Bad vibrations: Riverside Church war offers perfect case study of @NYPost vs. @NYTimes

Bad vibrations: Riverside Church war offers perfect case study of @NYPost vs. @NYTimes

This certainly was not your typical media storm about a Baylor University graduate who achieved fame in the ministry by heading to Washington, D.C., and then to New York City.

However, the fall of the Rev. Amy Butler from the high pulpit of Manhattan’s world-famous Riverside Church offers readers a classic journalism case study illustrating the differences between New York Post readers and New York Times readers. It’s also educational to note that the religious themes in this controversy played little or no role in either report.

Starting with a classic A1 headline, the Post editors knew what would zap readers awake while reading in their subway cars:

The reason for her ouster is far more stimulating than any sermon this pastor could have delivered.

The Rev. Dr. Amy Butler, the first woman to lead Manhattan’s famed Riverside Church, lost her lofty post amid complaints that she brought ministers and a congregant on a sex toy shopping spree and then gave one of them an unwanted vibrator as a birthday gift, The Post has learned.

On May 15, Butler allegedly took two Riverside assistant ministers and a female congregant to a sex shop in Minneapolis called the Smitten Kitten, during a religious conference, according to sources familiar with the out-of-town shopping excursion.

At the store, the pastor bought a $200 bunny-shaped blue vibrator called a Beaded Rabbit for one minister — a single mom of two who was celebrating her 40th birthday — as well as more pleasure gadgets for the congregant and herself, sources said. The female minister didn’t want the sex toy, but accepted it because she was scared not to, sources said.

The great Gray Lady, on the other hand, knew that the readers in its choir would want a story rooted in sexism, patriarchy and workplace politics. The headline, as you would imagine, was a bit more restrained: “Pastor’s Exit Exposes Cultural Rifts at a Leading Liberal Church.”

The sex toys angle made it into the Times story, with a nod to Post coverage, but readers had to wait a few extra paragraphs to find that angle. Here’s the overture:

When the Rev. Dr. Amy K. Butler was hired to lead Riverside Church in Manhattan in 2014, she was hailed as a rising star, the first woman to join a distinguished line of pastors at one of the pre-eminent progressive Protestant congregations in the United States.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Concerning Megyn Kelly in Vanity Fair: Raising 'spiritual' question about her Fox News work

Concerning Megyn Kelly in Vanity Fair: Raising 'spiritual' question about her Fox News work

GetReligion readers, I have a question for you. Which news network has consistently shown a greater commitment to original reporting on religion events and trends, Fox News or Al Jazeera?

When answering this question, it might help to visit the Al Jazeera landing page for "Religion, Spirituality & Ethics" and then do the same for the "religion" search category at Fox News. What you are looking for is actual hands-on reporting work done by the personnel in these newsrooms, as opposed to pieces built totally on wire-service reports.

I raise this question because, year after year, people ask me why Fox News -- in light of its massive audience share among culturally conservative news consumers -- doesn't do more reporting on religion topics (as opposed to the usual commentary pieces and talk-show work). This also comes up in my classroom work, as I have mentioned before:

One of the most interesting discussions that I have with journalism students every semester is the moment when I ask them to identify the specific cultural and political philosophy that drives the editorial policies of Fox News and other giants associated with the world of Rupert Murdoch.
They always say, "Conservative" or "right wing."
Then I ask them this question: "What kind of conservatism?"

The answer, of course, is a kind of secular Libertarian stance that isn't comfortable with a conservatism rooted in moral and cultural values.

This brings me to that new Vanity Fair piece on Fox superstar Megyn Kelly, which -- right at the very end -- contains a major, major fumble when it comes to digging into a crucial statement linked to religious faith and moral issues.

But first, who is Megyn Kelly?

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Megan Fox, glossolalia and AP Style (you read that right)

The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law is a lot of things and it fills a lot of roles. With good cause, thousands of media professionals call it the bible of mainstream journalism. However, this omnipresent spiral volume doesn’t answer a whole lot of complex questions that scribes will encounter trying to cover life on the modern religion beat.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

India and rape: Spotting some tricky ghosts

In about 99 percent of the mainstream news reports you will ever read about India and religion, there will be a reference that reads something like the following, from a Washington Post story that I have been meaning to get to for a week or so. This is part of the wave of coverage — totally justifiable, methinks — about rape and women’s rights in that land.

Please respect our Commenting Policy