Johnnie Moore

Concerning evangelicals, Trump and Stormy Daniels, named sources are more credible

Concerning evangelicals, Trump and Stormy Daniels, named sources are more credible

First is not always best.

That's my quick critique of the NPR story that made such a splash Friday. You know, the one that reported evangelical leaders are very concerned about swirling allegations "about the president and a payout to a porn star to cover up a sexual encounter." 

Those leaders, NPR said, "are organizing a sit-down with President Trump in June."

Alrighty, but where's the story coming from?

The answer would be "four sources with knowledge of the planned meeting." In other words, we have what has become all too frustratingly common in the Trump era: a narrative based on anonymous voices.

Bottom line: Such sources know what they're talking about. Or they don't. You can trust them. Or you can't. And therein lies the problem.

I'll admit my bias: I wish major news organizations would stop using anonymous sources (who have an agenda or wouldn't be talking). Make people go on the record (so readers will have more information on which to judge a source's agenda). Or simply don't quote them. It's that simple.

Anonymous sources do nothing to improve the credibility of journalism in an age in which the president of the United States scores cheap political points by criticizing what he calls the #FakeNews media.

After quoting the anonymous sources, NPR includes a named source — yah! — who pooh-poohs much of the earlier storyline:

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Here we go again: New York Times says White House door wide open for all 'evangelicals'

Here we go again: New York Times says White House door wide open for all 'evangelicals'

Before we dive -- yes, it's time to try again -- into another example of "Gosh, all those evangelicals sure do love Donald Trump" coverage, let's pause to, uh, separate the sheep from the goats.

If you understand that image, the odds are good that you are an evangelical or some other brand of Christian who has cracked open a Bible more than once.

Whatever. A few months ago, Sarah Pulliam Bailey of The Washington Post tweeted out a fun little link to a MereOrthodoxy.com "Are you an evangelical?" quiz that is kind of fun. Click here to take the test. (Or click here for her original tweet, which has some interesting comments.)

So I took the test, as a former Southern Baptist preacher's kid from the Jesus Movement era, and scored 10 out of 31. The site's judgement:

Spiritual but not religious: You are definitely not evangelical, but you might still have feelings that you associate with Jesus in some way when you are standing on a mountaintop or contemplating the ocean. 

Well, at least I know where I stand when writing about the press and its struggles to realize the complexities of evangelical identity in this day and age. I would have done better if it included a question asking how many Bruce Cockburn CDs are in my collection (I think I own every note the man has recorded).

Anyway, the New York Times recently (pre-National Prayer Breakfast) weighed in with another report on you know what. The headline: "Evangelicals, Having Backed Trump, Find White House ‘Front Door Is Open’." Once again, readers are told that all "evangelicals" backed Trump and, today, all of them are welcome at the White House." I am sure that will come as a shock to many.

However, this story is slightly better than that headline. At the very least, it acknowledges that even the early, core evangelical supporters of The Donald are a bit more complex than many would think. Hold that thought. First, here is a solid paragraph on why evangelical poll numbers remain high, when it comes to this White House. It starts with the prayer breakfast crowd, saying that the president stood:

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Reporting on Paula White and the White House: Trying to tell her side of the story

Reporting on Paula White and the White House: Trying to tell her side of the story

Those of you who may have read my lengthy profile on Paula White in this past Sunday’s Washington Post Magazine may not know that it was this GetReligion post a year ago and then this one that helped make the Post story happen.

Her spokesman, Johnnie Moore, noticed these posts, and contacted me to express thanks for their fairness.

Mercenary creature that I am, the wheels started turning in my head. A lot of publications, I thought, would be interested in knowing the inner life of this woman; the backstory behind her relationship with President Donald Trump and how she has hung on over the years despite scandals that would deck most people.

So I floated a trial balloon: Would Paula, I asked him, consent to appearing before dozens of journalists at the Religion News Association convention in Nashville in September? As a member of the conference committee, I was putting together a panel and I wanted her to be on it. Through Moore, she said yes. (Note: I’ll be referring to everyone by their last names in this piece except for Paula).

By this time, I was in contact with pros at the Post’s Sunday magazine, since I have written 14 stories either for the magazine or the Style section. Most of the pieces were several thousand words long, including my latest: A 2015 profile on Alice Rogoff, wife of inside-the Beltway billionaire David Rubenstein and (at the time) publisher of the Anchorage-based Alaska Dispatch News. T

he folks at the magazine were definitely interested in a story. Paula was on the road so much that I didn’t get through to her until June to explain what a story of close to 6,000 words would entail. We agreed that I’d spend three days following her around Washington, D.C. in late July.

Early in the afternoon of July 27, I was standing at the Northwest gate on Pennsylvania Avenue impatiently waiting for the right media person to allow me in. I didn’t know there was a titanic battle raging right then between communications director Anthony Scaramucci (who would be fired the following week) and chief of staff Reince Priebus who was about to be ousted.

Please respect our Commenting Policy