the August 17, 2017, terror attack in Barcelona that left 13 dead and 130 injured.

Le FigaroEl Pais, and the other European outlets that have picked up the story so far have largely re-published the offending cartoon as has the Qatar based network Al Jazeera.

Newsweek and a handful of American mainstream news outlets have picked up the story, too, but unlike their European counterparts have not reprinted the cartoon. The American press has been down this road before -- engaging in self-censorship so as not to offend radical Islam. And it also revolved around Charlie Hebdo.

The left-wing, satirical magazine entered the conscience of the Anglophone world on January 7, 2015, when two gunmen forced their way into the magazine’s offices and killed twelve of its staff. Brothers Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, Muslims of Algerian descent, carried out the attack in revenge for a cartoon published by the magazine that lambasted the Muslim prophet Muhammad.

In the weeks after the attack, free speech advocates adopted the cry “Je suis Charlie,” (I am Charlie), to show their solidarity with the magazine and the right to free expression. However, support for free speech and Charlie Hebdo’s right to offend was not universal. And this support has further dimmed in recent years.

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'On Religion' meets GetReligion -- tmatt's national column turns 29, with nod to Dean Baquet

'On Religion' meets GetReligion -- tmatt's national column turns 29, with nod to Dean Baquet

A long, long time ago -- 29-plus years to be precise -- several editors at the old Scripps Howard News Service noticed something.

At the time, I was the religion-beat reporter and columnist at The Rocky Mountain News in Denver (memory eternal). The national wire desk in Washington, D.C., noticed that, when they put my national-angle columns on the wire -- as opposed to something completely Colorado-centric -- they would get picked up by quite a few smaller and mid-sized papers.

Plus, there was a pending request from the editor of The Knoxville News Sentinel -- Harry Moskos at the time -- for a weekly Scripps Howard wire piece on religion to serve as one anchor for his newspaper's planned Saturday section on issues of family and faith. Those two subjects, you see, kept showing up near the top of lists about subjects that interested his local readers.

So the national editors worked out a deal with my bosses in Denver to free me up to do a weekly column for the national wire.

Thus, my national column was born 29 years ago last week. An editor asked me what I wanted to call it and I proposed "Get Religion."

That name struck one of the editors as a bit aggressive. You see, he didn't get that I was (wink, wink) linking the old Southern saying that someone "got religion" -- as in got saved, in a revival tent sort of way -- with the modern idea that some people just "don't get it," as in feminist lingo. So they changed "Get Religion" to "On Religion."

Anyway, I rarely run anything from "On Religion" (the column is now carried by the Universal syndicate) here at GetReligion, but I thought I would let readers here see this past week's piece -- as I open my third decade doing that column.

Yes, 29 years is a long time. This particular column is also about -- well, do you remember that turn of phrase used by New York Times editor Dean Baquet?

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Attention New York Times copy desk: It's time to buy more reference Bibles (and use them)

Attention New York Times copy desk: It's time to buy more reference Bibles (and use them)

Truth be told, the Bible is a very complicated book. It also doesn't help that there are many different versions of it.

Why bring this up? Well, it's time to look at another error about the Bible found in a story published in The New York Times. Another error? Click here for some background.

This one isn't quite as spectacular as the famous case in which the Gray Lady published a piece on tourism in Jerusalem that originally contained this rather infamous sentence:

 "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."

That one still amazes me, every time that I read it. This error led to a piece at The Federalist by M.Z. "GetReligionista emerita" Hemingway with this memorable headline: "Will Someone Explain Christianity To The New York Times?"

That error was rather low-hanging fruit, as these things go. Surely there are professionals at the copy desk of the world's most powerful newspaper who have heard that millions and millions of traditional Christians believe in the Resurrection of Jesus?

This time around we are dealing with something that is more complicated. To be honest, if I was reading really fast I might have missed this one myself, and my own Christian tradition's version of the Bible is linked to this error.

So what do we have here? Well, it's a nice, friendly piece about some very bright New Yorkers, with this headline: "Testament to Their Marriage: Couple Compete in Worldwide Bible Contest." Try to spot the error as you read this overture, in context:

A question in the lightning round seemed to make Yair Shahak think twice.
The question was, “Who struck the Philistines until his hand grew tired and stuck to the sword?”

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Concerning the New York Times: 'Fake' news? No. 'Flawed' or 'flavored' news? From time to time ...

Concerning the New York Times: 'Fake' news? No. 'Flawed' or 'flavored' news? From time to time ...

It's the question many journalists are hearing right now from family and online friends as discussions of "fake news" keep heating up: "OK, where am I supposed to go to find balanced, accurate reporting these days?"

