George Conger

Click, click: Tough calls journalists must make, when facing good news and dumb news

Click, click: Tough calls journalists must make, when facing good news and dumb news

What we have here is the kind of laugh-to-keep-from-crying conversation that journalists have had for ages and ages. Amen.

However, the topic discussed in the YouTube located at the top of this post -- offering us a chance to touch base with former GetReligionista George Conger (in clericals) -- has become even more common in the digital news era. You know, this current age in which the journalistic temptation to seek out cat videos and "You won't believe what happens next" listicles continues to grow.

Yes, "Anglican Unscripted" is not a mainstream news product. It's an Anglican affairs video podcast with a conservative point of view.

Still, about two minutes in, Conger and co-host Kevin Kallsen (with guitar) start discussing a very important editorial matter, which is why it makes little sense in the internet news era to cover "good" stories that everyone already knows about and "dumb news" that may be humorous or somewhat ironic, but it's so predictable that no one needs to pays attention.

As George states: "Consistently good news, and consistently dumb stories, eventually do not sell."

Let's just say that a key phrase in this discussion is, rather than, "One Lord, one faith, one baptism" is "One Lord, one faith, one toilet."

The key question: Why didn't the following press release -- a letter from the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church and other leads in the denomination -- generate mainstream news coverage, even in liberal settings that would logically support this action? Here's the key passage:

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Rumors of the death of the Anglican Communion are premature, but relevant?

Rumors of the death of the Anglican Communion are premature, but relevant?

Once again we return to the media myth that the doctrinal wars in the Anglican Communion were caused by the 2003 election of the first openly gay and noncelibate bishop in the U.S. Episcopal Church, the tiny Diocese of New Hampshire, to be specific.

Yes, it would make religion writers' lives much easier if that were true. 

However, sometimes professionals who write about complicated news events have to wrestle with complicated information that may require -- brace yourselves -- the addition of an entire sentence or two of background in a news story. It may even require talking about doctrinal issues other than those directly linked to sexuality.

So, once again, let us return to what your GetReligionistas have long called "Anglican timeline disease." The latest episode is linked to the announcement by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby that he is inviting 37 archbishops -- note the specific number -- to a January meeting that he will host to "discuss key issues face to face, including a review of the structures of the Anglican Communion."

This news led to waves of speculation, followed by a truly fascinating tweet from the Lambeth Palace press office. The following was not taken from The Onion:

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This piece on Episcopal Bishop William Love of Albany contains a big, big, big hole

This piece on Episcopal Bishop William Love of Albany contains a big, big, big hole

Want to see some completely unbalanced reporting in what was, I assume, supposed to be a hard-news story in a mainstream newspaper? Friends and neighbors, this Times Union story -- "Episcopal bishop's opposition to same-sex marriage creates rift" -- about Bishop William Love of the Diocese of Albany may take the cake.

Right up front, let me note that (a) this was an important story that should have been covered and (b) liberal Episcopalians in this diocese had every right to be outraged by their bishop's rejection of his denomination's somewhat limited embrace of same-sex marriage rites. Their voices deserved to be heard.

Wait, "somewhat limited" embrace? 

Ah, there is the rub. This story completely misses a key element of what the Episcopal General Convention did and did not do on this hot-button issue, a fact that made the final action taken quite unpopular with some -- repeat SOME -- liberal Episcopalians.

The bottom line: There is no way to understand the story in Albany without crucial facts that were omitted from this Times Union report. 

So what's the story? Here is the overture:

Episcopal Bishop William Love's opposition to same-sex marriage in defiance of the recent 78th general convention of the Episcopal Church that affirmed marriage equality has roiled the Albany diocese and caused parishioners to quit the Cathedral of All Saints in protest.
In a July 18 pastoral letter in response to last month's convention and June's historic Supreme Court ruling guaranteeing nationwide rights for same-sex marriage, Love cited a Book of Common Prayer definition of marriage as a "solemn and public covenant between a man and a woman."
Love was among just seven out of more than 100 bishops across the United States who flouted the convention's stance and publicly opposed same-sex marriage.

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Concerning that nuanced Washington Post 'analysis' of Episcopal gay-marriage rites

Concerning that nuanced Washington Post 'analysis' of Episcopal gay-marriage rites

Check out the byline on this Washington Post "Acts of Faith" analysis piece covering the long-expected Episcopal Church decision to approve same-sex marriage rites in its sanctuaries.

Well, actually, in some of its sanctuaries. Can you say "local option," as in a flashback to the early days of female priests? More on this angle in a moment, because this is a crucial element in this local, regional, national and global Anglican story.

The byline in question belongs to one George Conger, as in the Father George Conger who spent several years as the foreign-news analyst here at GetReligion and with the Global Media Project. The Post simply identifies him as a scribe who "reported on the Anglican/Episcopal world for almost 20 years, writing for newspapers and magazines in England, the United States and Australia. He also serves as an Episcopal priest in a parish in Florida."

Now, that note states that this piece is a work of "analysis," which is appropriate, I think, since George has tons of experience in publications and websites -- like GetReligion -- that openly mix news and commentary. His work is followed closely by conservative Anglicans around the world. He is part of this story.

Ah. But here where things get interesting. Let's contrast Conger's "analysis" with the omnipresent hard-news report from the Associated Press. Which story actually gives more attention to the concerns and words of leaders on the ruling Episcopal Church left? In other words, which story provided the most hard-news balance and context?

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Say what? Another revelation shreds the timeline in sad case of Bishop Heather Cook of Maryland (updated)

Say what? Another revelation shreds the timeline in sad case of Bishop Heather Cook of Maryland (updated)

First, a confession (as Great Lent approaches): I am an Eastern Orthodox Christian who lives in Maryland, which by definition means that I know many former Episcopalians. So from the beginning of the sad saga of the DUI Bishop Heather Elizabeth Cook, I have heard people trying to make sense of the timeline and trying to discern its impact -- spiritual, political and financial -- on the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland.

The working theory: Cook was a legacy case, the daughter of a powerful local priest (a recovering alcoholic who was a pioneer in ministry to alcoholics). It appears that Cook was an effective parish pastor and then, during a decade as an administrator in the quiet and well-bred Eastern Shore Diocese of Easton, her work load pushed her deep into drink. Thus, the horrible 2010 DUI episode involving burning rubber, vomit, a fifth of whiskey and some marijuana.

But she received treatment and the Diocese of Maryland, without letting all of the voters know about that DUI thing, selected her as a bishop. Then perhaps the stress returned? Thus, the strange sermon on bad habits and safe driving and then the fatal collision with a cyclist. She has been charged with criminal negligent manslaughter, using a texting device while driving, leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in death and three charges of drunken driving. Bail: $2.5 million.

But now there is this timeline shocker, care of The Washington Post and several other sources, including former GetReligionista George Conger, who now writes for The Media Project. The Post story opens with this:

The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland suspected that Heather Cook -- now charged in the drunken-driving death of a Baltimore bicyclist -- was drunk during her installation festivities this past fall, a new official timeline shows. ...

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That cross in Kiev: What George Conger said, once again

Simply stated, it is one of the most haunting Associated Press photographs that I have seen in my journalism career. The caption under the photo, as it ran with a recent New York Times report, says:

Orthodox priests pray as they stand between protesters and the police in Kiev early Friday.

Actually, the photo (click here to see it, since it is copyrighted) appears to show an Orthodox priest and a monk and, perhaps, two laymen. One of the men — it’s hard to see which one, in the dramatic amber lighting — is holding a processional cross.

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