When journalism professors discuss about the traditional American Model of the press, with its emphasis on accuracy, balance and a lack of editorializing, we often talk about how this model is demonstrated in the work of wire services.
In fact, in recent decades advocates of edgier, trendier news styles have often gone out of their way to contrast their "new journalism" philosophies with "mere" wire-service writing. You know, that old-school journalism with its emphasis on inverted-pyramid hard-news stories and a neutral, balanced approach to reporting that is supposed to serve the needs of readers in news sources across America and around the world?
But clearly, someone has been putting something in the water some folks are drinking in AP land, especially when it comes to coverage of religious and moral issues.
Consider this recent AP feature on the rise of female monastics or "bhikkhunis" in modern Buddhism. On the surface, the key journalistic issue here is whether AP editors will allow any voices in traditional Buddhism to speak in defense of their beliefs. Surprise! The answer is no. Only the advocates of women being allowed to serve as monks are interviewed.
Then there is something else interesting going on in this story. Read carefully:
NAKHON PATHOM, Thailand (AP) -- On a rural road just after daybreak, villagers young and old kneel reverently before a single file of ochre-robed women, filling their bowls with rice, curries, fruits and sweets. In this country, it's a rare sight.
Thailand's top Buddhist authority bars women from becoming monks. They can only become white-cloaked nuns, who are routinely treated as domestic servants. Many here believe women are inferior beings who had better perform plenty of good deeds to ensure they will be reborn as men in their future lives.
Yet with the religion beset by lurid scandals, female monastics or "bhikkhunis" are emerging as a force for reform, not unlike activists in the Christian world seeking gender equality including ordination of women as priests in the Catholic Church.