As you would expect, when I hear that question there is often an editorial twist in it, something like this: "OK, where am I supposed to go to find balanced, accurate reporting on religion news these days?" That's the question that loomed in the background during the latest "Crossroads" podcast (click here to tune that in), as host Todd Wilken and I discussed the fact that GetReligion marked it's 13th birthday this week.

It's crucial, for starters, to recognize that there are online sources that seem to welcome fake news and then there are established media brands that seem, every now and then, to catch a fake-news virus that affects one or two stories or issues. You can see my colleague Paul Glader of The King's College (he also directs The Media Project that includes GetReligion) striving to make that distinction in his Forbes piece, "10 Journalism Brands Where You Find Real Facts Rather Than Alternative Facts."

Glader is absolutely right on this basic issue of ethics and quality. At the same time, the minute I read the headline on his piece I could hear the voices of skeptical online friends saying, "Is that '10 Journalism Brands Where You WILL Find Real Facts' or is it '10 Journalism Brands Where You CAN Find Real Facts'?"

As we have stressed many times here at GetReligion, the quality of mainstream media coverage of religion news is consistently inconsistent. There are professionals who do fantastic work and then, in the same newsroom, there are reporters and editors who -- when it comes to getting religion -- think up is down and down is up. They don't know what they don't know.

For example, contrast the informed and nuanced religion-beat coverage of issues linking politics and religion at The Washington Post with the tone-deaf material produced throughout 2016 by the political desk in that newsroom.

Meanwhile, what are we to make of The New York Times, which remains one of the world's top two news organizations (I put BBC in that mix, as well) in terms of its reach and ambitions?

Anyone who ignores the high quality of work done at The Times is, well, ignoring the facts.

Yet it is clear, as the newspaper's own editor has stated, that the great Gray Lady struggles when it comes to grasping many basic facts about life in ordinary America -- starting with the role of religious faith in the life of millions of ordinary people (including in New York City).

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A blog's life: GetReligion turns 13, still clinging to hope that more journalists will get it

A blog's life: GetReligion turns 13, still clinging to hope that more journalists will get it

You know the old saying that one year in the life of a dog is equal to seven years for its owner?

Well, if people talk about the relative value of "dogs years," is there some kind of corresponding scale for comparing years in ordinary human life with those in digital, online and social-media life? I mean, how old are Apple iPhones? They seem like they have been here forever. Every year on Twitter equals how much time in the real world?

I bring this up because GetReligion turns 13 today. What does it mean when a weblog lasts long enough to become a teen-ager? 

If your evolving team of GetReligionistas has been at this media-criticism thing for 13 years on regular analog calendars, how long is that in "blog years?" By the way, we have published, oh, 10 million words or so of new material here in that amount of time.

Why do we keep doing what we do? (Click here for our "What we do, why we do it" trilogy.)

To be blunt, we still believe that it's impossible to understand real events and trends in the lives of real people living in the real world without taking religion really seriously. We still believe that the more controversial the religion-news story, the more journalists should strive to accurately cover the crucial voices of believers and thinkers on both sides. The word "respect" is crucial in that equation. Ditto for "balance." We believe that doctrine and history matter. We believe that, when in doubt, you should report unto others as you would want others to report unto you. We remain committed to the old-school (as historians would put it) American model of the press.

Trust me, we can go on. And we plan to. After all, the editor of The New York Times recently saidt: "We don't get religion. We don't get the role of religion in people's lives." Who knows what will happen in the next 12 months? 

But as we mark Feb. 2 once again, let me point readers toward a recent essay that ran at the The Common Vision website with this double-decker headline:

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Just listen for a while: What Spayd said @NYTimes. OK, even what Bannon said ...

Just listen for a while: What Spayd said @NYTimes. OK, even what Bannon said ...

For the past several days, I have been in transit from New York to Baltimore to Washington, D.C., and finally home -- all while getting sick as a dog, as we would say in East Tennessee. So I confess that I'm a bit out of touch, when it comes to what's been happening in news and social media.

But let me try to pull things together from my fevered point of view. It seems the hot media items have something to do with President Donald Trump's bluster-maestro Stephen K. Bannon saying something about America's elite media needing to "shut up" and/or do some listening. In fact, if you search for "Bannon," "mouth" and "shut" right now on Google News you get a mere 238,000 hits.

