by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Yesterday Ira Glass sent an email revealing that This American Life's report on Apple's manufacturing supplier in China "contained significant fabrications." Mike Daisey’s story and TAL’s decisions to go to air and later retract the show have sparked a lot of discussion in journalism and public radio circles.
There’s a lot of praising, challenging, and questioning going on. Frankly, much of it feels like punditry and harmless posturing. But, this Saturday afternoon a stream of tweets by Marketplace's John Moe put a human face on this story and some of the underlying ethical issues at stake.
(I’ve kept the format in order to preserve, hopefully, the rhythm of Moe’s thoughts.)
I knew Daisey for many years, although its been several years since I’ve talked to him. But I saw his first audition when he came to Seattle
5:22 PM - 17 Mar 12
It was the best audition I’d ever seen. A monologue about Wrath of Khan. Astounding. Completely improvised, I later learned.
5:23 PM - 17 Mar 12
I worked at a temp agency and gave him temp jobs. Mike later worked at Amazon when I did. Then he quit and made a 1-man show about Amazon.
5:25 PM - 17 Mar 12
It bugged me that Amazon paid him salary and benefits and then he turned around and ripped them. I was also jealous of his talent & success.
5:26 PM - 17 Mar 12
Then he got a book deal! So I was jealous of his talent and success in writing and theater.
5:29 PM - 17 Mar 12
In his book, he said things about my department at Amazon that weren’t true or were exaggerated and/or twisted. Which angered me. So…
5:30 PM - 17 Mar 12
Over the years I haven’t known how to view his success. Astoundingly talented guy, I questioned his ethics, but I was jealous/petty too.
5:32 PM - 17 Mar 12
But this China thing hits me hard. As a tech reporter, I know the Foxconn issue is huge and complex. As a journalist, ethics are critical.
5:33 PM - 17 Mar 12
The Foxconn suicides first taught me the word Foxconn. It’s a big issue for me (my brother died of suicide) and I wanted more attn on it.
5:36 PM - 17 Mar 12
Then when Daisey became a leading spokesperson for Foxconn issues, I was all jumbled up. How did he get these scoops? I was jealous again.
5:37 PM - 17 Mar 12
Now all this. I don’t hate Mike, I wish him well, and I just hope more truth and light and transparency somehow emerge from this mess.
5:39 PM - 17 Mar 12Comments
by Matthew L. Skinner and Joshua M. Z. Stanton, guest contributors
Photo by Trey Ratcliff/Flickr, cc by-nc-nd 2.0
Picture this: an Iraqi reporter becomes interested in the work of a Jewish student in Israel after reading an article about Jewish-Muslim relations in medieval Spain that the student published online. The reporter contacts the student and interviews him about future prospects for Jewish-Muslim coexistence.
As the student in this story and co-author of this article, Joshua Stanton knows first-hand how technology is reshaping the way people of different religions interact. To start with, he and the Iraqi reporter would never have connected without the Internet, which enabled them to bypass regional politics and borders.
Yet the Internet’s potential can yield various outcomes. Despite our increased connectivity, people of different faith traditions remain all too likely to talk past one another. Just look at the comments section of any online news article.
The Internet also allows people to perpetuate longstanding arguments over the most central of religious identifiers: sacred texts and the figures within them. Which son was Abraham prepared to sacrifice — Isaac, a central figure in the Jewish and Christian traditions, or Ishmael, whose story is central to Muslims? Did Isaiah predict the birth of Jesus in the Hebrew Bible? And of course, who was the religious prophet of ultimate importance? Recycled ignorance and nasty disagreements over disparate prophetic texts often leave online dialoguers depleted and demoralized.
The key, it would seem, is not whitewashing the differences that exist between religions and their sacred texts but clarifying them and using them as a basis for informed discourse online.
People of faith do well to read their own sacred texts with curiosity about how these writings influence their understanding of what a life faithfully lived looks like. Yet we also become more responsible and more informed practitioners when we allow those outside our traditions to read along with us, over our shoulders. Too many people have not looked seriously at other traditions’ texts. And too many interpreters do not interpret in ways that invite “outsiders” into the conversation.
For example, Muslims and Jews may know that the Torah and the Qur’an differ over which son God called Abraham to sacrifice — Isaac or Ishmael. But do they know that some rabbinic commentaries affirm the Qur’anic position that the events must have taken place in a dream? And have Christians considered how such ideas might inform their interpretations of the story that view it as foreshadowing Jesus’ obedience and death? Without opportunities for more public, hospitable investigations of one another’s scriptural traditions, Jews, Christians and Muslims might simply reassert old stereotypes, even as their leaders and scholars model isolationism.
Technology allows people to learn about sacred texts, their origins, their histories of interpretation and their ongoing relevance from informed leaders and scholars they would not otherwise be able to learn from.
ON Scripture, a new initiative launched by Odyssey Networks, a multi-faith media coalition, in collaboration with the major online news site, The Huffington Post, aims to create this sort of online space. It presently offers resources focused on the study of Christian scripture, but is poised to launch ON Torah in the coming months, which will focus exclusively on sacred Jewish texts. Odyssey Networks also hopes to launch ON Quran in order to highlight the rich textual traditions of Islam and thus enable all three Abrahamic traditions to have centres of text study housed on the same website, making it easier for individuals to find out information about all three faiths.
