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What makes a GetReligion post go viral? Wish I knew, but these were my Top 10 posts of 2017

What makes a GetReligion post go viral? Wish I knew, but these were my Top 10 posts of 2017

Happy New Year!

As we plunge into 2018, I'm excited about another year of writing for GetReligion. At this journalism-focused website, we highlight both positive and negative examples of mainstream reporting on religion news. 

I write four posts a week (including the all-new "Friday Five"). That adds up to 200 times a year that I offer my insights and opinions. Some of my posts go viral on social media. Others, um, do not. 

These were my 10 most-clicked posts of 2017:

10. Bravo! Washington Post religion writer delves masterfully into the faith of Sarah Huckabee Sanders

9. Oh no, look what Trump's done: He's appointed someone to Cabinet who ONCE PRAYED

8. Chicago Tribune reporting on Wheaton College hazing incident seems solid, but pay close attention

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A year later, Wall Street Journal revisits 'Target's pricey social lesson' on transgender bathrooms

A year later, Wall Street Journal revisits 'Target's pricey social lesson' on transgender bathrooms

As I mentioned earlier this week, I'm in Dallas-Fort Worth enjoying some Texas Rangers baseball games with family and friends.

Of course, "enjoying" may not be the best verb since my team keeps blowing late-inning leads.

But I digress.

I'm staying at my parents' house, and somehow, the subject of Target stores came up in conversation. My mom mentioned that she hasn't shopped at Target since the retailer made a splash last year by touting its transgender-friendly toilets.

"I just don't think little girls should have to be afraid to go to the restroom and worry about who might be in there," she said.

In writing about the controversy last year, I admitted that I had no plans to boycott Target:

Maybe you've heard that a #BoycottTarget online petition has gained nearly 1 million signatures. I'm not one of them, mind you. I think boycotts are silly and have no intention to stop shopping at Target (although I'll take this opportunity to call on management to hire more cashiers). I'll also keep eating at Chick-fil-A (as often as possible!). And I'll maintain my PayPal account, even though I hardly ever use it.
However, from a journalistic perspective, I am interested in news coverage of the Target boycott.

At the time I called boycotts "silly," I didn't realize my mother would be participating. But seriously, the number of people I know — most of them conservative Christians — who have responded similarly to Target's LGBT activism has surprised me.

Perhaps there's a news story there?

Indeed.

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AP deploys full Kellerism to summarize North Carolina's 'bathroom bill' business price tag

AP deploys full Kellerism to summarize North Carolina's 'bathroom bill' business price tag

North Carolina's HB2, the so-called "bathroom bill," is again making headlines, this time in a rather large and detailed Associated Press account of the economic losses the news organization reports the Tar Heel State has suffered:

Despite Republican assurances that North Carolina's "bathroom bill" isn't hurting the economy, the law limiting LGBT protections will cost the state more than $3.76 billion in lost business over a dozen years, according to an Associated Press analysis.
Over the past year, North Carolina has suffered financial hits ranging from scuttled plans for a PayPal facility that would have added an estimated $2.66 billion to the state's economy to a canceled Ringo Starr concert that deprived a town's amphitheater of about $33,000 in revenue. The blows have landed in the state's biggest cities as well as towns surrounding its flagship university, and from the mountains to the coast. ...
The AP analysis (http://apne.ws/2n9GSjE ) -- compiled through interviews and public records requests — represents the largest reckoning yet of how much the law, passed one year ago, could cost the state. The law excludes gender identity and sexual orientation from statewide antidiscrimination protections, and requires transgender people to use restrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates in many public buildings.

While it may surprise some folks that the 76-year-old former Beatle, born Richard Starkey, is still touring, it seems equally surprising that the AP, once held up as an example of objectivity and down-the-middle reporting, has produced a report laden with advocacy language. The piece lacks almost any perspective from those who believe HB2 has its merits, particularly on faith-based grounds and the protection of women and children. (I say "has" instead of "had" because, despite efforts to repeal the law, HB2 remains on the books, as the ABC News video above shows.)

