MormonVoices har sammanställt en tio-i-top-lista och en tio-i-botten-lista på den mediala bevakningen i USA, som Jesu Krist Kyrka av Sista Dagars Heliga fick under den period som populärt kallas för ”the Mormon Moment”, på grund av Mitt Romneys presidentkandidatur.
Top Ten Best Stories About Mormonism in 2012
Posted on Nov 13, 2012
The 2012 presidential campaign put Mormons and their Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints under an intense media spotlight. Mormonism was analyzed, criticized, praised, appreciated, and misunderstood in a deluge of articles, blogs, television shows and opinion pieces.
MormonVoices kept a steady eye on the voluminous coverage, offering both praise and criticism. Below are the top ten examples of fair and accurate reporting about Mormonism during 2012. The worst ten examples will be published later this week.
The Ten Best Stories About Mormonism
(1) Naomi Schaefer Riley wrote an in-depth piece for Philanthropy Roundtable, investigating and explaining the Mormon welfare system and its importance in Mormon practice. Riley acknowledged the political connection to her story, but spent much more time communicating details about the welfare system and included several Mormon points of view. Riley’s piece is an excellent contribution to a thorough, in-depth understanding of Mormonism that many news stories lacked.
(2) Joel Kotkin, whose academic expertise in urban development is reflected in his journalism analyzing demographic and sociological trends, added substantially to understanding of Mormonism. His reporting included historical background, but focused much more on Mormons’ participation in society and politics without being sidetracked by obscure controversies that have little to do with Mormons’ everyday lives.
(3) NBC’s Rock Center, hosted by Brian Williams, devoted an entire prime-time program to Mormon belief and practice. Though some Mormons noticed a few inaccuracies, and took offense to the portrayal of sacred Mormon garments, many were also appreciative of the program’s overall even-handed and respectful tone. NBC clearly attempted, and mostly succeeded, to portray Mormons accurately, relevantly, and respectfully.
(4) David French is an opinion journalist and activist who headed the group Evangelicals for Mitt, and his coverage of Mormons was directly to a specifically evangelical audience. French makes clear that Mormon theology and his own Calvinism have important differences, but he also conveyed the true and even mundane details of Mormon practice to those who may have heard inaccurate accounts.
(5) The BBC went directly to the source to find out how Mormons think and act. They assembled a panel of Mormon church members in Salt Lake City and facilitated a wide-ranging discussion that produced several interesting insights. This good example was a stark contrast to other BBC offerings, which skipped even-handed reporting in favor of controversy.
(6) Coverage of the Mormon Moment also included reporting how non-Mormons reacted to Mormons. Thomas C. Terry’s article in Inside Higher Ed explained several instances of bias against Mormons among academics and analyzed the implications of the separation between scholarly circles and most Mormons.
(7) In the Catholic journal First Things, Stephen H. Webb ensured that a vitally important but often-overlooked facet of Mormonism was insightfully explored: in his words, “Mormonism is obsessed with Christ.” Webb reads and explains the Book of Mormon, focusing not on a few phrases that can be related to political preoccupations, but showing its overall purpose.
(8) When Broadway put Mormon missionaries at the center of a popular show, most audience members were no doubt smart enough to separate satire from realism. But would audience members be able to find any realistic sources to help them better appreciate the inside jokes? The New York Times filled this void with a lengthy account of actual Mormon missionaries serving in Uganda. The first-hand look into the missionaries’ words and actions is a valuable source for anyone interested in the young men behind the spoof.
(9) Mormon temples received a great deal of curiosity and speculation, which is natural considering their sacred rituals are not open to non-Mormons. Danielle Tumminio, an Episcopal priest, attended a temple “Open House”, wherein the public are allowed to tour a temple in its entirety prior to its dedication and closure to all but Mormons in good standing. Her analysis, while positive and even enthusiastic about the spiritual aspects of her visit, is praiseworthy more because it considered what temple worship means to Mormons.
(10) McKay Coppins of Buzzfeed is a practicing Mormon. This gave him the opportunity to publish several articles demystifying Mormon belief and practice for an unfamiliar public. His familiarity and thoroughness probably couldn’t have been duplicated by a non-Mormon reporter’s conversation with a few sources. Of course not all reporting on a religion can be done by its adherents, but as Mormon scholar Joanna Brooks suggested, much reporting on Mormons could be vastly improved with one simple step: a Mormon fact-checker.
