So conventional

Religion | "Hissing, hating" Baptists receive press treatment they've (sadly) become used to

Issue: "NEA: School bully," June 22, 2002

We avoid covering conventions in WORLD because they usually produce lame stories. Local newspaper reporters know that: When their editors saddle them with such unsavory assignments, they look for protests to perk up their copy.

Reporters in St. Louis covering the Southern Baptist Convention last week did not disappoint. "Bigoted, hate-filled," read a headline in the host city's St. Louis Post-Dispatch, over a rewritten Associated Press story about a speech by a Baptist pastor who had the gall to assert that Christianity is true and Islam is not. A Post-Dispatch reporter localized her piece by pulling this out of her conversation with a critic: "A local Islamic leader called ... his comments ignorant."

The truth of the comments went unexplored.

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A Post-Dispatch sidebar inside noted that police arrested 50 protesters "as they tried to persuade the organization to accept gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people into the fold."

Of course "the organization" specifically welcomed the GLBTs into the fold. SBC president James Merritt pleaded with God on their behalf: "I pray for these who are protesting us outside. I pray, O Lord, that You would turn them from darkness to light ... that they might receive the forgiveness of sins, and an inheritance among those of us who are sanctified by faith in You."

Mr. Merritt urged convention-goers to show unbelievers compassion and understanding. "I'm telling you, Christ has the power to change anybody. And so I urge you never, ever condemn a blind man because he cannot see." The Associated Press didn't see fit to carry that part. Instead, the wire service, which feeds 1,700 U.S. newspapers, reported that after police subdued a handful of demonstrators inside the convention hall, some Baptists "hissed as protesters were led away." Not to fault the blind for inability to see, but journalists who purport to be the eyes (and ears) of their readers-and who promote the myth of journalistic objectivity-ought at least to strive for simple fairness. Or better: Declare your presuppositions; be honest with your readers. We won't hiss at you.


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