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The seat of the matter: Most media updates on Target store controversy miss the obvious

The seat of the matter: Most media updates on Target store controversy miss the obvious

The Target store chain, rocked for months by controversy over its bathroom policy, finally threw in the towel and said it would spend $20 million to build single restrooms for all its stores. Coverage of the announcement, though, was less complete, much of it bypassing the moral/religious cause of the national media storm.

The fracas began this year after Target announced that anyone could use its restrooms based the gender he/she identified with. "Everyone -- every team member, every guest, and every community -- deserves to be protected from discrimination, and treated equally," the statement said.

The announcement followed North Carolina's passage of a law requiring everyone to use the public restroom of his/her biological sex. Transgendered people, their LGBT allies and social liberals cried foul.
 
Perhaps Target saw a PR opportunity, but it backfired, drawing boycott demands via social media and pickets in front of some stores. For GetReligion readers, the key is that most of the opposition was coming from religious and cultural conservatives. We will come back to that.

This week, the chain confessed that earnings were down -- and, just coincidentally, it was adding the single restrooms.

Now you're up to speed. How have mainstream media been doing?  Not too well, in the case of America's largest newspaper chain. 

USA Today leads with the numbers -- adjusted earnings per share, same-store sales change and such -- then finally gets to the objections in the eighth paragraph:

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In so-called news story on #BoycottTarget, Associated Press shows its bias

In so-called news story on #BoycottTarget, Associated Press shows its bias

The Associated Press Stylebook — the bible of American journalists — has this entry on use of the term "so called":

so called 
(adv.) so-called (adj.) Use sparingly. Do not follow with quotation marks. Example: He is accused of trading so-called blood diamonds to finance the war.

After reading the AP's latest story on some consumers' boycott of Target over its transgender bathroom policy, I'm thinking the wire service might want to use "so called" a little more sparingly. More on that in a moment.

First, though, let me back up and remind readers of what I said about the editorialized nature of "so called" nearly a year ago.

Back in the present: GetReligion earlier highlighted media coverage of the #BoycottTarget petition that has — as of this moment — close to 1.2 million signatures.

In that post, I suggested:

Here's what I'd love to see: an actual person who signed the petition quoted and given a chance to explain why. (Or maybe even more than one!)

So let's check out the AP story, starting at the top:

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Nearly 1 million sign petition to boycott Target: Will the news media quote any of them?

Nearly 1 million sign petition to boycott Target: Will the news media quote any of them?

I have a problem with Target.

There, I did it. I admitted my bias.

But inevitably, the store closest to my house only opens a handful of checkout lanes, and I find myself waiting in a long line to buy milk and a loaf of bread. 

Oh, you thought I was going to talk about bathrooms?

OK, I guess I can do that, too.

Maybe you've heard that a #BoycottTarget online petition has gained nearly 1 million signatures. I'm not one of them, mind you. I think boycotts are silly and have no intention to stop shopping at Target (although I'll take this opportunity to call on management to hire more cashiers). I'll also keep eating at Chick-fil-A (as often as possible!). And I'll maintain my PayPal account, even though I hardly ever use it. 

However, from a journalistic perspective, I am interested in news coverage of the Target boycott.

Religion News Service had the basics in a story earlier this week (the number of signatures has kept growing since this report):

(RNS) Less than a week after Target, the nation’s second-largest discount retailer, announced that transgender customers may use the restroom that “corresponds with their gender identity,” nearly 500,000 people have signed a #BoycottTarget online petition launched by the conservative American Family Association.
In its April 19 announcement, the Minneapolis-based retailer with 1,802 outlets said, “We believe that everyone — every team member, every guest, and every community — deserves to be protected from discrimination, and treated equally.”
The retailer, which had $74 billion in revenue last year, said it was motivated by legislation in about 15 states that would require individuals to use the restroom that corresponds with the sex listed on their birth certificate. The Williams Institute, a think tank based at UCLA, estimates there are 300,000 transgender people (13 or older) in those 15 states.
The day after Target’s statement, the AFA launched the boycott, saying, “Target’s policy is exactly how sexual predators get access to their victims. Target’s dangerous new policy poses a danger to wives and daughters.”
Mississippi-based AFA called on Target to install additional restrooms to be designated as single occupancy and unisex.

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