Top Ten Worst Stories About Mormonism in 2012
Posted on Nov 17, 2012
(1) In September, Mormon blogger David Twede was summoned by local church leaders for excommunication proceedings. The Daily Beast ran a story accusing the church of orchestrating Twede’s punishment in retaliation for his criticism of GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, with the implication that the church was willing to act in behalf of a political campaign. In follow-up stories by The Salt Lake Tribune and The New York Times, Twede acknowledged that Romney was probably not the reason behind the discipline, and that the church had ample, non-political grounds to be concerned about his membership.
(2) Two articles are combined here to illustrate a single problem: reporters often try to communicate greater familiarity than they actually have with Mormonism. Jodi Kantor of The New York Times attempted to provide insight in to Romney’s candidacy by delving into his Mormon beliefs. The results left many Mormons scratching their heads, as several telling details in her story were incorrect. Worse, Gary Willis in The New York Review of Books relied on his memory of a past encounter with a Mormon to establish faulty conclusions about Mormonism.
(3) In Business Insider, editor Henry Blodget relied on a single source, Jon Krakauer’s book “Under the Banner of Heaven”, to buttress his negative portrayal of Mormonism. Krakauer, however, is more sensationalistic than scholarly, presents as fact what is actually only slim conjecture.
(4) The blogger Andrew Sullivan, in the name of transparency, posted a video of a secret recording of Mormon temple rituals. Mormons consider it extremely insensitive and sacrilegious to portray the ceremonies outside of the temple. Sullivan’s implication seems to be that Mormons are alien and irrational. But the fact that most modern religions do not include esoteric ceremonies does not mean that such ceremonies must, by definition, be sinister.
(5) Ex-Mormon Tricia Erickson has been roundly criticized by many Mormons for her outlandish portrayal of the church. Her writing mixes a few facts, poorly sourced historical stories, and a certainty that Mormonism is plain evil. But CNN repeatedly allowed her a platform, and though they at least allowed respected Mormon scholar Richard Bushman to respond to some of her claims, news organizations would have done well to avoid her entirely.
(6) Lawrence O’Donnell deserves great credit for apologizing to Mormons, but he had a great deal to apologize for. His comments on his MSNBC show claimed that Mormonism grew out of founder Joseph Smith’s desperation to cover up an illicit affair. This isn’t even a rational conjecture, given the actual sequence of events in Smith’s life.
(7) Fred Karger ran for the GOP presidential nomination but never gained much support. Much of the coverage of his campaign focused on Karger’s attempt to discredit the Mormon church for its role in California’s Proposition 8 vote. That’s fine as far as it goes, but several reporters and publications allowed Karger’s charges to run unchallenged. For instance, Karger says that the Mormon church “pled guilty” to “13 counts of election fraud” after Proposition 8. This statement is wrong. The unintentional failure to fully comply with California election regulations is certainly not the same thing as criminal fraud, and it is malicious of Karger to say so.
(8) The Book of Mormon is more than 500 pages long. Understandably, many people want to know what it has to say but don’t have the time to read it cover-to-cover. This does not lessen the damage done in reports that The Book of Mormon teaches and even encourages racism. In The Huffington Post, Dr. Obery M. Hendricks, Jr. failed to grasp that though The Book of Mormon describes peoples’ skin darkening, that narrative has no relation to modern blacks and is not even a straight-forward tale of racism on its own terms. Moreover, though the Mormon church did not extend full priesthood to blacks until 1978, it is welcoming of all converts.
(9) Bloomberg Businessweek’s Caroline Winter contributed important reporting on the Mormon church’s financial practices. But the magazine’s cover featured a mocking scenewith an angel, who in Mormon history is said to have conferred sacred priesthood authority on early leaders, instructing the men to invest in crass business ventures. Moreover, it is legitimate to point out that the Mormon church owns commercial interests, but Winter made no attempt to understand this in terms of what options a large organization has for managing its finances, and what demographic and financial pressures the Mormon church might be preparing for.
(10) An opinion forum in The New York Times asked several contributors: “What Is It About Mormons?” Four out of the five had nearly nothing good to say about the faith, and seemed intent on exhibiting and perhaps instigating bias toward Mormons. Readers were told that the church is “smothering,” has a “dark side,” and has been on “the wrong side” of many political debates. Readers learned little about Mormons’ own perspectives.