Sacramento Bee

Persecuted Chaldeans: San Diego Union-Tribune delivers an Easter story with content

Persecuted Chaldeans: San Diego Union-Tribune delivers an Easter story with content

At the newspapers I used to work on, I was responsible for coming up with a splashy feature each year for Easter day. At one point, I used this opportunity to hit up my employers for business trips, such as a trip to New Mexico in 1998 for the country’s largest pilgrimage at Chimayo, just north of Santa Fe. But it never occurred to me to not have a story, as the big religious holidays were my chance to get above the fold on A1.

So this year, I surveyed a bunch of California newspapers to see which ones had made any effort to provide decent Easter coverage. The Orange County Register covered a cowboy service and a sunrise service; in other words, the minimum. 

The San Bernardino Sun covered how the local Catholic bishop did not preach on the previous week’s shootings that left a student and teacher dead and a student wounded. A story about the Easter Bunny got better play. The Sacramento Bee had an opinion column on the difficulties of explaining the Easter Bunny to foreigners. Chances are those foreigners, like the Chaldeans, knew more about Christ and the Resurrection than the Easter rabbit. 

The San Francisco Chronicle barely gave lip service to two sunrise services while devoting much of its Easter wrap-up to a Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence event featuring a contest for the best Hunky Jesus and Foxy Mary. 

I could find nothing in the Los Angeles Times other than a San Diego Union Tribune story that I’ll get to in a minute. The Ventura County Star had nothing. But the Redding Record-Searchlight had several over the weekend: An account of Easter at two local churches and the recreation of Christ’s walk to the cross by several Hispanic churches. Redding is the site of the enormous Bethel Church so religion is important to much of the local populace.

Back to the Tribune’s story on the local Chaldeans, 60,000 of whom live in their circulation area.

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Christian colleges on chopping block: Why are California newspapers ignoring the story?

Christian colleges on chopping block: Why are California newspapers ignoring the story?

Years ago, I was assigned to write a series about the huge growth of Christian colleges in the United States and I got to select the 10 I wanted to profile. To no one’s surprise, four of them were in California because I wanted to go someplace warm.

 While enjoying the March sunshine, I also learned there are tons of Christian colleges all over the state, ranging from a Nazarene university on the ocean to a Catholic college in the orange groves east of Santa Barbara. Religious higher education is a huge industry in the Golden State and this has been the case for decades.

Sports and civil rights are important too, as everyone knows. That's why journalists everywhere, including California, did that full-court press the other day following the death of boxer Muhammad Ali. However, the media -- even newsrooms in California -- seem to be ignoring a bill going through the California state legislature that would have a huge impact on dozens of religious colleges in the state and, eventually, the nation as a whole.

There’s lots of great hot buttons in this story: religious freedom, gay students, employee rights, to name a few.

As you would expect, the alternative, "conservative" press is covering Senate Bill 1146 to the hilt. But the Los Angeles Times, which doused Ali's passing with more than a dozen stories in the past week, has not touched it. At least I could find nothing on their web site, not that of the San Francisco ChronicleSan Francisco Weekly or San Diego Union-Tribune.

One exception is the Sacramento Bee, which ran a guest editorial and the following brief article:

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Gov. Jerry Brown's Catholicity vs. euthanasia decision gets above-the-fold ink

Gov. Jerry Brown's Catholicity vs. euthanasia decision gets above-the-fold ink

Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old Californian who moved to Oregon last year so she could end her life instead of facing the last stages of brain cancer, got her political revenge this week.

That's the reality in the news coverage. That’s because -- unless you’ve been living under a rock somewhere -- California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill making assisted suicide legal. Which opened the gates to this controversial personal or family choice to some 38 million people overnight.

And the Los Angeles Times reporter who covered it did a great job of making the religion angle front and center. That is, the Catholic governor of the country’s most populous state did something totally against his religion, but readers got to learn about how that decision played out. Start reading here:

Caught between conflicting moral arguments, Gov. Jerry Brown, a former Jesuit seminary student, signed a measure Monday allowing physicians to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to terminally ill patients who want to hasten their deaths.
Brown appeared to struggle in deciding whether to approve the bill, whose opponents included the Catholic Church.
“In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death,” Brown wrote in a signing message. “I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others.”

After explaining some provisions of the End of Life Option Act and placing a quote by its opponents quite high in the story, the reporter swung back to Brown, who said he had weighed the religious arguments.

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There's religion ghosts a'plenty in Sacramento Bee story on conjoined twins

There's religion ghosts a'plenty in Sacramento Bee story on conjoined twins

Every so often there comes a story that cries for a faith element; wherein you strongly suspect that there are lots of religion ghosts floating about, but which frustrates because the reporter simply didn’t go there. 

