8: The Mormon Proposition gets balanced AP write-up. | Buzz Blog
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8: The Mormon Proposition gets balanced AP write-up.


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I'm still eagerly awaiting the release of Reed Cowan's 8: The Mormon Proposition, so it was interesting to see that the Associated Press just gave the impending documentary a 700-word write-up. ---

Now, when journalists write about controversial subjects, they always strive for something called "balance" -- that is, ideally, the reporter does the research and legwork necessary to encompass all sides of the controversy. That way, the story avoids bias. Unfortunately, these days, time and resource constraints rarely allow for that kind of reporting, so "balance" means making a phone call to the person who is most likely to object.

That's why I always zoom right to the balance quote. Here it is:

LDS spokeswoman Kim Farah said, "it is obvious that anyone looking for balance and thoughtful discussion of a serious subject will need to look elsewhere."

Ah! A balance quote about balance. How meta is that?

Unfortunately, if Farah knows of some place where a balanced, thoughtful discussion of this serious subject is actually happening, the story failed to report it, so if you're one of those people she mentioned, you'll have to continue your search.

For that matter, how many people really are searching for "balance and thoughtful discussion" these days? Frankly, I don't know what that hypothetical "elsewhere" would even look like. If we were to lock up Cowan and Farah in a room together, how long would it take them to agree on a set of parameters constituting a fair dialog?

The two sides cannot even agree what the issue is: Gays rightfully see marriage equality as a constitutional civil-rights issue, whereas the LDS Church regards gays as a threat to its most sacred institutions. Until church leaders can be brought to acknowledge that, in the U.S., civil marriage exists apart from religious marriage, the whole argument will be about apples and oranges.

More revealing, however, is the reporter's framing of the issue:

Like many faiths, Mormonism defends traditional marriage as an institution ordained by God that is central to a healthy society.

Can you spot the bias?

Check out the phrase "Mormonism defends traditional marriage" -- in effect, the AP reporter has adopted the religious right's terminology "traditional marriage" (historically, one-man/one-woman marriage has been anything but the norm, in either healthy or unhealthy societies) and then stated that the LDS Church is somehow "defending" it -- as though civil recognition of gay families is somehow a threat.

It's balance! Or, at least it looks like it if you're not too particular.