Lisa knows bigots

Far be it from me to tell Chi Trib reporter Lisa Anderson and her presumed editors how to do their job, but what about her lead today in her story “Court told board urged creationism: Witness says she was shocked by bigotry”?

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Nine months pregnant at the time, Dover High School alumna Christy Rehm found herself so shocked by some of the religiously bigoted statements made by members of the Dover school board in June 2004 that she feared she would go into labor, she testified in federal court here Wednesday.

It’s settled then.  The statements were bigoted.  Thanks, Lisa.  We would have had to make that judgement ourselves if you hadn’t put it that way.  On the other hand, if you had written “some of what she considered religiously bigoted statements,” we would have been inclined to read further.  As while starting a mystery novel or any good story.  You’re allowed to do that, Lisa (and presumed editors) — report it fair and balanced (copyright Fox News), letting us decide.

I made myself read on, however, just to check, and found this as Exhibit A:

“This country wasn’t founded on Muslim beliefs or evolution. This country was founded on Christianity, and our children should be taught as such.”

And this as Exhibit B:

the comment came from Bill Buckingham, a vocal critic of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, which states that life evolved through random mutation and natural selection. The theory is widely accepted by scientists,

witnesses said.  (Buckingham denies it.)

Lower in the story, we read of subpoenaed reporters, a Mich. State U. prof who says the intelligent-design argument (at issue here) takes us “beyond the boundaries of the natural world” and so does not belong in a biology classroom, same prof saying Intel Design takes us back to pre-Enlightenment days, and a Baptist pastor saying its alternative is “bonehead happenstance.”

So some good reporting, but that lead ‘graph hurts, because it MAKES US SCEPTICAL ABOUT EVEN THE REPORTING.  Don’t Lisa and her (presumed) editors get it?  Their credibility is at stake.

By way of ex-Jesuit commentary on story substance — in addition to the above ex-newsman analysis of the story as such — the courtroom argument apparently was between science and religion.  What, no philosophy?  Some very sophisticated scientific, nay mathematical minds plump for Intel Design, arguing in philosophical mode to their conclusions.  And who’s Enlightenment-oriented more, the firm believer in an accidental universe (the pastor’s “bonehead happenstance”) or the arguer from data, in this case incredible amazing complexity that works? 

Finally, it seems less a matter of answers than of questions.  Some are verboten, it seems.  There are no mysteries.  Which is scientism, not science, it seems to me.


Lisa Anderson said thanks for my “thoughtful comments,” adding that it would have been clearer if she had written “said she found herself so shocked….”  Good.

Reader Wade had already read her lead a few times and thought that if Rehm had said the statements were bigoted, the lead was correct, at least in paraphrase. It’s she who voiced the conclusion, not the reporter.  If she said something else, the lead was wrong.  If she didn’t SAY “what she CONSIDERED bigoted statements,” then it wouldn’t be right to add that element to the lead, even if that approach makes the story sound less pre-judgmental or even biased.  To which I responded, “Quote marks would have done it,” adding a little later:
That said, you have me thinking.  The paraphrasing route seems familiar.  Accepted practice, that is.  So I may be questioning accepted practice.  The problem may antedate the Bush 2 administration, plus Clinton, plus . . .  Our heroes of Front Page were rascals, we now think.  Things changed?  May change again?
Thus progress might be made.  Anyhow, that paraphrasing is misleading, I have decided; in fact, it’s inaccurate.  Lisa’s self-correction as above sounds about right.
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