Sunday, February 11, 2007

Timely Tutorial

So I was originally just going to post a few quotes from this epiScope tutorial on reading the UK press in preparation for the busy Anglican News week ahead but decided it was ALL too helpful and so -- rather than cutting and pasting -- have posted it in its entirety below.

Kudos to the 815 Communication Office ... keep 'em coming

How to read the UK press

... one in a continuing series of hard-won lessons in media comprehension. Here's the URL for the full story so you can follow with me. Cursors ready, class? Let's fisk along, shall we?

Last bid to stop Anglican split

This is what is known as a cliché, class. It has been used so many times that there are now macros in some word processing programs for headline writers which will insert this phrase, so they don't have to waste valuable leisure time actually typing it out.

Archbishop Williams enters 'pivotal' battle to find a compromise in homosexuality row
Jamie Doward
Sunday February 11, 2007

The Archbishop of Canterbury will this week launch what could be his final attempt to save the Anglican Communion from an irreparable split triggered by the increasingly bitter row over homosexuality and the church.

Failure to keep the world's 70-million -strong Communion together would be a watershed in the history of the church and a personal disaster for Rowan Williams, who will use a gathering of bishops in Tanzania starting on Wednesday to try to calm the row dividing liberal and conservative wings of the church. But he faces an uphill task.

First, notice the use of "could be" and "would be." This is known as "speculative journalism," or sometimes "making things up to make your editor happy." It's especially useful if you haven't talked to many sources for your story, as we'll see, and is related to the use of clichés (above) and what are known in the trade as "penetrating glimpses of the obvious" or PGOs.

Theologians describe the conference as 'pivotal'

Now, class, which theologians are we talking about? And, since the word is plural, how many? Please note that our reporter doesn't say here, but later in the story we will find that in fact we are talking about not many, but one theologian:

... Dr Kendall Harmon, canon theologian for the diocese of South Carolina. 'My sense is that he's going to conclude TEC's response has been inadequate. This is a pivotal moment ...

Now of course no such story would be complete without the obligatory Philip Jenkins "Next Christendom" trope:

Although congregations are declining in the West, the church is enjoying a surge in popularity in African countries...

... and of course the "all Episcopalians believe the same way" meme, not to mention the "oh, those crazy Americans!" motif, which ignores the fact that citizens of 16 independent, sovereign nations are part of The Episcopal Church:

At the centre of the row is The Episcopal Church (TEC), the liberal body representing Anglicans in the US

Now we also see a little trouble in checking basic facts. But hey, it's Sunday.

Following the row over homosexuality, which erupted in 2004 when Gene Robinson, an openly gay man in an active relationship, was elected bishop of New Hampshire...

That would be 2003, actually. (Not to mention that this argument has been going on for more than thirty years, but what's a few decades, plus or minus?)

Experts believe Williams will conclude that TEC has not taken sufficient steps to conform to the Windsor Report...

How many experts, and who are they? See above: why, it's the good Canon Harmon again! Overseas phone calls are expensive, but there are other expert theologians in the Communion, some of whom even answer their own email.

At the conference, Williams will be briefed by the 'gang of four', a group of advisers he hand-picked to help him draw up his response. Bernard Malango, Archbishop of Central Africa, Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales and two lay members, Philippa Amable and Elizabeth Paver, are expected to criticise the US liberals.

Again, what's the actual source for this assertion?

Also at the conference will be the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu. Some observers have read much into his attendance.

"Some observers"... like the expert theologian from South Carolina? We sure haven't heard from anyone else. But let's read on! Warning: cliché alert!

... the arch conservatives, Robert Duncan, bishop of Pittsburgh, and Bruce Macpherson, bishop of Western Louisiana.

Finally, another county heard from--and it's...aww, it's the only other guy our reporter has in the office Rolodex:

Martin Reynolds, spokesman for the LGCM, said the bishops were to blame ... 'There are more than 100 gay bishops in the Anglican Communion. If they all stood up, this argument would not happen.'

Well. All we can say is that at least it wouldn't happen in quite the same way. But to wrap things up, off we go into the wild blue yonder of pure truthiness:

A second lieutenant in the US Air Force, Jefferts Schori is the first woman Primate in the worldwide Anglican Communion.

... conflating Bishop Jefferts Schori and her daughter Katharine Johanna Harris, who actually is a second lieutenant in the US Air Force. (I think that was your GPWS alarm going off there, Jamie...ouch. Thanks for playing, though.)

Folks, join us next time for another exciting episode of: How to read the UK press! Have a blessed Sunday!


PS -- Canon Harmon has -- not surprisingly -- taken umbrage.

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