All posts from “Media Coverage”

March 11, 2009

The New York Times Picks up Ross Douthat

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Columbia Journalism Review is reporting that the Atlantic’s Ross Douthat will be picking up where Bill Kristol left off at The New York Times. I spoke with Douthat, who is Catholic and in his late 20s, just before the election about where evangelicals fit in the Republican Party. Here's the NYT memo:

Folks:

Some exciting news. We’ve hired Ross Douthat, currently of Atlantic. Ross will be joining the Times staff in mid-April and will be based in the Washington bureau. He will start out primarily online, but will soon be writing with increasing frequency, and then regularity, on the Op-Ed page, in the Monday slot opposite Paul. At some point, he’ll also resume his work as a blogger, which I highly recommend.

If you don’t know Ross, you’ll find him funny and smart and sharp. He’s going to be a great addition to our team. I know you’ll make him welcome.

Andy

By the way, if you stumble over his name like I do, it's "Dow-thut."

January 27, 2009

Obama Reaches Out to Muslims through TV Interview

President Obama chose an Arabic network for his first television interview, saying that his administration will offer friendship to the Muslim world but will hunt down terrorists that kill innocent civilians. Politico has the full transcript.

In an interview with the Al-Arabiya satellite television network, Obama emphasized his Muslim background and relatives, telling Muslims "that the Americans are not your enemy. We sometimes make mistakes. We have not been perfect."

"And what we need to understand is, is that there are extremist organizations -- whether Muslim or any other faith in the past -- that will use faith as a justification for violence," Obama told the network. "We cannot paint with a broad brush a faith as a consequence of the violence that is done in that faith's name."

Paul Schemm of the Associated Press reports on the reaction from those in the Arab world, saying that they have been more cautious about the new president than other parts of the world. Obama said that he would address the Muslim world from a Muslim capital in the first 100 days of his administration, but no location has been announced.

"America is a country of Muslims, Jews, Christians, non-believers -- regardless of your faith, people all have certain common hopes and common dreams," Obama said on the network. Several people noted Obama's inclusion of non-believers in the religion lineup in his inaugural address as well.

December 31, 2008

Most Read of 2008

Want to know what your fellow CT Politics Blog readers enjoyed as well? Here are the top 10 most read blog posts from 2008.

Keep in mind that Christianity Today started the politics blog in July, so this is in no way an indication of what stories were the most important. Obviously, readership shot up around the election, but it's an interesting review of what piqued your interest.

1. The Death of Joe Biden's Wife -- An Honest Crisis of Faith

2. The Evangelical Electoral Map (Updated)

3. Vendors asked to leave Values Voter Summit

4. Readers say Washington Post cartoon lampooned their faith

5. Obama's Fascinating Interview with Cathleen Falsani

6. Reaction to Bristol Palin's pregnancy

7. How Obama Helped Calif.'s Prop. 8 (Updated)

8. Can Obama Call Himself a Christian?

9. An Obama administration, in the eyes of Focus on the Family Action

10. The Awesome Blue God -- How Obama Forged A New Faith Coalition

December 23, 2008

Bogus Bogus Trend Story?

Slate's media watchdog Jack Shafer thinks he's got the NYT dead to rights for Paul Vitello's December 14 story on how the recession is boosting worship attendance, at evangelical churches in particular. Not so, clucks Shafer, citing Gallup editor-in-chief Frank Newport's marshalling of evidence that there has, in fact, been no increase in church attendance in these hard times. Weekly attendance, saith Newport, has remained around 42 percent for months and months.

Unbeknownst to Shafer, however, is the bogosity of Gallup's church attendance numbers. What Newport doesn't say is that his company's surveys have shown church attendance to be in that exact numeric neighborhood ever since they began asking the question 60 years ago. As sure as death and taxes, two in five Americans will say they attend church weekly.

But for over a decade, sociologists of religion (and those who read them) have known that 1) a lot of those supposed weekly attenders are fibbing; and 2) more of them are fibbing now than used to. The evidence for this comes from multiple sources, including time-usage studies, on-the-ground observation of parking lots, church attendance records, interviews with clergy. These days, the real number for weekly attendance is in the low 20 percent range. (Here's a citation for one of the more important articles on the subject: C. Kirk Hadaway, Penny Long Marler and Mark Chaves, "Overreporting Church Attendance in America: Evidence That Demands the Same Verdict," American Sociological Review, Vol. 63, No. 1 [Feb., 1998], pp. 122-130.)

So does this meant that Vitello's article is on the money? Could be. A bunch of phone calls to pastors is more likely to turn up something new in the going-to-church department than Gallup's invariant two-in-five. Don't expect the phenomenon to last, though. After 9/11, a host of stories tracked a bump in churchgoing, and then a host tracked the quick reversion to the norm. As Yoda might have said, "Backsliding always we are."

(Originally published at Spiritual Politics.)

November 20, 2008

Religion Made up 4% of Campaign Media Coverage

Religion-related campaign stories made up 4 percent of overall media coverage, the Pew Center found.

The most religion-related coverage revolved around the rumors that Obama is a Muslim, followed by the focus on Sarah Palin's religion and family.

