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Media coverage of Elder Oaks's talk


Scott Lloyd

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Some days ago, Elder Dallin H. Oaks drew some attention with a speech up at BYU Idaho in which he decried the backlash against the Church in the wake of the Prop 8 victory and drew a comparison to voter intimidation during the civil rights movement of the '60s.

Now, Joel Campbell, the "Media Observer" who writes for the Mormon Times has quantified what was already quite clear: The Salt Lake Tribune substituted its own manufactured controversy for actual coverage of Elder Oaks's speech.

Here are some highlights:

It was to be expected. Elder Dallin H. Oaks reignited a debate about freedom of religion. Unfortunately, much of the landmark speech's message got derailed by journalist-created sideshows.

... 137 words. The paltry number of words the Salt Lake Tribune either quoted directly or paraphrased from Elder Oaks speech in its article. That's about 3 percent of what Elder Oaks said. So explain why the Tribune can't be charged with taking his words out of context? I guess the Tribune refused to take seriously what Elder Oaks actually said. Did they assume their readers would get it from another source? At least online, readers got a link to the talk's transcript.

285 words. The number of words the Tribune dedicated to orchestrating its so-called "backlash" by taking Elder Oaks' analogy with the civil rights movement out of context and then getting the predictable response. Please don't tell me all of those critical sources just lined up at the Tribune offices Tuesday as Elder Oaks delivered his talk. The Trib helped fan the flames of the "backlash."

10 vulgarities. Monica Bielanko, an executive producer at Salt Lake City-based Fox 13 News, used no less of these on a personal blog, The Girl Who, as she described her animosity toward her former faith, including insults of LDS Church leaders and members. Apparently she was ticked off because she posted a tweet (a posting on Twitter) about the talk before a 3 p.m. embargo deadline set by the church. A church spokeswoman asked her to pull down the innocuous tweet. Not sure that was justification for what followed.

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This has been done to death, Scott, so why do you want to keep fanning the flames? :P

Campbell's column is brand new this morning, at least in the print edition of Mormon Times. It provides some fresh analysis of how media organizations and representatives behaved in covering the story, their level of professionalism (or lack thereof), their credibility, etc. I don't agree that this aspect of the matter has been done to death. But if there's no interest here, I'm sure this thread will drop out of sight fairly quickly.

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Campbell's column is brand new this morning, at least in the print edition of Mormon Times. It provides some fresh analysis of how media organizations and representatives behaved in covering the story, their level of professionalism (or lack thereof), their credibility, etc. I don't agree that this aspect of the matter has been done to death. But if there's no interest here, I'm sure this thread will drop out of sight fairly quickly.

When did you start writing for "Mormon Times" :P ?

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Thanks for posting this, Scott.

The media coverage of Elder Oaks's talk was, to a very considerable degree, surprisingly irresponsible and unhelpful, even sensationalistic. And, it scarcely needs saying, the large majority of those who felt the need to comment on the talk seem to have been doing so based on misleading media coverage rather than on a reading of the text of the speech itself.

Not surprising, but still a bit depressing.

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I saw one Fox 13 News report on the so-called "backlash" against Elder Oaks's comments. It struck me as particularly shrill. It's not difficult now to imagine why, considering that their news operation employs an executive producer who wrote a vulgarity-laced anti-Mormon diatribe in a blog.

So much for Fox 13's credibility.

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I saw one Fox 13 News report on the so-called "backlash" against Elder Oaks's comments. It struck me as particularly shrill. It's not difficult now to imagine why, considering that their news operation employs an executive producer who wrote a vulgarity-laced anti-Mormon diatribe in a blog.

So much for Fox 13's credibility.

Out of curiosity, I just checked her blog. She's back in meltdown mode, having been set off by Campbell's Mormon Times column this morning. She's now lashing out at him and others -- Carole Mikita, Dan Rascon, Scott Taylor -- whose egregious offense, it would seem, is that they are Mormons who cover Mormonism for news organizations.

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Here's a blog with some interesting commentary on the whole matter of Fox 13's Bielanko going ballistic about Elder Oaks's speech and about the Church insisting that she honor the Church's embargo on information about the speech until after it was delivered.

Well at least she quoted the whole paragraph this time.

"It is important to note that while this aggressive intimidation in connection with the Proposition 8 election was primarily directed at religious persons and symbols, it was not anti-religious as such. These incidents were expressions of outrage against those who disagreed with the gay-rights position and had prevailed in a public contest. As such, these incidents of

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I saw one Fox 13 News report on the so-called "backlash" against Elder Oaks's comments. It struck me as particularly shrill. It's not difficult now to imagine why, considering that their news operation employs an executive producer who wrote a vulgarity-laced anti-Mormon diatribe in a blog.

Indeed. Some Mormons might even go so far as to say that the backlash against Elder Oaks was similar to the intimidation of Southern blacks during the civil rights movement.

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What do you all think of her logic and reasoning here?

"You're making a comparison between blacks and women and gays. I'M making a comparison between time and time and time.

