Monday, July 21, 2008

Framing the Conversation: My Atheist Friend Has It Right

Jonathan & I do NOT see eye-to-eye on spiritual issues... I'm not even sure sometimes we're looking at the same thing! However, he's a good friend & a blast to play games with ("take your turn already, Degann!") and he's been known to say wise things, like the following about news coverage:
When I read a newspaper article about a subject I know nothing about, I think: "hey, this is interesting; I learned something." When I read an article in the same newspaper about a subject I know a lot about, I think: "This article is filled with lies and misconceptions, and the reporter doesn't know what he's talking about."
Which brings us to today's edition of "Framing the Conversation"... in which I send you bouncing about the web, looking at the fair & balanced (cough, hack, cough) coverage of the issues surrounding same-sex marriage. Actually, you won't bounce so much as you will land at, a site that does a fantastic job of examining media coverage of issues of spiritual significance.

Cruising For Critical Coverage

That story ran almost four years after New York Times public editor Daniel Okrent eviscerated his paper’s handling of the same-sex marriage issue. I’ll repost a few paragraphs:

But for those who also believe the news pages cannot retain their credibility unless all aspects of an issue are subject to robust examination, it’s disappointing to see The Times present the social and cultural aspects of same-sex marriage in a tone that approaches cheerleading. So far this year, front-page headlines have told me that ”For Children of Gays, Marriage Brings Joy” (March 19); that the family of ”Two Fathers, With One Happy to Stay at Home” (Jan. 12) is a new archetype; and that ”Gay Couples Seek Unions in God’s Eyes” (Jan. 30). I’ve learned where gay couples go to celebrate their marriages; I’ve met gay couples picking out bridal dresses; I’ve been introduced to couples who have been together for decades and have now sanctified their vows in Canada, couples who have successfully integrated the world of competitive ballroom dancing, couples whose lives are the platonic model of suburban stability.

Every one of these articles was perfectly legitimate. Cumulatively, though, they would make a very effective ad campaign for the gay marriage cause. You wouldn’t even need the articles: run the headlines over the invariably sunny pictures of invariably happy people that ran with most of these pieces, and you’d have the makings of a life insurance commercial.

It goes one from there. Anyway, I thought of Okrent’s words when I read a piece in the Times yesterday that presented, as he put it, the “social and cultural aspects of same-sex marriage in a tone that approaches cheerleading.” Apparently the Times doesn’t care to look at the same-sex marriage issue in any different way.
Holy Matrimony from Cana to California

But even so, the vast majority of churches in the region limit the role of gays and lesbians. Only one mainline Protestant denomination - the United Church of Christ, which ordained Johnson - marries homosexual couples with the same rite used for heterosexual couples. And the number of churches friendly to gays and lesbians is much lower than the number of Catholic, evangelical or other conservative Christian churches in the region.

So while liberal churches helped change the state, the state now has a far more liberal view of same-sex marriage. Flat-out opposition has come from evangelicals and the state’s Catholic leaders - including San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer and Oakland Bishop Allen Vigneron. Joint support for a November ballot initiative seeking a constitutional amendment that will codify marriage as between one man and one woman will probably come from them.

In case the language wasn’t clear enough, the bad people “limit,” “flat-out oppose” and aren’t “friendly” to gays. The good churches “help change” the state’s views on same-sex marriage, ordain and marry homosexuals and condone homosexuality. And that bizarre last sentence is conditional and passive why?

A barely there, skinny 19-point margin
There are four paragraphs of narrative before we get to the numbers:

Either way, the poll suggests the outcome of the proposed amendment is far from certain. Overall, it was leading 54% to 35% among registered voters.

Yes, you read that right. In the Los Angeles Times newsroom, 19 percentage points constitute slim, narrow, bare majorities. Gosh, I wonder how the story would be played if the opposite results were found. I know, as Barbie says, that math is hard. But this is truly inexcusable and the Times’ cheerleading in support of same-sex marriage is anything but journalism.

As you're trying to have a rational & reasonable conversation about all these difficult & controversial issues, please remember that the tone in the media is patronizing towards folks with more traditional views - and that the tone they set sometimes affects your viewpoint.

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