puff pieces

Best of cotton-candy journalism: How to turn religious pablum into front-page news

Best of cotton-candy journalism: How to turn religious pablum into front-page news

Over the weekend, newspaper readers in America's fourth-largest city woke up to a front-page religion story.

Ordinarily, we at GetReligion would praise the Houston Chronicle for recognizing the importance of faith in readers' lives and giving it prominent play.

But oh, what a giant piece of fact-free cotton candy this Page 1 story turns out to be.

Seriously, this puff piece offers a nauseating case study in how not to do religion trend stories. From the beginning, the Chronicle ignores old-fashioned journalistic conventions like attributing statements of facts to named sources and quoting experts who could help put the random featured church into a wider context.

Instead, this piece reads like a journalist's stream of consciousness — no actual reporting or quoting people necessary:

On Sunday mornings at many mainline Protestant churches around Houston, there comes a moment when the pastor has to doff the robe, ditch the suit, throw on some jeans or khakis, run down the hall to a room with no pews or stained glass, and — most importantly — get his or her head into a different place.
Such is the nature of the modern church. The traditional service in the traditional sanctuary, supported by choir and organ and centuries of custom, is often no longer enough.
For many worshippers, the contemporary service is what they know and expect, conducive not only to casual attire but a more relaxed attitude, comfortable seats, and actual enjoyment. Praise Jesus? Sure, but how about a little raucous praise music to go with it? And cue the slide show while you’re at it.
At first glance, the gathering overseen by Pastor Eric Huffman on the campus of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church looks like any other contemporary service. But in fact there’s a different story behind The Story, the name given to the church within a church that St. Luke’s decided to establish just yards away from its blue-blooded main building across from the southern flank of River Oaks.
It’s an entirely reasonable thing to aim for a younger churchgoer, given that Grandma’s church hasn’t been cutting it with newer generations since the 1960s. The trend of declining church attendance is known to most every leadership team at pretty much every denominational church. But for most of them, the solution, by and large, has been stylistic.
Few, for example, try to lure visitors by emphasizing disagreement and doubt, to the point that The Story asks on its website, “What if Christians stopped treating doubt like an enemy? What if Christians could agree to disagree?

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Las Vegas churches love coffee, except for maybe -- hmmmm -- can you think of anybody?

Las Vegas churches love coffee, except for maybe -- hmmmm -- can you think of anybody?

It's one of those cutesy little newspaper features that is what it is.

The Las Vegas Review Journal reports that Las Vegas Valley churches take their faith — and their coffee — seriously.

If you like your ledes with plenty of cream and sugar, this will one will give you just the right jolt of "java and Jesus":

Coffee, tea and Christianity. Las Vegas Valley churches take their caffeine consumption seriously.
We're not talking about a simple pot of joe and a few cookies in a cultural hall after church. Many valley churches operate full-service coffee bars and shops with equipment and service to rival Starbucks.
From The Crossing and Central Christian to Calvary Chapel Spring Valley, coffee is a way of life before, after and even in the sanctuary during services.
At Holy Grounds, the shop inside First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Jill Smith, one of the managers, said they serve more than coffee. There are juices, fresh fruits, doughnuts, bagels and "delicious quiche."
"Our coffee shop is relaxed and gives members and visitors a comfortable place to mingle and get to know each other in a casual setting," she said. "Music is playing, and laughter is always heard. It's our fastest-growing ministry."
"It goes together — java and Jesus," said Vikki Sergio, manager of the Coffee Tree at the International Church of Las Vegas' Westcliff campus.

It's a mildly interesting trend piece, even if churches with espresso bars aren't exactly breaking news.

But as I kept reading, I kept wondering: Um, what about you know who?

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Mormons softening opposition to homosexuality ... or not

If you enjoy quality journalism, feel free to skip an Associated Press story out today on Mormons challenging their church’s stance on homosexuality.

Please respect our Commenting Policy