Friday 24 August 2007

Taking reports on faith

Have I missed a report that suggests that Jehovah's Witnesses are building secret training camps in the desert? Are radical elders preaching a dangerous message across the land? Something in the back of my mind doubts this, but it seems that they are now the sort of organization that the media needs to highlight to people in much the same way that they have to report if someone is a Muslim when reporting an arrest.
I ask because with only one or two exceptions every initial report I read about the sentencing of Michael Porter last night mentioned his faith in the headline or first paragraph without making any reference to why it was relevant. I know that in the past the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York has not had a spotless record in reporting abuse to the authorities, but in that they stand as one with most of the branches of the western Christian church, none of who has covered themselves in glory in this field.
While I can see that there is a public interest factor in reporting faith for powerful public figures, we would want to know if a cabinet minister is a member of a shadowy cult faction of a radical church with strange beliefs, for example the Methodists, as it may affect their ministerial work this is just labeling someone as different and is therefore hateful. The man has done enough things by his own hand to make us hate him, why do we need this?
Reading the later, longer, more thought out reports of course it comes out that it is relevant, he used his position to abuse, this reporting is relevant and of value, so why didn't the original pieces say this. I foresee a future Britain where the worst misuse of data isn't a government database linked to a compulsory ID card that makes it easy for your personal data to be mismanaged, but the combined newspaper data store which holds a full listing for everyone on how they are different and what extra things we should hate about them. This will come about because it seems somehow for the headline writers their crimes, even Michael Porter's heinous ones, just aren't producing enough bile.


Anonymous said...

Well, according to this chap the judge took Porter's religious faith into account when sentencing him.

I won't point out the incongruities in that case, mostly because I've just linked to an article that does it for me, but that would be a reason to report on the defendant's faith.

Generally, though, I tend to agree with you - the media, particularly newspapers, are likely to pick whichever aspect of the subject's life most likely to alienate their readership - for example "Mr Meiwes, a computer expert..."


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