As the interest in Mitt Romney’s faith continues to grow, it seems nearly every major media source now feels it has to do some kind of story on “Mormonism” as a part of its coverage of the presidential campaign.
Sometimes reporters, journalists and TV stations go directly to the source and talk to the Public Affairs department of the church. This, of course, is the best way to get reliable and accurate information.
But media often feel that to be “objective,” they also need to go to non-official sources — and to them that often means “anti-Mormon” groups.
We believe it is better and more accurate for solid, practicing members of the church to define what Mormonism is than to leave it to non-members or disaffected members to define the church through widely circulated media.
The New York Times has been one example of responsible reporting on the church. Political reporter Jim Rutenberg wrote a piece called “Mormon’s First Families Rally Around Romney” that generally got its facts right. Earlier, a feature writer named Jodi Kantor did an article called “Romney’s Faith, Silent but Deep” and continues to write accurately about the church. Later this summer, another reporter, Sheryl Stromberg, is writing a piece on Romney as a father which will draw heavily on Mitt’s Mormon parental perspective.
We, for two, appreciate good journalism in this world which seems to have less and less of it. To illustrate, let us give a you a brief, behind-the-scenes perspective on the Rutenberg piece.
After reviewing MormonBriefing.com, a website we have written about previously which was designed in part as a resource for journalists, Jim called us with some questions which we said we were happy to answer on the phone. But he preferred face-to-face interviews and asked if he could meet us in Salt Lake City.
We were with our family at Bear Lake that week, but said we would be happy to meet him there. To our surprise, he rented a car and made the three-hour drive and spent the day with us. While he only used three direct quotes from our discussion, we felt like we were helpful in accurately shaping his story. For a little more on what we talked about that day, read here.
Our experiences in being interviewed by Kantor and Stromberg were very similar. After reviewing how church members define themselves on MormonBriefing.com, they called us, already reasonably well-informed, and asked good and highly respectful questions.
Isn’t it great, in a world where anything and everything seems to find its way into print, to have journalists and reporters who still are willing to do the work to try to write accurate pieces? Many may disagree with the editorial stance of the New York Times, but few will argue the quality of the writing and the thoroughness of the research its reporters do.
As parents and grandparents, one of the most important things we can teach our children is to look for accurate information and to become their own best critics regarding sources and background and media in general that does or doesn’t get things right. We need to help our kids become more discerning in terms of what they read, what they watch and what they believe. We need to teach them to look for balanced coverage and opinions and to respect the views of others.
Most of all, we need to set a good example for them by being as informed as time allows and by sharing our perspectives as well as our beliefs with our children.