The Blaze

Please don't take the bait: What Pat Robertson said about Las Vegas isn't really news

Please don't take the bait: What Pat Robertson said about Las Vegas isn't really news

A headline from The Onion, of all places, went viral Monday after the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

In recent years, the "'No Way To Prevent This,' Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens" story has become a staple of the satirical newspaper.

When there's a major tragedy, here's another thing you can count on: Pat Robertson opening his mouth.

So yes, Robertson weighed in on Las Vegas. Was there any doubt that he would? But is there any possibility that what he said amounted to actual news?

Probably not, as a million (only slightly exaggerating) past GetReligion posts make clear. Terry Mattingly wrote one of my favorites way back in 2005.

The good news is this: My Google news search found very few mainstream news organizations jumping on the latest Robertson quotes. But the Huffington Post — which still does some straight news reporting — was among them.

HuffPost's headline:

Pat Robertson Blames Las Vegas Massacre On ‘Disrespect’ For Donald Trump

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That Faith Counts study: Religion is bigger than Facebook, Google and Apple combined

That Faith Counts study: Religion is bigger than Facebook, Google and Apple combined

Whenever I teach religion reporting to college students, one of the first things I do is hand them a copy of an article by the late George Cornell of the Associated Press. It posed the question of what is of greater interest to Americans: Religion or sports?

Many people would choose sports but no, Americans in 1992 spent $56.7 billion on religion compared to $4 billion on sports, he wrote. I love giving people copies of Cornell’s piece.

Yes, it's old news. However, my colleague tmatt has written about its continuing impact. I have mourned the lack of a similar article with more recent data.

Until now. Recently, the Washington Post’s religion blog Articles of Faith told us there’s a new study out. The headline: “Study: Religion contributes more to the U.S. economy than Facebook, Google and Apple combined.”

I bet that got peoples’ attention.

Religion is big business. Just how big? A new study, published Wednesday by a father-daughter researcher team, says religion is bigger than Facebook, Google and Apple -- combined.
The article in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion said that the annual revenues of faith-based enterprises -- not just churches but hospitals, schools, charities and even gospel musicians and halal food makers -- is more than $378 billion a year. And that’s not counting the annual shopping bonanza motivated by Christmas.
Georgetown University’s Brian Grim and the Newseum’s Melissa Grim -- in a study sponsored by an organization called Faith Counts, which promotes the value of religion -- produced a 31-page breakdown of all the ways religion contributes to the U.S. economy.

Take a guess where the bulk of that money is concentrated.

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Christian lives matter: The Guardian reports Catholic murder in Bangladesh -- NY Times shrugs

Christian lives matter: The Guardian reports Catholic murder in Bangladesh -- NY Times shrugs

Bangladesh, with its new wave of atrocities over the last half-week, has gotten fresh attention -- but not necessarily balanced attention.

"Christian murdered in latest Bangladesh attack," says The Guardian of the Catholic grocer who was hacked to death outside his store.

And the New York Times reports the throat-slashing murder of a Hindu priest in Bangladesh on Tuesday.

Unfortunately, the two stories are not equally good. The Guardian ran the better one, for its sweep and for connecting religious and political facets.  

The narrative of the death of Sunil Gomes as brutally efficiently as the crime itself:

A Christian was knifed to death after Sunday prayers near a church in northwest Bangladesh in an attack claimed by Islamic State.
Police said unidentified attackers murdered the 65-year-old in the village of Bonpara, home to one of the oldest Christian communities in Muslim-majority Bangladesh. "Sunil Gomes was hacked to death at his grocery store just near a church at Bonpara village," said Shafiqul Islam, deputy police chief of Natore district.

And the paper doesn't just stop with the police-blotter facts. It interviews Father Bikash Hubert Rebeiro of the Bonpara Catholic church. He says Gomes attended Sunday prayers, used to work as a gardener at the church and was "known for his humility."

"I can’t imagine how anyone can kill such an innocent man," the priest says.

We also learn of other recent victims in Bangladesh. One was Mahmuda Begum,  stabbed and shot in the head in front of her young son -- apparently because her husband is a police commissioner who has helped track down terrorists. The others are a Hindu trader and a Buddhist monk, both killed last week. 

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Planned Parenthood video Stage 3: New York Times explores an ethics question!

Planned Parenthood video Stage 3: New York Times explores an ethics question!

I don't avoid the world of advocacy journalism online, but I also strive not to live there. However, I often bump into links that take me into liberal and conservative "news" sites and, every now and then, you hit some interesting info worth exploring (especially when there are URLs to original documents and sources).

If journalists are willing to do that kind of thing, this work could be part of what I called -- in an earlier post -- the Stage 3 coverage of the Planned Parenthood video story.

One such site is The Blaze, which actually has a piece online pointing toward some interesting trails. Click here to go there. Let's start here:

While activists have doubled down, Planned Parenthood responded ... by dismissing the allegation and claiming that its clinics simply help women who wish to donate the tissue of aborted fetuses to scientific research. On the other hand, Snopes.com, a fact-checking website, labeled the claim against Planned Parenthood by the Center for Medical Progress, a pro-life group, as “undetermined” based on the evidence.

Precisely! "Undetermined," as in journalists cannot avoid doubting and exploring the truth claims offered by Planned Parenthood and the same goes for its critics. What we need here is old-school journalism, which requires showing some skepticism after reading the press releases on both sides.

The Blaze team then talked -- wonder of wonders -- to a pro-life activist outside of the New York City-Washington, D.C., corridor who has (gasp) not made his mind up when it comes to judging the final outcome of this case.