Meanwhile, there was little attempt by the news media during the campaign to comprehensively examine the role of faith in the political values and policies of the candidates, save for those of Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

And when religion-focused campaign stories were covered by the mainstream press, often the context was negative, controversial or focused on a perceived political problem.

Key findings include:

* While [religion coverage] was less than coverage of the Iraq war (6%) or the economic crisis (9%), it was more prominent than coverage of energy issues (2%) and the environment (less than 1%), and equal to coverage of the Republican National Convention (4%). During the general election, storylines related to religion received as much attention by the press as those that focused on race (4%).

* In all, Obama was the lead newsmaker in more than half (53%) of the religion-focused campaign stories. By contrast, McCain was the focus of just 9%. Palin (19%) was more tied to religion than her running mate, though less so than Obama. Examination of Palin’s family values, church background and related issues made up one-fourth of the newshole devoted to religion in the campaign.

* The single biggest religion storyline in the general election phase of the campaign centered on rumors that the Democratic nominee, who is a mainline Protestant Christian, is a Muslim (30%). An additional 5% of the religion-focused coverage dealt with evangelical broadcaster James Dobson’s criticism of Obama’s positions.

* Attention to clerics Jeremiah Wright, Michael Pfleger and John Hagee alone made up 11% of religion coverage in the general election.

* The Aug. 16 Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency, moderated by Warren at his California megachurch, drew brief but intense media coverage. Still, that was enough to have that one event account for 11% of religion-focused campaign coverage in the general election.

* Culture war issues were not a driving narrative of this election cycle. Together, social issues – including abortion, gay marriage and stem cell research – composed 9% of religion-focused campaign news but less than 1% of campaign news overall.

November 4, 2008

May Your Wildest Dreams Come True

I just got home from work and hope to join my colleagues with a handful of posts tonight. As I walked through the front door, my wife and 15-year-old son were watching Napoleon Dynamite. Napoleon and Pedro were campaigning, wearing their "Vote for Pedro" T-shirts, and it wasn't long before Pedro gave his campaign speech, pleading with the students to vote for him so "all your wildest dreams will come true."

Not sure if tonight's final tallies will result in anyone's wildest dreams coming true, but it certainly has been a wild campaign for the last year or so.

And I doubt if we'll see either Obama or McCain doing a Napoleonic dance later this evening.

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October 29, 2008

Brit Hume Leaving Fox

Fox News anchor Brit Hume is leaving the cable news network after 12 years, saying "Christ is a big piece of it."

"Family is a big piece of it," he told Matea Gold of the Los Angeles Times. "And Christ is a big piece of it. And golf is a big piece of it."

As he prepares to anchor his last presidential campaign, Hume said he's eager to immerse himself in a more spiritual life after dwelling for so long in the secular. The anchor described himself as a "nominal Christian" until 10 years ago, when his son Sandy committed suicide at age 28.

"I feel like I was really kind of saved when my son died by faith and by the grace of God, and that's very much on my consciousness," said Hume, who plans to get more involved in his wife's Bible study group.

October 6, 2008

Climate change natural or 'End of Days'?

In case you haven't seen it yet, Tina Fey included a small religion reference in her most recent Saturday Night Live skit.

"Gwen, we don't know if this climate change hoozie-what's-it is man-made or if it's just a natural part of the 'End of Days.'"

October 2, 2008

Quote of the day

"Did you know that Joe Biden’s priest can forgive parishioners’ sins but can’t keep them out of jail if they commit a crime? No, really, it’s crazy! It’s almost like we’re talking about two completely different things!"

-- Mollie Hemingway of GetReligion.org, on news reports that "prominent Southern Baptists see nothing wrong with Sarah Palin serving as vice president" even as they believe women shouldn't be pastors.

September 22, 2008

The role of faith in British politics

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair appeared on the Daily Show where Jon Stewart asked Blair to compare his own experience to the prominent role of religion in American politics. The exchange is short, but here is part of the exchange:

Stewart: In British politics, faith is almost something to be cloaked, whereas here if you're not talking to God on a daily basis, you're considered not worthy of the office. Why do you think the difference in how religion is perceived?

Blair: I think religion, in our country, it's just people regard it as something very private. Actually if you look, we recently did some work for our course about how important is religion to you? For America it's something like 65 percent, for Britain, it's something like 35 percent. So there's a big difference. Actually, for countries like Pakistan, it's about 97 percent.

Stewart: Is it because Pakistan is morally better than the rest of us?

Blair: I think probably not, no.

Stewart: It doesn't work that way?

Blair: No.

Stewart: You recently converted to Catholicism. ... Could you have done that as prime minister, or do you think that would’ve been complicated?

Blair: It would’ve been complicated for sure.

Blair speaks on faith and globalization in the earlier part of the clip.


September 17, 2008

Readers say Washington Post cartoon lampooned their faith

The Washington Post is taking heat for posting a cartoon caricaturing Sarah Palin speaking in tongues and God telling St. Peter "All I can hear is some dam' right-wing politician spouting gibberish."

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The Washington Post Ombudsman Deborah Howell wrote on Sunday that 350 readers have complained since the cartoon was posted online September 9, saying the cartoon lampooned their faith.