While initially operating independently, the weekly online articles from ON Scripture about the Torah and the Christian Bible offer interpretations that religious leaders put forth about their own tradition’s sacred texts, guided by the traditional cycle of scriptural reading of that particular tradition.
In time, we hope to expand the conversations, perhaps having rabbis, pastors and imams in dialogue with each other in videos that broadcast respectful dialogue about scriptural texts, even in light of real differences. While the forum is currently in English, it may come to span multiple languages, bringing people of faith from across the globe into constructive dialogue aided by cutting-edge translation technology.
As people of faith open their scriptures in full public view, they open themselves to grow in mutual understanding and appreciation of how ancient scriptures continue to shape and motivate people of faith. Even in disagreement, there can be understanding.
Matthew L. Skinner is Associate Professor of the New Testament at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota and Founding Editor of ON Scripture.
Joshua M. Z. Stanton is Founding Co-Editor of the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue and of ON Torah, as well as a Schusterman Rabbinical Fellow at Hebrew Union College.
A version of this article was published by the Common Ground News Service on November 8, 2011. Copyright permission is granted for publication.Comments
A few recent newsgames do something curious: They hide basic trivia questions under a layer of moral decision-making. It is often assumed that taking a tired design and adding some nominal amount of ethical choice — usually in the form of binary story branches or good/neutral/evil alignment meters — will somehow reinvigorate and edify its players.
But there’s a serious problem with this easy inclusion of moral choice: Even a simple move to branch out from the standard structure of a game results in an exponential need for more content. And in a genre where budgets are often tight, cuts will likely need to be made as a result. This means less thought goes into the causal chain between choice and consequence, undercutting the very goals that the inclusion of the simple moral system hoped to attain. A half-baked moral system can have the opposite effect on people’s reasoning, and can even become confounding.
by Susan Leem, associate producer
Personal ministry by bicycle. (photo: waferboard/Flickr, cc by-nc-sa 2.0)
Respected theologian Martin Marty has a winning article highlighting a mainstream news story that has finally gotten religion reporting right. The New York Times' recent profile of a Baptist couple who spend their retirement doing disaster relief work stood out as a “too-rare” kind of reporting on religious people and topics as Martin Marty writes:
"We have to wear virtual sunglasses when we do our too-rare Sightings of positive religion news in public media, so bright are these exceptions to the down and depressing accounts. Since most religious people and those who benefit from their doings see and experience more bright sides than down sides, we ask: is there something wrong with those who report and publish or broadcast the depressing and scandalous stories?"
He argues that there is double standard for religion reporting, in that such stories get boxed into one category or another:
"(I) have come up with a formula: if religion is covered as news, the bad stuff will predominate; if it appears as features, the good side gets a chance to show."
It would be a delicate balancing act to blend news reporting with the best aspects of features reporting:
"News waits for someone to embezzle or kill or seduce another in the name of God. Features allows for creative reporters to get up close to believing and behaving people who use their imagination, faith, energy, and communal spirit to serve others."
He is praising an unusual gift for readers, the opportunity to learn the language and practices of other faith traditions in a tight news cycle. After many years of working in a daily newsroom, I know that beast of news production has an endless appetite. And with dwindling resources, those thoughtful features are getting harder and harder to cultivate in that environment.Comments
by Diane Winston, special contributor
I teach at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Among my course offerings is religion coverage, an increasingly marginalized beat within a progressively problem-ridden industry.
Although religion is a key element in reporting on politics, culture, and society, cash-strapped news outlets are cutting back specialty beats to save money. Even more troublesome, legacy news jobs are fewer than ever, the news hole is shrinking, and the favored style of story telling is sensational, simplistic, and conflict-driven. Nevertheless, my goals remain the same: helping students to write clearly, think critically, and probe religion’s role in social and political trends and events.
For the last two years, I’ve pursued those goals by focusing on the fault-lines in the coverage of global religion. Using the Israel-Palestinian conflict as a starting point, I’ve asked students to find alternative frames for the conflict along with new voices to lift up and unsung stories to tell.
In 2010, students explored the nexus of religion, politics and gender in Israel and the West Bank. In 2011, the class will look at religion, ethnicity, and coexistence In Israel’s Arab villages, mixed towns and Jewish-majority cities. Students report across multimedia platforms with the goal of seeing their work in outlets ranging from the Washington Post to Global Post.
This class’ 13 graduate students represent a cross-section of races, religions, regions, and ethnicities. Some are in their 20s; others in their 30s. Many have traveled widely, but only one has visited Israel. They’re all interested in politics and international relations and see religion as an integral part of coverage.
Diane Winston holds the the Knight Chair in Media and Religion at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California. A national authority on religion and the media, her expertise includes religion, politics, and the news media as well as religion and the entertainment media. A journalist and a scholar, Winston’s current research interests are media coverage of Islam, religion and new media, and the place of religion in American identity. She writes a smart blog called the SCOOP and tweets too.
We welcome your reflections, essays, videos, or news items for possible publication on the Being Blog. Submit your entry through our First Person Outreach page.Comments