Because I brought you the story yesterday of the Associated Press’s release of a photo falsely giving the impression that a group of conservative Christian kids in Texas were giving the Nazi salute, and the grossly irresponsible tweet religion reporter Cathy Lynn Grossman sent out accusing the kids of Sieg Heil-ing, I want to update you on the Grossman side of it. Here’s what she sent out this morning:
My sincere apologies to the boys of North Richland Hills, Texas Trail Life for misinterpreting an unfortunate photo of their taps ceremony.
— Cathy Lynn Grossman (@CLGrossman) March 4, 2014
Good for her. But how about some soul-searching about what prejudices caused her to immediately interpret that image as a Hitler Youth for Jesus icon. Seriously, how likely is it that a group of suburban American Christian boys are going to ape Nazis because they disapprove of homosexuality? If such boys did exist, how likely are their leaders to invite the Associated Press in to photograph their rituals? It’s insane — but Grossman, who is a veteran religion news reporter at the national level, instantly assumed that it had to be true. She didn’t even read the caption on the story she tweeted, which would have clarified things somewhat (and let me be clear: the AP ought to apologize for sending this photo out in the first place). She just assumed that these kids, whose organization formed in response to the Boy Scouts accepting gay members, must be the Nazi sort. And when she was called on it, she tried to change the subject.
I don’t mean to keep cracking on Cathy Lynn Grossman. She has acknowledged her error, and apologized, which was the right thing to do. Again: good for her. But as a journalist, this ought to be a learning experience in grasping one’s own biases, and one’s own reluctance to confront them. As I keep saying, the mainstream media is incredibly biased against Christians who oppose same-sex marriage. The non-partisan Pew Center, for example, found last year that during a key period of Supreme Court deliberations, pro-SSM stories outnumbered stories explaining or exploring the other side by five-to-one. The media simply do not think there is another side to this story. That’s professional malpractice.
Today, Bobby Ross at Get Religion cites two Dallas Morning News stories about an elderly male Methodist couple who were married by a Methodist minister, though not in a Methodist church building. Ross:
At this point, is there any doubt that the Morning News needs to give the “other side” — the side that supports church teaching — a voice in this story? Hey, maybe the paper could even call that unnamed senior pastor and see where he stands.
Rather, once again the Dallas paper settles for a “no comment”:
So far, the presiding United Methodist bishop for the region has remained silent.
(That statement sounds very much like the Morning News didn’t even try calling him for this story.)
But if the bishop won’t talk, are there no other Methodist leaders — in Texas or the nation — that the Morning News might quote to help readers understand why the “other side” believes what it does?
Or is the Dallas paper content to advocate for one side and make only a cursory effort to give the “other side” a voice? Barring any evidence to the contrary, that certainly appears to be the case.
Same-sex marriage is a big deal within the Methodist Church nationally. The church officially doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, but as you’ll see from the AP story I linked, activists within the national church have undertaken guerrilla actions to defy church teaching because they haven’t gotten their way nationally. They are destroying church unity, but they believe they’re doing it for a good cause. The point is, at this juncture in the struggle within the Methodist church, traditionalists are still in control, and set policy for all Methodist churches. There ought to have been balance in the News stories.
I lived in Dallas, and I know Methodists there. It is absurd to think that it’s impossible to find a Methodist in Dallas who stands with tradition, which is, for the time being, the United Methodist Church’s official teaching. For heaven’s sake, you’ve got a major Methodist divinity school there in town. I’ve never been a religion reporter, but I know at least one professor there who would have given a defense of the church’s teaching — if the reporter from the News would have cared to have learned it. That’s the rub, though. If the reporter and her newspaper don’t believe the other side has a right to be heard, they won’t be heard, and the false impression is given that there is only one side to the story.
Remember, students, if you want to understand why American journalists throw away basic professional standards when it comes to covering gay issues and controversies, you need only consider the statement of Pope Leo XIII (d. 1903) explaining why Catholicism should be privileged over other religions: “It is contrary to reason that error and truth should have equal rights.”
The guiding principle of American journalism regarding coverage of the gay rights conflicts: Error Has No Rights. If journalists have to distort, lie, and smear to silence and suppress the opposition, hey, it’s for a good cause. History will absolve them.