corrections

Friday Five: El Paso and Dayton, RNS on scene, Liberty's J-school, whopper correction

Friday Five: El Paso and Dayton, RNS on scene, Liberty's J-school, whopper correction

Do we really need to know what makes a mass murderer tick?

It’s a question we’ve contemplated previously here at GetReligion. I’ve noted that I personally tire of reading about crazed killers who go on shooting rampages.

After Saturday’s massacre at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, the Dallas Morning News provided extensive coverage.

However, here’s what the Dallas newspaper didn’t do: mention the gunman’s name on the front page.

“Though the shooter’s name would be online and inside the paper, we would not identify him or show his photo on the front page,” Editor Mike Wilson said of the purposeful decision. “Even in the digital age, what we run on 1A is an important expression of our values.”

It’s a small, mainly symbolic gesture, but I like it. Kudos to Wilson and his team.

Meanwhile, let’s dive into the Friday Five:

1. Religion story of the week: The mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, dominated headlines this week, and rightly so.

In a post Thursday, I praised an emotional, heart-wrenching story on one victim’s family published by the Los Angeles Times. I declared that the front-page news-feature just might be “the best religion story you’ll read all year.”

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Friday Five: Lent trends, Methodist fight, Alabama tornado, Ira Rifkin update, epic NYT correction

Friday Five: Lent trends, Methodist fight, Alabama tornado, Ira Rifkin update, epic NYT correction

I’m traveling to Israel next week on a tour with a group of religion reporters. So spoiler alert: My next few posts will allow me to clear out some of the items in my “guilt folder” as I analyze a few stories that I’ve been wanting to mention for a while.

If you have a comment or a question about those posts, I’d love to hear them. But it may take me longer than normal to get back to you.

I believe that GetReligion Editor Terry Mattingly also will be traveling a bit next week, as well, and sources say he, too, may be a bit preoccupied (read: playing with grandchildren). So things may be a little bit looser than normal around these parts.

In case you missed it, there’s a piece of major news involving our team. I’ll mention it below as we dive into the Friday Five.

1. Religion story of the week: It’s wonderful to have Sarah Pulliam Bailey back covering religion at the Washington Post.

I’m no fan of paper straws, but I really enjoyed the former GetReligion contributor’s timely piece on “The latest Lent challenge for churches: Give up plastic.”

Other Lent-related stories to give a click this week (Eastern Orthodox churches start Great Lent this coming Sunday) include Kelsey Dallas’ Deseret News delve into “Can a good meal bring people back to church? A growing number of congregations think so” and this Southern California newspaper’s report on a church offering drive-thru ashes, which is turning into an annual feature topic somewhere or another.

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Friday Five: Southern Baptists and Catholic bishops and White House Bible verses, oh my! What a week!

Friday Five: Southern Baptists and Catholic bishops and White House Bible verses, oh my! What a week!

Looking for religion news? It's "Everywhere" this week.

Southern Baptists in Dallas? Yep.

Roman Catholic bishops in Florida? Yep.

Bible references at the White House? Of course.

"This week has been a religion writer's dream," said Bob Smietana, veteran Godbeat pro.

"When 'Bible' is trending in one of the most secular regions of America [San Francisco], you know you need to hire more religion writers," said Kaya Oakes, who writes for a variety of publications.

Preach it!

In the meantime, let's dive into the Friday Five:

1. Religion story of the week: Obviously, there's no shortage of possibilities this week. But given our half-dozen posts on the Southern Baptist Convention (just since the last Friday Five), it's hard to argue with the annual meeting in Dallas as the week's top story.

To catch up here are those posts (with Terry Mattingly's podcast post still to come):

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Friday Five: Big Godbeat news, Billy Graham's casket, 'sit and shiver,' Oprah talks to God and more

Friday Five: Big Godbeat news, Billy Graham's casket, 'sit and shiver,' Oprah talks to God and more

At long last, the New York Times has hired its new national faith and values correspondent: Elizabeth Dias, Time magazine's award-winning religion and politics writer.

Early last year, the Times announced that it was "seeking a skilled reporter and writer to tap into the beliefs and moral questions that guide Americans and affect how they live their lives, whom they vote for and how they reflect on the state of the country."

