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Secret children of Catholic priests: Solid Associated Press report takes one very strange turn

Secret children of Catholic priests: Solid Associated Press report takes one very strange turn

All journalists who hold jobs in which they have to write hard-news stories on tight deadlines -- in wire-service newsrooms, for example -- know about the challenge of writing short, accurate summary paragraphs that package lots of facts into very few words.

My college mentor, the famous J-prof David McHam, used to put it this way: A journalist is someone who can write a solid 500-word story in 20 minutes, even with a headache.

You really have to watch out for the transition paragraphs, however, the ones in which you try to give readers a big idea in a punchy sentence, or two. You can end up with strained logic, or worse. Hold that thought, because we will return to it later.

Recently, a careful reader of this blog sent me the URL for an Associated Press story that ran at Crux focusing on a complex and very difficult subject. The headline is rather calm, considering the scandalous subject: "Pope’s advisers on sex abuse also take up children of priests." Here is the overture:

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis’s committee of advisers on protecting children from sexually abusive priests is expanding its workload to include the needs and rights of children fathered by Roman Catholic priests.
Committee members told The Associated Press ... that a working group is looking into developing guidelines that can be used by dioceses around the world to ensure that children born to priests are adequately cared for.
“It’s a horrendous problem in many cultures, and it’s not something that is readily talked about,” commission member Dr. Krysten Winter-Green said.
Indeed, for centuries the Church often has tried to keep such children secret, because of the scandal of priests breaking their vows of celibacy.

Obviously, there are other tricky and often horrible issues linked to this topic, and this Associated Press report does a pretty solid job handling them, especially in a short wire story.

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Was I too easy on Religion News Service for covering Democratic convention but not GOP one?

Was I too easy on Religion News Service for covering Democratic convention but not GOP one?

My post last week on why Religion News Service covered the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia but not the Republican National Convention in Cleveland generated a fair amount of response both in the comments section and on social media.

I pretty much accepted RNS editor in chief Jeremy Socolovsky's explanation for the decision:

The reason we did not have someone at the GOP convention is that we weren't able to get accreditation.

But a number of folks thought I was too easy on RNS.

For example, reader Mikehorn commented:

This is so lame I hardly know where to begin. Was the Internet broken? Was Cleveland under quarantine? Did your computers disappear and you had no typewriters or pencils?

Twitter responses to the post were similar.

Meanwhile, our own Terry Mattingly asked:

Question from a veteran reporter, about RNS and RNC: Wait a minute, wasn't every single moment of the GOP convention on C-SPAN?
I would add: I am sure that RNS veterans have thick files of contact info for leaders in various wings of the GOP, correct?

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How much religion news can fit in 300-500 words?

Given your short attention span, I’ll make this brief. And I’ll get right to the point: For once, The Associated Press is making news instead of reporting it.

Here’s the story as reported by The Washington Post:

Citing a “sea of bloated mid-level copy,” Associated Press Managing Editor for U.S. News Brian Carovillano last week instructed fellow editors at the wire service to limit most “daily, bylined digest stories” to a length of between 300 and 500 words. Top stories from each state, Carovillano directed, should hit the 500 to 700-word range, and the “top global stories” may exceed 700 words but must still be “tightly written and edited.”

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