That's what happened, for me, when reading a lengthy story released by The Sacramento Bee on a Mexican-American family in which the mother becomes pregnant in her mid-40s with Siamese -- or conjoined -- twins. The story appeared on the one-year anniversary of the twins’ birth. As always, there are medical and ethical issues involved in this kind of pregnancy, as you can hear in the Bee video featured above.

The overture of the story:

ANTELOPE, Calif. -- Their mother calls it “the butterfly,” because its shape and symmetry remind her of a delicate winged insect.
The tiny foot -- a fusion of bone, muscle and skin with three toes on each side -- is attached to a third leg shared by Erika and Eva Sandoval, 11-month-old conjoined twins who also share a liver, some intestinal tract and much of their reproductive systems. Joined at the pelvis and sternum, they sit face-to-face at all times.
The sisters, born at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, in Palo Alto, Calif., last August, spent their first seven months in intensive care before coming home this spring, having trumped the slim survival odds for conjoined twins – a phenomenon that occurs about once in every 200,000 births.

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Back to the Islamic Caitlyn Jenner and the man behind the Planned Parenthood videos

Back to the Islamic Caitlyn Jenner and the man behind the Planned Parenthood videos

On this week's episode of "Crossroads, the GetReligion podcast, " host Todd Wilken and I discussed the Sacramento Bee's less than sparkling coverage of the man behind the Planned Parenthood videos (who grew up in their back yard, making this truly a local-angle story) and the Los Angeles Times's discovery of a Muslim woman who has become a man. Please click here to tune that in.

Not surprisingly, the key figure in the trans Muslim story lives in San Francisco, which is where I -- as I write this -- have been for the past few days attending a conference of journalism professors known as the Association of Educators in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC). 

Today I moderated a panel of scholars who were discussing how journalists used to put scare quotes about "Islamophobia" and how increasingly they are not.

This is, of course, a sign that they believe such a phobia is real and not something dreamed up by Muslim apologists. It also implies that this is not a subject worth debating. That's how "scare quotes" work, after all. 

One Muslim professor listening in said that no matter what the story, Muslims -- like Mormons -- are always treated as the "other" -- part of a group that's not quite normal.

My problem with the Los Angeles Times story (which hasn't attracted any comments as of yet) wasn't about fear of Muslims, it more had to do with handling a transgender Muslim with such kid gloves that she/he was spared the normal tough questions a reporter should be asking.

Sound familiar?

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Sacramento Bee does lackluster reporting on local man behind Planned Parenthood videos

Sacramento Bee does lackluster reporting on local man behind Planned Parenthood videos

Although the news on the controversial Planned Parenthood selling-baby-parts videos, PP’s web site and various legal maneuvers blocking the videos seems to be changing by the hour, I chose to take on Sacramento Bee story released Tuesday. Call it a short-term GetReligion folder-of-guilt thing.

The headline: “New Planned Parenthood Controversy: Same Old Abortion Debate,” is an eyebrow raiser. Would the Bee say the following about the recently famous Cecil the Lion: “Freshly Killed Lion, Same Old Animal Rights Debate”? Really?

Before even reading the article, one gets a hint of the newspaper's take on this hot-button topic. Then:

Anti-abortion activists rallied in cities across the country in recent days, invigorated by the release of videos showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing the procurement of fetal tissue for research. For the activists, the videos provided a new -- and still unfolding -- source of indignation. They accuse Planned Parenthood of profiting from the sale of aborted fetuses, a claim Planned Parenthood denies.
In Washington, Republicans called on Congress to withhold federal funding for Planned Parenthood, and GOP lawmakers in several states opened investigations of their own. Democrats pushed back by focusing scrutiny on the producer of the videos, a 26-year-old man involved in anti-abortion causes since his high school days in Davis.
But on the sidewalks outside Planned Parenthood clinics, familiar strokes of the anti-abortion movement -- wooden rosaries, amplifiers, faded signs telling women “it’s not too late to change your mind” -- belied the activists’ deeper hope that controversial videos might change people’s minds more broadly on abortion.
In that effort, there has been little evidence of success.

Much of the story is about David Daleiden, who attended a high school in Davis, about 15 miles west of Sacramento. Daleiden founded the Center for Medical Progress, which is releasing the videos. 

As regular news-consumers know, all news is local. Even as the local newspaper, the Bee doesn’t go to great lengths to look into Daleiden, who they said didn’t respond to requests for interviews.

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