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Bill O'Reilly sounds off, and mainstream media rev up the distortion machine

Bill O'Reilly sounds off, and mainstream media rev up the distortion machine

Want an object lesson on how not to mix reporting and opinion? Just look at media reaction to Bill O'Reilly's take on the new Pew Research survey.

The survey, released on Tuesday, finds that American Christians are dwindling, especially Catholics and mainline Protestants. It says also that the "nones," or unaffiliated, have increased, as have non-Christian religions.

Whenever such studies come out, the pundits usually cast about for the "why," and O'Reilly of Fox News was no exception. In his "Talking Points" segment, he says:

There is no question that people of faith are being marginalized by a secular media and pernicious entertainment. The rap industry, for example, often glorifies depraved behavior, and that sinks into the minds of some young people -- the group that is most likely to reject religion. Also, many movies and TV shows promote non-traditional values. If you are a person of faith, then the media generally thinks you are a loon.

He then launches a standard jeremiad about the decline of America, with "corruption" in the Catholic Church and the push to legalize drugs like heroin and cocaine. He unoriginally compares modern America with the Roman empire, saying both declined because their citizens shunned sacrifice for self-gratification.

He ends with a couple of clichés: "But it can be fixed if the electorate wakes up ... That's why the upcoming election is perhaps the most important in our lifetime."

So his sermonette has much to criticize. But as I've said often on GetReligion, criticism is one thing and coverage is another. Tell me what's going on, then tell me your opinions -- but in different stories, please.

Unfortunately, a fair-size segment of the media tried to tell you what to think of O'Reilly's views. And many of the reports pounced on his complaints about rap. Billboard, Huffington Post and the much-quoted Washington Post all spent most of their stories rebutting that one sentence from O'Reilly's comments.

Philip Bump, the Washington Post's political writer, gives a mere three paragraphs to O'Reilly's remarks, then most of the other 11 arguing with them. He points out how rappers like Snoop Dogg and Kendrick Lamar have cleaned up their acts.

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Obama's new Bible bobble gets media notice -- and a few defenders

Obama's new Bible bobble gets media notice -- and a few defenders

Remember the mashup by the Biblicist-in-Chief to support his new immigration policy? On Nov. 20, President Obama said the Bible tells us that "we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger –- we were strangers once, too."

Well, he's at it again -- while arguing immigration reform again -- and the varying reactions of news outlets are instructive.

"I think the Good Book says, you know, don't throw stones in glass houses, or make sure we're looking at the log in our eye before we're pointing out the mote in other folks' eyes," Obama said Tuesday at an "Immigration Town Hall" in Nashville. "And I think that's as true in politics as it is in life."

He was partly right. Jesus did say something like it in Matthew 7:3-4, although Obama apparently mixed translations. Here it is in the commonly quoted King James Version:

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?  Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

The New Revised Standard Version, used by mainline Protestants, substitutes "speck" for "mote" and "log" for "beam." So Obama wasn't wrong, just patching together different versions.

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The Marine, the Muslims and the school: a tale of spinning news

The Marine, the Muslims and the school: a tale of spinning news

Some news stories are like Rorschach inkblot tests, with various people seeing them through different lenses. Unfortunately, some of those people are editors and reporters -- especially on hot-button issues like Islam, education and patriotism.

A major example this week is a row in La Plata, Md., where Marine veteran Kevin Wood angry over a history lesson about Islam. Wood asked for an alternative assignment for his daughter; the school said no, they argued, he got insulting, then he was banned from the campus.

This all got tangled, of course, in other issues: academic freedom, separation of church (or mosque) and state, equal treatment for all religions, etc. The right-tilt might have been predictably filled by Fox News. But in fact, the network didn't hyperventilate:

Kevin Wood told MyFoxDC.com that he went to La Plata High School in La Plata, a town about 30 miles southeast of Washington, and challenged a history assignment requiring students to list the benefits of Islam. He said the meeting with the vice principal got heated; the school said he made a threat and banned the Iraq veteran from school property.
"[Wood] was threatening to cause a disruption or possible disruption at the school," a district spokesperson said.
Wood did not deny getting worked up over the issue, but said he was standing up for the Constitution and is against any religion being taught at the public school.

One Fox coup: citing a copy of the homework assignment asking, "How did Muslim conquerors treat those they conquered?" The "correct" answer, the station says, is, "With tolerance, kindness and respect." You can see how a Marine who'd fought in Iraq would get upset over that.

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Torture lost to Mafia coverage, at least in news on pope talks

If the coverage of Pope Francis this weekend was any indication, the Mafia is more interesting to mainstream journalists than torture chambers are. The reporters paid lots of attention to the pope’s anti-Mafia statement on Saturday, but hardly seemed to notice the next day when he urged all Christians to join in ending torture. Meanwhile, torture is used in 141 nations in every region of the world, according to Amnesty International. Yet when Francis focused on it in his weekly Angelus address, it got little more than a brief in some media.

The Associated Press gave the story a mere five paragraphs. And only three of them had to do with the speech:

VATICAN CITY (AP) – Pope Francis is urging Christians to work together to abolish every form of torture, condemning the practice as a grave sin.

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'Fred Phelps has been excommunicated' and other gossip

OK, folks. We need to keep news over here and gossip over there. First, we have multiple stories that Fred Phelps — of Westboro Baptist Church fame, of “God Hates Fags” fame, of picketing veterans’ funerals fame — is “on the edge of death”.

Now he was supposedly kicked out of the Topeka-based church for advocating “kinder treatment of fellow church members.”

And what are the sources for this “news”? Facebook postings by Nate Phelps, an estranged son, who left the church 37 years ago. Here’s what he says, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal:

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