Wall Street

Massive New York Times story on Trinity Church raises good questions, but contains a big ghost

Massive New York Times story on Trinity Church raises good questions, but contains a big ghost

Every working day when I am teaching in New York, I walk past the historic Trinity Episcopal Church. I don’t go in that direction on Sundays, because I head over to Brooklyn for a rather different, clearly Orthodox liturgical experience.

But back to the dramatic sanctuary at Broadway and Wall Street. We are talking about some prime real estate. And if you are interested in the dollars and cents of all that, then The New York Times recently ran a long, long story that you will need to read.

Actually, this sprawling epic is three or four stories in one. You can kind of see that in the massive second line of this double-decker headline. So sit down and dig in.

The Church With the $6 Billion Portfolio

While many houses of worship are warding off developers as they struggle to hold on to their buildings, Trinity Church has become a big-time developer itself.

Frankly, I think this story should have been a series of some kind — to allow several of the valid religion-news angles to receive the news hole that they deserve. In a way, saying that is a compliment. Maybe.

For starters, you have that whole “$6 Billion Portfolio” thing, which deserves (and gets) a rather business-page approach. Then you have a perfectly valid church-state story about the tax questions circling around that vast bundle of secular and sacred real estate and development. Then you have a separate, but related, issue — New York City’s many other historic churches in which people are, often literally, struggling to keep a roof over their heads.

Oh, and Trinity Wall Street is still an actual congregation that is linked to a historic, but now rapidly declining, old-line denomination.

Want to guess which of these stories received the least among of ink in this epic? #DUH

If you guessed the “church” story, you guessed right. Yes, there is an important religion “ghost” in this big religion story.

Let’s start with the overture, then I will note one or two passages that point to what could have been. To no one’s surprise, a certain Broadway musical made it into the lede:

Since the blockbuster musical “Hamilton,” tourists have been swarming Trinity Church, part of an Episcopal parish in Lower Manhattan that dates to the 17th century. Alexander Hamilton and his wife, Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, are buried in the cemetery there.

Recent years have been good to the church and the rest of its campus.

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Reuters tackles faith-based investing, omitting voices while inserting unsourced opinions

Reuters tackles faith-based investing, omitting voices while inserting unsourced opinions

When not reporting the news in a straight-up manner, the Reuters news agency often pops up as offering a caricature of what a news service does.

Most notable, perhaps, was the post-9/11 memo by the agency's then-global news editor, Stephen Jukes, in which he declared: “We all know that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, and that Reuters upholds the principle that we do not use the word terrorist.” There was blowback a-plenty, and Jukes should be very glad Twitter didn't exist at the time.

Today's bit of palaver from Reuters comes on a subject they should know well: money and investing. Reuters did, after all, begin life as a service shuttling stock market prices around Europe, at first by carrier pigeon and then by telegraph. (It is perhaps the only journalistic enterprise in history to have been immortalized by actor Edward G. Robinson on the silver screen.)

That was then, and this is now. Reuters has come upon an interesting trend, that of stock investments based on religious principles. They then proceed to do a rather shallow reporting job that omits voices and inserts unsourced opinion as a factual statement.

This isn't straight-up journalism. It's reporting with a dose of opinion, which would seem antithetical to Reuters' origins.

In this story, titled "Gotta have faith: The rise of religious ETFs," we read:

Making money in the markets is tricky enough on its own. Try doing it while staying faithful to your religious beliefs.
That challenge hasn’t discouraged some investors from trying. Indeed, there is a growing number of faith-based exchange-traded funds that attempt to marry moneymaking with principles that are deeper and more meaningful than those of your typical trader.

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Not sure what to think piece: If news is our 'New Religion,' what's the impact of this faith?

Not sure what to think piece: If news is our 'New Religion,' what's the impact of this faith?

For years now, I have been pointing GetReligion readers toward a classic 2004 PressThink essay entitled "Journalism Is Itself a Religion," by Prof. Jay Rosen of New York University.

This is not an essay about the state of religion-news coverage, at least that is not the primary topic that Rosen takes on. He is talking about the ways that journalism wrestles with concepts of truth, which often results in journalists assuming an authoritative role in public discourse that can evolve into a semi-religious state of mind.

You can, of course, hear echoes of this in our current discussions of politics in a "post-truth" age (in which the old standards of journalism have been splintered by the Internet, among other things). Who is supposed to be in charge of determining what is "true" news and what is, well, "fake news?"

That would be the journalistic establishment, of course.

So, more than a decade ago, Rosen tossed around some ideas for a proposed course at NYU or Columbia University. The title would be "The Religion of the Press.” A key issue would be the nature of the "priesthood" in modern news. Something like this:

Understanding the Priesthood of the Press. This course will examine the priesthood of the journalism profession in the United States, especially those at top news organizations in New York and Washington. Among the questions we’ll be asking this term: How does this elite group create and maintain its authority over what counts as serious journalism? What sense of duty goes along with being one of the high priests? What are the god terms and faith objects in journalism, and how are they derived? ... 
You get the idea.

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