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Belief Beat

Critics Blast Religion News Covers: Time’s Pope Piece, Newsweek’s ‘Saint’ Sarah Palin Story

The religion beat has suffered more than its share of budget cuts and turnover in recent years, so I was pleasantly surprised to see both major American weekly news magazines feature faith-based cover stories recently.

newsweeksaintsarah.jpgUnfortunately, religion and journalism experts have found plenty of overgeneralizations, missed angles and other problems with both Time magazine’s May 27 piece on “Why Being Pope Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry: The Sex Abuse Scandal and the Limits of Atonement” and Newsweek‘s June 21 “Saint Sarah: What Palin’s Appeal to Conservative Christian Women Says About Feminism and the Future of the Religious Right.”

Personally, I thought these were each newsworthy stories that suffered from cutesy, misleading titles (Pope Benedict has apologized several times now for the clergy sex abuse scandal; Sarah Palin is no saint) — but, given the state of print media these days, that’s a forgivable sin, especially if it gets a few thousand more people to pick up copies at the newsstand.

Check out the stories, and GetReligion’s critiques of the Time and Newsweek pieces, then share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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posted June 15, 2010 at 7:07 pm

Did you read the Getreligion commentaries? They weren’t just parsing the headlines. They were discussing the actual reporting and words used in the articles.

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Nicole Neroulias

posted June 15, 2010 at 7:10 pm

Yes, that’s why I linked to them. (I just threw my two cents in on the headlines for good measure.)

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posted June 15, 2010 at 7:14 pm

I’ll speak for the Newsweek piece, since I wrote about. It was not written by a newbie, freshman reporter. It was written by the staff’s religion editor, full of holes. To suggest that its major problem was that Sarah Palin is actually no saint seems a bit trite. I’d probably rather see no religion cover than a severely lacking one.

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posted June 15, 2010 at 7:26 pm

The Time article had all the same baseless New York Times accusations repeated in it – obscuring the truth of what is an important problem and story. I don’t get why you would think it worthwhile. IF it was breaking new ground or could actually make the case that the evidence currently out there doesn’t, then it would be. They were Johnny come lately to the mud slinging fest. In doing so they make their magazine and journalism look not only biased but stupid, unfair and lacking credibility. If they do this to stories we can verify – thanks to the internet and the New York Times who put the non supporting evidence on line, what does that mean about the rest of the stories they write??

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posted June 15, 2010 at 8:44 pm

I just got my Newsweek in the mail today, so must read it tomorrow. As a non-fan of Sarah, I’m looking forward to reading what the article says. I find her totally annoying. (and not to bright either).

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posted June 16, 2010 at 10:56 am

Just because these two newsmagazine covers are clearly permissible as matters of free speech, does not prevent them from being completely lacking in good taste, which they are.

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posted June 16, 2010 at 11:19 am

There is “misinformation” in both articles.
As example, Pope Benedict, then Bishop Joseph Ratzinger while a diocesan bishop in Germany did not reassign a priest who had undergone treatment for sex abuse as the piece clearly states. He was reassigned by Bishop Ratzinger’s successor. But I suppose that is close enough for today’s tabloidish main line media.

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joe gonzalez

posted June 16, 2010 at 12:26 pm

while truly being non-plussed at either cover story, i have been at pains to find a plausible explanation for the resurgence fo almost fanatical religious belief in the States in the last 30 years. i think it derives from our concious, or rather unconcious, recognition of a vacuum of values in said period, which, while the perception is valid, we run a serious risk in turning this religiosity into an idol. I found this on a book dealing partly with Hannah Arendt’s thought, and find it quite applicable : ” if we try to inspire public-political life one more with ‘religious passion’ or to use religion as a means of political distinctions, the result may very well be the transformation and perversion of religion into an ideology and the corruption of our fight against totalitarianism by a fanaticism which is utterly alien to the very essence of freedom.” And also ” thus those who conclude from the frightening events of our times that we have got to go back to religion for political reasons seem to me to show just as much lack of faith in God as their opponents { she’s referring to an atheistic cosmovision ]” Arendt was speaking about thoughts making the rounds on the causes of the bestiality brought about by World War II.

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Grumpy Old Person

posted June 16, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Ah heck. If conservataives can mock Obama as “The Joker” (Or as “Hitler”, replete with mustache), shurely l’il Sarah can take a ribbing – as a “Saint”, no less.
Get thicker skins.

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Robert C

posted June 16, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Obama is an abject failure as a leader, but is rather good as a political chameleon. At least he doesn’t have some nutcase next door to the WH peering into Malia’s bedroom. Besides, Palin has more than taken her share of ribbing on any number of instances. Newsweak and Time(less) continue to disavow real journalism to pander schlok mumblings to sell their dated rags to clueless zombies.

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Your Name

posted June 17, 2010 at 10:51 am

There’s that “Christianity” oozing out of (or rather, festering in) your post again, Robert.
“Palin has more than taken her share of ribbing on any number of instances”
And she earned every stinking one of them. YOU BETCHA!

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posted June 17, 2010 at 11:31 am

Wait, GetReligion criticized Newsweek and an article about the Vatican? Stop the presses.

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Robert C

posted June 18, 2010 at 11:51 am

HAH you make assumptions, but then again most people who don’t have the facts tend to hide behind anonymous postings. Christian? LOL maybe, at times, but not a good one. Republican? I am hardly a republican but I do know a leftist hatchet job when I see one.

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posted June 19, 2010 at 9:39 pm

Robert C. Would you have preferred McCain/Palin running this country, since you feel that President Obama isn’t doing well?

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Robert C

posted June 20, 2010 at 1:28 pm

If as much time had been spent by the media investigating Obama as had they spent requiring Palin to submit a stool sample every time she opened her mouth, many people may have voted differently. I also don’t particularly care for closeted individuals on the DL.

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Your Name

posted June 29, 2010 at 12:51 pm

The picture of Palin submitting a stool sample every time she opens her mouth is a pretty accurate description of what is IN her mouth (and her heart – “death panels”??? – lying is still a “SIN”, no?).
Meanwhile, way to avoid the question. Would you have preferred McCain (“the fundamentals of our economy are strong”) and Miss-Do-As-I-Say-Not-As-I-Do Abstinence before marriage fornicator/liar) running this country or not?

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