As happens with Associated Press stories, the wire service's report headlined "Conservative Christian attorneys gain influence under Trump" is getting prominent play nationally.
I first read the piece in the print edition of today's Houston Chronicle.
Moreover, it's on the New York Times website and in hundreds of papers across the nation.
The subject matter — the rise of a Texas-based law firm that pursues religious liberty cases — definitely interests me.
But AP's implementation of that storyline makes for a frustrating read.
Just the first three paragraphs raise my hackles:
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Lawyers who espouse a conservative Christian agenda have found plenty of opportunities in Texas, suing on behalf of Bible-quoting cheerleaders and defending a third-grader who wanted to hand out Christmas cards that read in part “Jesus is the Christ!”
But for the First Liberty law firm, the last few years have been especially rewarding: Their attorneys have moved into powerful taxpayer-funded jobs at the Texas attorney general’s office and advised President Donald Trump, who nominated a current and a former First Liberty lawyer to lifetime appointments on federal courts. Another attorney went to the Department of Health and Human Services as a senior adviser on religious freedom.
It’s a remarkable rise for a modest-sized law firm near Dallas with 46 employees, and it mirrors the climb of similar firms that have quietly shifted from trying to influence government to becoming part of it. The ascent of the firms has helped propel a wave of anti-LGBT legislation and so-called religious-freedom laws in statehouses nationwide.
After reading this story, here are three journalistic questions:
1. What is the "conservative Christian agenda" espoused by the First Liberty Institute?
AP reports that agenda as a fact but never provides evidence to back it up.
The firm's website describes its mission as protecting religious liberty. In AP's view, is that characterization synonymous with "a conservative Christian agenda?"