Cartoonist Pat Oliphant depicts John McCain saying, "She's a Pentecostal and speaks in tongues, and only God can understand what she's saying, but it gives my campaign a direct line to the almighty."

"Readers were right to complain; I will deal with political cartooning in another column," Howell writes. "Political cartoons and comics aren't selected at washingtonpost.com the way they are for The Post in print; they are automatically posted."

Universal Press Syndicate, which distributes Pat Oliphant's cartoons, writes: "No one is safe from the acid brush of Pat Oliphant. Oliphant is acknowledged as the nation's most influential political cartoonist. A master of what he calls "confrontational art," Oliphant spares neither the liberal nor conservative, sinner nor saint."

Ken Gurley, who blogs for the Houston Chronicle, is outraged and demands an apology. He writes:

"Had Oliphant mocked the Muslim faith in a similar manner, the response would have been loud and strong. (Anyone remember the Danish cartoonist who tried that?) Or, should the cartoonist have ridiculed the Catholic faith of the Democratic nominee for Vice President, the response would again be swift and profound. But, lampooning Pentecostals is fair game for certain segments of the media who view intolerance as the only mortal sin - unless the intolerance is toward a person's particular faith."

Other Pentecostals who have been central in the 2008 election include Leah Daughtry, Democratic National Convention CEO, and Joshua Dubois, Barack Obama's religious outreach coordinator.

August 28, 2008

Historic Moment ... From Our Sponsors

One CNN commentator (I think it was Campbell Brown) stopped talking when Florida megachurch pastor Joel Hunter got up to speak after Obama's acceptance speech, encouraging viewers just to hold off one moment for the benediction. Hunter got in about four words before Wolf Blitzer jumped in. "Well, let's not interrupt our discussion of what a historic moment this is. If people want to see what's going on at the podium, they can go to CNN.com. And we'll be continuing our discussion right after this break."

That's why they call it the Almighty Dollar, I guess.

August 25, 2008

Cameron Strang on Fox

Flipping channels, I saw Relevant publisher Cameron Strang signing off an interview on Fox News Channel's Hannity & Colmes. Strang, as you probably know, was due to give tonight's benediction but bowed out. Anyone catch the interview? Did he say anything interesting that he didn't say in our earlier interview? (The sentence or two I saw suggested he was getting a bit of rough treatment.)

Update: Thanks to Jeremy Moore for the link to the video. Strang says being on stage and giving a benediction wouldn't let him talk about the issues his generation wants to talk about. He'd rather talk at the forums during the week, he says.

August 20, 2008

The international media's take on Saddleback

Media outlets are still parsing Rick Warren's forum with the presidential candidates on Saturday. Tom Heneghan at Reuters' religion blog took a look at some of the international headlines.

"It's striking how many chose the term 'confession' to describe the event," he writes. Here's a sample:

U.S. religious forum would not have happened here - The separation of church and state is more notional than real in the U.S. (Montreal Gazette, Canada)

Obama&McCain:Confession in front of puritans (Journal du Dimanche, France)

McCain and Obama confess their sins (Elsevier, Netherlands)

Campaign launched for religious voters ? Obama and McCain "confessed" to the pastor of the nation (DieStandard.at, Austria)

Obama and McCain reveal their dark sides on stage (La Stampa, Italy)

Confession road to the White House (El Peri?dico de Catalunya, Spain)

August 7, 2008

Toward Saddleback

Over at God-O-Meter, Dan Gilgoff has a nice dissection of Barack Obama's short pre-Saddleback "on Faith" essay for Time, showing how well calculated it is to appeal to evangelicals. I agree that it hits a lot of evangelical buttons, though not, perhaps, the most important one. It says nothing about his personal born-again experience--something he has written and talked about elsewhere. Perhaps that would remind people too much of that pesky Trinity church he used to belong to. Or perhaps it would strike non-evangelicals as, well, just a little too evangelical. And then there's this remark: "The next President will have to lead Americans of all religious and secular backgrounds and will navigate a range of tough values issues." The evangelicals Dan thinks Obama is directing his appeal to don't tend to regard the values issues as in themselves tough, but rather see the tough part as actually treading the straight and narrow. So I think we should at least entertain the possibility that this is what Obama actually believes.

As for John McCain, his essay sticks almost exclusively to a vision of faith as something that sustains a person in extremis. He tells the story he always tells about the Christian guard who loosened his bonds when he was a prisoner of war, and throws in one about his father praying for him at the time. There's a short paragraph about caring for the least among us (with a little pro-life pitch), but it's sandwiched in, in a kind of obligatory way. Then he returns to the importance of religion in the "dark" and "solitary" places. I'm inclined to think that that's the real deal when it comes to McCain and religion, and why shouldn't it be? Being a prisoner of war seems to have been the defining experience of his life. That the McCain faith has real resonance for many people I don't doubt. But it's far from the guiding of one's choices in daily affairs that tends to be what Americans are looking for when they seek to know how a candidate's faith will inform his conduct in office. The contrast with Obama couldn't be greater.

(This article is cross-posted from Spiritual Politics.)