Lausanne

Kaepernick vs. Tebow? Washington Post passes along flawed take on a crucial heresy

Kaepernick vs. Tebow? Washington Post passes along flawed take on a crucial heresy

It's a question I have heard over and over during the nearly 14 years that GetReligion has been online. It's a question that I am hearing more and more often these days, as the reality of online economics shapes what we read, see and hear.

The question: Why doesn't GetReligion address journalism issues in opinion pieces, as well as in hard-news stories?

After all, major news organizations keep running more opinion pieces about major events and trends in the news, often in place of actual news coverage. Why does this keep happening?

There are several obvious reasons. First, as your GetReligionistas keep noting, opinion is cheap and hard-news reporting is expensive. All kinds of people are willing to write opinion pieces for next to nothing, while reporting requires lots of time and effort by professionals who, you know, need salaries.

Opinion pieces are also written to provoke and, most of the time, to make true believers shout "Amen!" before they pass along (click, click, click) URLs on Twitter or Facebook. You can usually tell a news organization's worldview by the number of opinion pieces it runs that lean one way or another, while appealing to core readers. In the South this is called "preaching to the choir." Check out the opinion-to-news ratio in the typical "push" email promo package sent out each morning by The Washington Post.

It also helps that it's hard to blame news organizations for the slant or content of opinion pieces they publish. Editors can say, and this is true: Hey, don't blame us, that's his/her opinion.

Finally, there is a deeper question behind this question: How does one critique an opinion piece on issues of balance, fairness and even accuracy? After all, it's not real news. It's just opinion.

Yes, I am asking these questions for a reason. Yesterday, my Twitter feed was buzzing with reactions to an "Acts of Faith" essay published by The Washington Post. It was written by Michael Frost, an evangelism professor who is the vice principal of Morling College, a Baptist institution in Sydney, Austrailia.

The headline: "Colin Kaepernick vs. Tim Tebow: A tale of two Christians on their knees."

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Ticking clock in Charlotte: Billy Graham has already answered the 'who comes next' question

Ticking clock in Charlotte: Billy Graham has already answered the 'who comes next' question

Journalists and religion scholars started talking -- seriously -- about the retirement of the Rev. Billy Graham back in the mid-1980s.

I remember that when the evangelist's 1987 Rocky Mountain Crusade was announced, people were already preparing lists of where he could go "for the last time" to do full-scale crusades before semi-retirement. It wasn't a long list.

In the 1990s, a news hook for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association was its efforts to extend the reach of crusades by using satellite signals to other locations -- multi-site events. That way, more people could hear Graham preach live, in real time, since he was really starting to limit the number of boots-on-the-ground events.

Of course, people were already asking the question: "Who is the next Billy Graham?"

Some of the nominees on those early lists are now approaching retirement.

I bring this up because of an interesting piece that ran the other day in The Charlotte Observer that, I imagine, gives us a hint of what that newspaper is planning for its memorial edition for the pulpit legend, who is currently 98 years old.

How many pages will there be in that special edition? How many new and pre-written stories will they run on the day after his death? Can you imagine receiving this assignment from your editor: Sum up the life of Billy Graham in one story. You have about 2,000 words. (Actually, I can imagine that. I already know that I will have 750 words, because that's the assigned length for my syndicated "On Religion" columns.)

You can see hints of what is to come in the current Observer feature's overture:

Who will be the next Billy Graham?
The Charlotte-born Graham is now 98, lives quietly in his mountain home in Montreat, N.C., and hasn't preached to a packed-stadium crusade in 12 years.

Please respect our Commenting Policy