Oh my. What did this man actually say to The New York Times

“The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while,” Mr. Bannon said in an interview on Wednesday.
“I want you to quote this,” Mr. Bannon added. “The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”

Oh my, again. Never use a flyswatter when a baseball bat will do. But let's assume that this quote should not be read with the kind of hyper-literalism the Times team would be tempted to call "fundamentalism" in another context. (As usual, turn to M.Z. "GetReligionista emerita" Hemingway at The Federalist for a stunning summary of the online storm.)

Instead of jumping straight to the nuclear option -- Trump aide tells press to shut *$^@#*+ up (some of that was implied, to be sure) -- I think it's possible that the actual content of that quote could better be stated as: "The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut for a while and just listen."

Right, right. All I did was move the words "for a while." I think that's what Bannon meant, since everyone knows that the press -- when it comes to listening to Americans on tense topics such as politics, culture and, YES, religion -- is supposed to be listening all the time. I think that's an essential part of their job. 

Is the actual content of this acidic Bannon comment radically different than what ordinary readers said in letters to Times Public Editor Liz Spayd in the hours after Trump won the White House race? Let's flash back to that, while remembering (hello editor Dean Baquet) that discussions of this kind, at the Times and in other elite newsrooms, often include references to the need to "get religion."

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New York Times seeks another Godbeat scribe: How would Yogi Berra parse the job listing?

New York Times seeks another Godbeat scribe: How would Yogi Berra parse the job listing?

I have some good news and some bad news.

The good news is that one of the buzz topics in religion-news circles this week was that job posting at The New York Times, the one with this headline: "Change Is Coming to the New York Times National Desk."

It appears the Times is thinking about doing something new on the religion beat, 12-plus years after the 2005 report on its newsroom culture and weaknesses, "Preserving Our Readers Trust." That was the amazing document that urged editors, when hiring staff, to seek more intellectual and cultural diversity -- to help the Gray Lady do a better job covering religion, non-New York America and other common subjects. Yes, I've written about that report a whole lot on this site.

Oh, and Times editor Dean Baquet's recent journalism confession on NPR -- that the "New York-based and Washington-based ... media powerhouses don't quite get religion" -- may have had something to do with this, as well.

The bad news? There is one chunk of language in this job posting that, for veteran Godbeat observers, could cause a kind of bad acid flashback to another religion-beat job notice in another newsroom, at another time. Hold that thought. 

So here is the Times job notice for a "Faith and values correspondent."

We’re seeking a skilled reporter and writer to tap into the beliefs and moral questions that guide Americans and affect how they live their lives, whom they vote for and how they reflect on the state of the country. You won’t need to be an expert in religious doctrine. The position is based outside of New York, and you will work alongside Laurie Goodstein and a team of other journalists who are digging deep into the nation.

Did you see the key sentence? Rod "friend of this blog" Dreher sure did:

Two cheers for them! I’m glad they’re adding this position, and I’m really glad they’re not basing this reporter in New York (I hope they don’t base him or her in any coastal city, or in Chicago, but rather someplace like Dallas or Atlanta). Why not three cheers? That line about how “you won’t need to be an expert in religious doctrine” bothers me. ... 

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Parade of 2016 yearenders: Global stories that clicked at the Lapido Media website

Parade of 2016 yearenders: Global stories that clicked at the Lapido Media website

Clearly, anyone who wants to understand the modern world (hello administrators at the vast majority of modern seminaries) needs to take a class or two in media literacy.

At the same time, it has become increasingly obvious that most of the journalists who manage newsrooms (hello Dean Baquet of The New York Times) need to have some kind of systematic, professional training in religious literacy.

On the other side of the Atlantic, there is an organization called Lapido Media that is working hard to build bridges to major newsrooms in the United Kingdom and beyond. The Media Project -- the continuing education umbrella project that includes GetReligion.org -- recently cooperated with Lapido Media in an effort to produce a newsroom-friendly book entitled "Religious Literacy: An Introduction." I wrote the final chapter in the book and GetReligion readers that get the book will see many links to themes at this website.

(I should also mention that the headline on the website feature about the book needs to be fixed, since this is not "the first" handbook of this kind, since the Religion News Association -- to give credit where credit is due --  has done similar booklets on this topic in the past, which evolved into the entire ReligionLink project.)

Now, the Lapido team has released an interesting set of feature stories from its website to mark the end of 2016. GetReligion readers with a special interest in global news should click here and check this out.

Some of the subjects include: 

'ISLAMIC STATE ARE MUSLIMS, THEIR DOCTRINES ISLAMIC': BBC HEAD
BBC Head of Religion, Aaqil Ahmed chose a Lapido event to clarify the BBC's use of the term 'so-called Islamic State' in our unprecedented most-read article of the year.

Also, this:

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