How the Mainline Loses

Here’s an example of how the mainline loses
its presence in media coverage.

Yesterday’s television news provided an example of how poor journalistic practices result in the lack of presence of mainline denominations in major media. CNN presented a piece on the return to Crawford, Texas of a local pastor who’s been serving as a chaplain in Iraq. Crawford, of course, is President Bush’s hometown now.

The reporter never identified the pastor’s denomination, nor the name of his local church despite the fact that he was continuing his pastoral responsibilities in the congregation and he referred to their importance to him in providing him emotional and spiritual support. And he was interviewed inside the sanctuary and shown taking the pulpit and expressing satisfaction at resuming his responsibilities there.

The story lacked a basic piece of the journalistic formula: who, what, when, where, how and why.

ABC News’ did much better with a piece on a volunteer engineer and his family from the U.S. who have dedicated the past year to tsunami reconstruction in Aceh province in Indonesia. The piece situated the family, explained the nature of his work, the organizational connection to CRS, the future projections for reconstruction and gave prominent play to a teenage daughter. She explained that the needs of people in Aceh continue but are now less publicized as world attention has turned to other stories. It was, on the whole, a complete package and a better example of good journalism.

One of the realities the mainline communions face in telling their stories to journalists is this insensitivity to their wider connections. Frankly, I think it’s partly lack of understanding on the part of journalists and partly lack of completeness in storytelling.

This isn’t mere nitpicking. The failure to understand the connectional nature of the mainline communions results in stories that fail to capture to the comprehensiveness of these communions. Connectionalism is part of their context. To ignore it is to miss an important part of the story.

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