But one aspect of the national newspaper's search for a journalist to join veteran national religion writer Laurie Goodstein on the Godbeat struck some observers — including GetReligion editor Terry Mattingly — as extremely odd: The Times said, "You won't need to be an expert in religious doctrine."

Wait, what!?

But in hiring Dias, the Times got a skilled, respected journalist who — as the paper's news release notes — has an undergraduate degree in theology from Wheaton College and a master’s in divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary. (At Wheaton, Dias was a classmate of Sarah Pulliam Bailey, one of the Washington Post's national religion writers.)

Here at GetReligion, we frequently have praised Dias' exceptional work. We offer our heartfelt congratulations on her awesome new gig!

But now, let's dive into the Friday Five:

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Oops! Politico confused on 'politically prominent evangelicals' in Trump's health department

Oops! Politico confused on 'politically prominent evangelicals' in Trump's health department

Politico started today with a story on "The religious activists on the rise inside Trump's health department."

At least one reader immediately pointed out a factual error way up high.

Hint: The mistake involved an oft-discussed, hard-to-define group. You got it, it's the evangelicals again.

"This article manages to get the facts wrong in its very first sentence," James Hasson said on Twitter. "Roger Severino is a Melkite Greek Catholic, not an evangelical. That's kinda important if your whole premise is that evangelicals in HHS are "support[ing] evangelicals at the expense of other voices..."

Hat tip to "D Minor" -- another Twitter user -- who alerted your friendly GetReligionistas to Hasson's tweet.

Here's the original wording of Politico's lede:

A small cadre of politically prominent evangelicals inside the Department of Health and Human Services have spent months quietly planning how to weaken federal protections for abortion and transgender care -- a strategy that's taking shape in a series of policy moves that took even their own staff by surprise.
Those officials include Roger Severino, an anti-abortion lawyer who now runs the Office of Civil Rights and last week laid out new protections allowing health care workers with religious or moral objections to abortion and other procedures to opt out. Shannon Royce, the agency's key liaison with religious and grass-roots organizations, has also emerged as a pivotal player.

If Severino isn't actually an evangelical, you can understand Hasson's concern, right?

I did some quick Googling and didn't immediately find any online mention of Severino being a Melkite Greek Catholic. So I asked Hasson for the source of his information. It turns out he had a pretty good one: Severino himself.

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Believe it or not, Newsweek folks still don't know who Dr. James Dobson is and what he does

Believe it or not, Newsweek folks still don't know who Dr. James Dobson is and what he does

Ah, come on! Didn't I just have to write one of these echo chamber, "Here we go again" posts?

Indeed, that would be the case ("Here we go again: When covering campus LGBTQ disputes, always look for doctrinal covenants"), exactly 24 hours ago.

Well, now I have to write another one, because someone at Newsweek just messed up, again, providing a variation on a screwed-up theme, once again, that has haunted copy-desk folks at that news magazine since the earliest days of GetReligion.

Here's the new headline, in that all-caps style that appears to be the current Newsweek norm: "TRUMP IMPEACHMENT MUST BE PREVENTED THROUGH DAY OF FASTING AND PRAYER, EVANGELIST SAYS."

Now, it helps to know that the "evangelist" in this case is the activist, counselor and author whose name is "Dr. James Dobson." Let's flash back to an early, early GetReligion post by Doug LeBlanc, which ran with this headline: "That's Dr. Dobson to you, punks." It noted a 2005 correction at Newsweek that humbly noted:

In our Aug. 1 issue, a sidebar on lobbying groups ("A User's Guide to the Groups") incorrect[ly] identifies James Dobson as a reverend. He in fact has a Ph.D. in child psychology and goes by Dr. Dobson. Newsweek regrets the error.

LeBlanc noted that Newsweek had to turn around and run a similar correction the following year, after the same mistake. Thus, the co-founder of this blog added, wryly:

Newsweek sure seems to have the correction in a macro somewhere. ... The style guardians at Newsweek might consider adding a stylebook entry for Dobson, James, Ph.D.

