Tuesday, November 19, 2002

A tale of two newspapers

Toronto Star ombudsman, Don Sellar, reports that the “Canadian Islamic Congress and many Muslims” have complained that the word “crusade” is offensive, even though in common usage it has no religious overtone. Given the prevalence of anti-Semitic and anti-Christian hatred commonly found in Islamic publications, you’d think they’d make an attempt to clean up their own back yard before worrying about their neighbor’s, but apparently that’s not the case. Not to worry, though. Sellar advises the newsroom that “With religion, you can't be too careful. Don't crusade.”

Followers of Islam have no monopoly on hypocrisy, however. Sellar also reports that “the Ontario Press Council last summer upheld an Evangelical Fellowship of Canada complaint that an opinion column in the Star had targeted evangelical Christians in a way that tended to engender bias and hatred toward them.” It determined that in “the context of the column — a spirited rant about intolerance against gays — the term [evangelical] was ‘an unnecessarily hurtful reference to an identifiable group,’ i.e. evangelical Christians.” Yeah, we all know how tolerant evangelical Christians are to that other identifiable group, “sodomites.”

In a splendid display of moral equivalence, “the Star's policy manual walks on tiptoes. ‘Never hold up one religion or set of beliefs as superior to another. In other words, don't be judgmental,’ it advises. ‘Never single out a religion or religious practice for ridicule. In other words, be respectful.’”

Or in other words no religious practice, no matter how odious, may ever be criticized. Requiring women to wear Burqas, or to leap on the burning funeral pyre of their deceased husband, may not be ridiculed or regarded as inferior to taking communion at your local Church. “[D]on’t be judgmental.”

Meanwhile 235 miles away, ombudsman John X. Miller, of the presumably family-friendly Detroit Free Press, faces reader criticism about a prominent, front-page headline, "Warren Santa is charged in killing." The version on their website was even more direct, “Santa's a killer, cops say.” The story was about “why a man who'd dressed up as Santa since 1995 in Warren's holiday parade was charged with killing his daughter in a dispute over Christmas decorations.”

Miller explains that this wasn’t just a last minute slip; “There was discussion among editors about the print version of the story and headline the night it was published, out of concern that the newspaper not go overboard.” The good news is that, “While most of those editors didn't think the newspaper overplayed or sensationalized the story, they said the reactions will make them more carefully consider the sensibilities of our readers.”

Next time maybe they’ll place it on page two.

On pop-up ads and linking
The links on the left side of my website constitute endorsements. I don’t necessarily agree with or approve of the content of a site I’ve linked to, but I consider it interesting or useful enough to merit inclusion on my list. I frequent all the sites on a regular basis.

I’ve removed links before, primarily when a site became inactive, but today I’ve removed one because I can no longer in good conscience refer readers to it. The problem isn’t the content, which continues to be quite interesting, but that clicking on the link triggers multiple pop-up ads, including one that tries to reset the home page on my browser.

Blogs and bloggers come in many different flavors, some more commercial than others. While The OmbudsGod is strictly non-commercial (no donations requested or accepted), I do on occasion make small tips, especially on sites run by professional journalists. I consider blogging to be the best thing that has happened to journalism since the abolition of the Fairness Doctrine, and tipping is a way to encourage the new medium.

If you must use pop-up ads, limit them to no more than one per session, and stay away from anything that would attempt to change a reader’s computer settings. Anything more demonstrates an inexcusable lack of courtesy toward the reader.

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