Election 2016

Who is Father Rodgers? San Diego Tribune doesn't ask, even after he pickets a church

Who is Father Rodgers? San Diego Tribune doesn't ask, even after he pickets a church

Father Rodgers, who are you?

He's a Catholic priest, if you go by some of his latest coverage, picketing a church over a voters' guide. But what kind of Catholic? Some media don’t seem to ask further.

And it matters.

Take the San Diego Union Tribune, which wrote up the protest:

A Catholic priest and handful of picketers gathered outside an Old Town Catholic church Saturday to protest church messages linking presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to Satan and warning that voting Democrat is a mortal sin.
Father Dermot Rodgers of St. Peter of Rome Roman Catholic Mission in Allied Gardens wore a priest’s robe and held a hand-lettered sign saying, "Separation of Church and State."
He and four like-minded men and women, including two of his parishoners, stood in front of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church on San Diego Avenue amid church-goers and puzzled tourists.
They sparked spirited sidewalk debate on whether a flyer inserted in a bulletin at the church last month should have taken a political position that "It is a mortal sin to vote Democrat" and anyone who died in that state would immediately "descend into hell."

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'Down-ballot issues': Religion News Service offers a look, but not balance

'Down-ballot issues': Religion News Service offers a look, but not balance

A quick quiz: How many horses does it take to make a race?

"That's easy," you say; "at least two."

That's right. So you'd want to know about them both.

So it is with the Religion News Service' guide to ballot issues that religious people are watching for the upcoming ballot.

"The nation’s attention may be on the presidential election, but there are a number of down-ballot issues of interest to religious and nonreligious voters," RNS says, and they're right. Their list -- marijuana, gun control, minimum wage, the death penalty, assisted suicide, "public money for religious purposes" --  suggests the range of religious thought in the public sphere.

But in some of the issues, one side seems to enjoy favored status. In some, only one side gets to talk. And in some, only one side is even acknowledged.

Take the death penalty, which is up for review in California, Nebraska and Oklahoma. RNS grants that there are two sides: "In California, almost 30 different religious groups support a death penalty repeal, while in Nebraska, celebrity Christian author Shane Claiborne has spoken in support of retaining a repeal of the death penalty at anti-death penalty events."

But who gets the direct quote?

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Israelis back Donald Trump because of his anti-Muslim talk, right? Well, actually...

Israelis back Donald Trump because of his anti-Muslim talk, right? Well, actually...

There's an assumption circulating among some in the news media, some American Jews, both on the right and left, and among political-geeks in general that Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump is favored by Israelis over his Democratic opponent, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The assumption is rooted in the belief that Trump -- based on his rhetoric (but ignoring his many contradictions) -- will be a more full-throated supporter of Israel than Clinton will be, and so of course Israelis back him over her.

How could they not? The United States is Israeli's most important international protector, so of course Israelis must want the toughest talking candidate.

As a #NeverTrump guy, I think this belief is very wrong. But this post isn't about who Israelis SHOULD support for president of the United States, but who they DO support. (Unless I state otherwise, when I refer to Israelis I'm referring in the main to Jewish Israelis. Israeli Arabs, or Israeli Palestinians, as many prefer to be called, have their own complicated political equations, be they Christian or Muslim.)

So who do Israelis prefer?

Here's a link from May to a Jerusalem Post story reporting on a survey that shows an Israeli preference for Clinton. Note that non-Jewish Israelis are included in this survey. And here's a CNBC analysis, also from May, that puts some meat on the bare-bones Post news report. 

Two salient CNBC paragraphs follow:

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Trump meets some evangelicals: Looking for drops of journalism in a social-media storm

Trump meets some evangelicals: Looking for drops of journalism in a social-media storm

Let's face it, the Donald Trump semi-rally yesterday in New York City with 1,000 loyal or semi-sympathetic evangelical leaders was (a) the perfect viral event in the social-media era, (b) the logical outcome of religious conservatives' fears about the mainstream press (some of which are justified), (c) a nightmare for old-school reporters committed to personal interviews and real questions or (d) all of the above.

It's next to impossible to separate what may or may not have happened in this event from the tsunami of spin and invective that roared through social media.

Why? Well, because the only source materials reporters had to work with, in terms of obtaining direct quotes from the presentations by Trump and others, were clips circulating in social media. Most of these materials were put on Facebook by an African-American church leader, Bishop E.W. Jackson. One key clip is found here.

If the goal was to turn this into a news event that was almost impossible to cover, in a responsible and/or conventional manner, then the folks at United In Purpose got what they wanted. Yes, yes, I know: Have we reached the point where many reporters -- on left and right -- have next to zero commitment to fair coverage of the 2016 campaign? That's a valid question.

Meanwhile, I have no intention of trying to parse the evangelical vs. evangelical shouting on Twitter (and I say that as someone trying to write about these subjects in my Universal syndicate column). So what can we learn from the actual news coverage?

Not much. Some of the main players basically punted. Consider the top of this short report from The New York Times:

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Muslims are pretty much like the rest of us: RNS steps lightly through new survey

Muslims are pretty much like the rest of us: RNS steps lightly through new survey

Despite the furor by Donald Trump and Ted Cruz over Muslims, those believers are pretty much like other Americans, according to a Religion News Service story on a new survey of various kinds of believers.

With this piece, RNS' Cathy Lynn Grossman shows her talent once more for turning survey numbers into timely news copy. She also proves her nimbleness: Just the other day, we shared a stage as speakers for the Reporting on Religion conference in Madison, Wisc.

Right in the lede, Grossman plugs in the survey results with the presidential primaries:

(RNS) This election season, Muslims face a slate of Republican candidates who demand curbs on immigration and compete over how tough they’d be on Islamic terrorism, if elected.
But a new survey finds U.S. Muslims are looking at American society and its future much the same as their non-Muslim neighbors. Like non-Muslims, the economy is their top concern. They are engaged in community life and share similar attitudes on several significant issues.

The article is upfront about the Muslim source of the survey and, through the main researcher, the motives:

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