Now, it's time to slightly expand that correction. Here is the top of the new Trump-related report:

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Clarification please: Associated Press adds to confusion in private higher ed story (updated)

Clarification please: Associated Press adds to confusion in private higher ed story (updated)

This is not rocket science. (Or maybe it is? See update at the end of this piece.)

For a week or so, I have been watching to see if editors at the Associated Press were going to run a correction about a story about some fine print in the Republican tax bill. The headline on that story stated: "Senate votes to block special break for conservative college."

Note that the word "college" is singular.

That "fact" was at the heart of the debate, as shown in the overture for this hard-news story:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senate Democrats ... successfully blocked a provision in the Republicans’ sweeping tax bill designed to give a special tax break to a conservative college in Michigan.
Democrats said the tax break was designed to help just one politically-connected school: Hillsdale College in southern Michigan.
“I can’t find anybody else in America who benefits from this particular provision. That doesn’t strike me as right,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said, “It feels like this is a very limited provision written for a very special person.”

The key fact here is that Hillsdale College does not accept federal funds, including funds linked to scholarships and student aid. The basic idea is that government money will inevitably have strings attached. Thus:

The tax package would impose a new tax on investment income earned by some private universities and colleges. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., added a provision exempting certain colleges that don’t receive federal funds. Democrats said Hillsdale was the only college that would benefit.

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Time for a Christian Smith flashback: Writing about that whole nailed-to-a-cross thing

Time for a Christian Smith flashback: Writing about that whole nailed-to-a-cross thing

If you were going to select a short list of the most infamous articles ever written about the mainstream press and the religion-beat, surely Christian Smith's "Religiously Ignorant Journalists," which ran in Books & Culture (RIP) back in 2004, would be near the top of the list.

As you would expect, it drew the attention of the newly formed GetReligion.org weblog, with an early post under this headline: "Are journalists too ignorant to cover religion news?"

Smith made several interesting points about language on the religion beat, not the least of which was a riff on the many ways that journalists tend to abuse the term "evangelical." His key point: Why don't editors hire more professionals trained to work on the religion beat, the way they do on other highly complicated -- yet respected -- beats?

Yes, the reason I am bringing this up again is that a faithful reader sent us yet another case of a mainstream, national publication offering a unique or shall we say innovative approach to ordinary religious language.

Hold that thought. Here's the famous overture of Smith's piece:

Today I received a phone message from a journalist from a major Dallas newspaper who wanted to talk to me about a story he was writing about "Episcopals," about how the controversy over the 2003 General Convention's approval of the homosexual bishop, Gene Robinson, would affect "Episcopals." What an embarrassment. How do I break the news to him that there are no "Episcopals"? Actually, they are called Episcopalians. Of greater concern, I wonder how this journalist is going to write an informed and informing story in a few days about such an important and complex matter when he doesn't even know enough in starting to call his subjects by their right name.

What I have learned, however, over the years, is that this journalist is not alone in his ignorance.

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Correction please: Concerning that Catholic 'ordained minister' arrested for child porn

Correction please: Concerning that Catholic 'ordained minister' arrested for child porn

For me, one of the most fascinating (and complex) parts of working on the religion-news beat has been learning the many theological, technical and even legal differences that exist between the roles played by "clergy" in different religious movements.

Let me stress that I put the word "clergy" inside quotation marks for a non-scare-quote reason.

When it comes to history, some religious movements insist that they don't have ordained clergy -- yet clearly they have leaders who play some of the roles that ordained clergy play in other flocks. Remember all the controversies a few years ago about GOP White House candidate Mitt Romney and his time as a "bishop" in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

Suffice it to say that a Mormon bishop is not the same as a Pentecostal bishop, or a United Methodist bishop, or a Lutheran bishop, or an Anglican bishop, or an Eastern Orthodox bishop. Reporters need to understand these kinds of facts, when dealing with stories that involve clergy or other "ministers" in various religious traditions.

This brings me to a bizarre religious language issue in a story that ran the other day in The Huntsville Times in Alabama. It focuses on the arrest of a man named John Lindbergh Ellar Martin, who has been accused of possession and dissemination of child pornography. The headline: "North Alabama Catholic church staffer arrested on child porn charges."

Note the word "staffer." What, precisely, does that mean? Read carefully.

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