Journalism, Justice, and Reporting on Marriage
Mollie Hemingway has an important post that all journalists should read. The occasion is the ombudsman at the Washington Post reprinting and empathizing with one of their reporters who revealed in a series of emails that journalists think people of faith who advocate for traditional marriage should have their arguments dismissed at the same level as racists. The argument is that journalism is about justice, and “religionists” are being unjust, and therefore they should not be given a respectful hearing.
Mollie’s whole piece is worth reading. Here’s her application:
Every reporter — no matter the beat, no matter how much in the tank for redefining marriage, no matter how close-minded they’ve been to this point — every reporter needs to stop what they’re doing and read What Is Marriage?
It’s a very easy-to-read book that succinctly explains the traditionalist arguments surrounding marriage. Refusing to learn the arguments of those who oppose changing the law must end. It simply must end. The ignorance and bigotry with which reporters have covered this topic is a scandal. It’s destroying civil political discourse, it’s embarrassing and can’t continue.
Reporters don’t need to change their deeply-held biases in favor of changing marriage law. But they do need to learn even a little bit about the arguments of those who oppose such a change.
No reporter working today should ever make the error of comparing arguments against marriage redefinition with anti-miscegenation laws. It’s clownish and easily disputed.
I thank Pexton and this unnamed reporter for revealing their ignorance and bigotry when it comes to coverage of this topic. It is helpful to have this transparency. But the solution lies not with zealous indoctrination by media types about how “fairness” requires redefining marriage. The solution to the problem of the bigoted way that reporters handle this topic lies with reporters themselves. Reporters: open your mind to the actual (not imagined) arguments of your opponents. Learn to report their views as accurately as you would want someone to report your own beliefs.
When it comes to news writing — and not voting or op-eds — stop thinking of people who retain traditional arguments on the institution of marriage as your opponents. And, most importantly, start doing your jobs.
Of course, the admonition does not just apply to secular journalists who are skeptical of tradition and religion, but also to Christians in journalism who seek to understand and to report with excellence.