Every reason you just gave for gays not being allowed to marry is an ACTUAL reason. The reason Dallin H. Oaks alluded to in his most recent address to BYU, which I'm assuming you didn't read, was not that... And HE called [the civil rights] "newly asserted". And my point was exactly what I said: newness is irrelevant. It makes for a bad debate argument.

It's like you read what I said and instead of taking it at face value you made assumptions about what I was trying to say. Except that I'm a good communicator and if I had wanted to make the point that gays should be allowed to marry, I would have. I never did.

I'll say it again: I wish [church leaders] would stop making the point that these civil rights that gays are asking for are new and invented because it's a poor point to make, one that's easily batted out of the park. The church itself is new because it needed a country and an era where its freedoms would be protected. Same with gays. The way something has been for thousands of years is not a good reason to withhold."

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It is not a valid comparison to Elder Oaks's reasoning, though that's what you are trying to say. Your comment was dumb, as Dr. Peterson so aptly put it.

Pay attention Scotty.

I was not making a comparison to Oak's reasoning. I was making a comparison to his analogy.

Oaks likened the attacks post Prop 8 to what African Americans experienced during the civil rights movement.

I realize you want to try to spin the gaffe by focusing on the reasoning, and your buddy at Mormon Times wants to yell context, but a gaffe is a gaffe is a gaffe. People should not go around comparing their mistreatment to the mistreatment suffered by the blacks of the South. Especially when one of the past leaders of the organization they represent thought that the civil rights leaders were communist dupes.

But you and Dr. P are right, my comment was dumb. But that was the point.

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Unfortunately, the backlash and unflattering coverage was, and should have been, obviously predictable. Even to Elder Oaks. It generates questions and discussions about our history I, as the Church itself, prefer to avoid with the general public and non members.

I for one wish the Church would take a page from the catholics re the inquisition, and standing up for Jews in WWIi, and just admit this policy was the mistake of men. It would get it behind us and allow all sides to move forward with understanding and forgiveness. Otherwise I am afraid it will just be more of the same in the future.

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Pay attention Scotty.

I was not making a comparison to Oak's reasoning. I was making a comparison to his analogy.

Oaks likened the attacks post Prop 8 to what African Americans experienced during the civil rights movement.

I realize you want to try to spin the gaffe by focusing on the reasoning, and your buddy at Mormon Times wants to yell context, but a gaffe is a gaffe is a gaffe. People should not go around comparing their mistreatment to the mistreatment suffered by the blacks of the South. Especially when one of the past leaders of the organization they represent thought that the civil rights leaders were communist dupes.

But you and Dr. P are right, my comment was dumb. But that was the point.

It would help if Elder Oaks had actually compared the "mistreatment" of the two groups. The fact that you keep repeating this incorrectly tells me you either never read his actual talk or just like repeating erroneous information.

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I for one wish the Church would take a page from the catholics re the inquisition, and standing up for Jews in WWIi, and just admit this policy was the mistake of men. It would get it behind us and allow all sides to move forward with understanding and forgiveness. Otherwise I am afraid it will just be more of the same in the future.

Standing up for Jews?

You must have missed the now locked thread where in documents from the pope have been uncovered which encouraged bishops and nuns to kidnap 5000 jewish kids and Baptize them Christians.

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Pay attention Scotty.

"Scotty"?

I realize you want to try to spin the gaffe by focusing on the reasoning,

Yeah. That's right. We're trying to "spin" things by pointing out that what the knee-jerk critics are seething about, in their bumper-sticker analyses of (typically) second- or third-hand accounts of the speech, bears little if any relation to what Elder Oaks was actually talking about. How ridiculous of us to insist that it might be relevant to focus on what he actually said.

your buddy at Mormon Times wants to yell context

How icky! Context is for wusses.

Taking things out of context is so much more fun!

the gaffe . . . a gaffe is a gaffe is a gaffe.

And what isn't a gaffe isn't a gaffe. No matter how many times certain folks hop up and down and claim it is.

People should not go around comparing their mistreatment to the mistreatment suffered by the blacks of the South.

People should also learn to read.

And to think rationally.

Especially when one of the past leaders of the organization they represent thought that the civil rights leaders were communist dupes.

If you knew what you were talking about, you'd realize that that is a red herring.

But you and Dr. P are right, my comment was dumb. But that was the point.

That's certainly my point. Your comment was dumb.

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Unfortunately, the backlash and unflattering coverage was, and should have been, obviously predictable. Even to Elder Oaks. It generates questions and discussions about our history I, as the Church itself, prefer to avoid with the general public and non members.

I for one wish the Church would take a page from the catholics re the inquisition, and standing up for Jews in WWIi, and just admit this policy was the mistake of men. It would get it behind us and allow all sides to move forward with understanding and forgiveness. Otherwise I am afraid it will just be more of the same in the future.

Like the ancient prophets (Jeremiah and Lehi and John the Baptist come immediately to mind) modern prophets should focus on being popular and not making waves.

Perhaps they should choose their topics and positions on the basis of focus-group research?

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