Romenesko Readers Do My Work For Me


Christian journalists can bring “a basic moral compass” to their work “that the mainstream media possesses but just so often chooses to ignore. And if you bring that to your work, it will help you when you choose the stories you’re going to write about or broadcast,” Sammon said. “That moral compass will allow you to connect with mainstream America in a way that the mainstream media is not doing right now.”


I may be a hick from French Lick compared to Bill Sammon, but I’d like to know where he gets off telling us that he inserts a “moral” dimension into his work because he’s Christian and the rest of us heathen scribes are wandering around trying to find our “moral compass.” Has that compass of his guided him to do a story on the fundamental immorality of the types of torture the administration wants the freedom to use? Has that Christian compass directed him towards doing a piece on what is a “just war” and what isn’t? Has the needle on his compass pointed him to write about the immorality of using fibs and embellishments (WMDs, the alleged Saddam/al Qaeda connection, etc.) to persuade a populace into supporting something it otherwise wouldn’t support?

Moreover, the examples he used that are cited in the Christian Examiner piece are, in a word, tripe. Americans began viewing the 9/11 attacks in “moral terms” just because Bush grabbed a bullhorn?

When I was reporting I’d get into this argument every other day with some ignoramus. I covered religion. This naturally led to lots of probing, some of it simply curious, some of it pernicious or baiting, about my own beliefs. I rarely engaged in any lengthy conversation about it, because I’m not the story and often I didn’t have lots of time to chat about my own stuff. God and I have a complicated on-again, off-again relationship and often we’re in the middle of separation periods that are anything but amicable, and explaining that was time-consuming. Plus, who gives a fuck, really? Nobody wanted to hear about me.

Reporting is a skill set and that skill set can be (though it’s not always) divorced from the life of the reporter. One of the dumber debates that goes on in newsrooms all the time is whether reporters have to adhere to some horseshit “Like writer, like story” concept that dictates only black Jewish lesbians could cover a story about the same, and that other reporters who aren’t homeowners couldn’t cover tax issues. It never failed to drive me insane, because for every time personal experience helps you out on a story because it’s right where you live so you don’t need to ask the extra questions, there’s a time it hinders you because you’re too close and don’t see it or ignore it because it involves your friends. Can you ask questions, understand the answers, listen and observe and investigate? Are you curious and relentless and competitive and manipulative (just a little)? Then you can report on just about anything. And let’s not even get into the Asshat’s assumption that only Christians can be moral. That’s a whole other thing.

And by the way, Asshat? Most reporters don’t need a “moral compass” so much as they need a bullshit detector, so take your superiority complex and your crucifix AND your pencil and shove all three of them where the light of the Lord don’t shine.