J-School Centennial Experience

The Centennial Celebration Online!

  • Meta

Two alumni react to Politics and Religion discussion

Posted by Daniel Everson on September 12, 2008

After the Futures Forum discussion on Politics and Religion—God in the White House, held Thursday morning at the Reynolds Journalism Institute, I spoke with two alumni, Mary McHaney Bebout and Courtney Long James, who attended the session. Below are some of their thoughts.

 

Why did you choose to come to this particular presentation?

CLJ: Probably because of my own personal faith and my interest in how it is covered in the media—and whether it’s fairly covered. Also … as a media buyer for an ad agency, I place media on Beliefnet (the web site for which panelist Dan Gilgoff serves as political editor). They’re one of my clients. So it was interesting to actually see a face and a name.

MMB: It was something my daughter really wanted to see, and I, too, am interested in how faith is covered in the media. And as a lawyer and former journalism student, I always had an interest in political news coverage. And I wanted to see what they would have to say about the election and how faith issues have played a huge role.

 

What did you think of the presentations (given by Gilgoff and Chicago Sun-Times religion columnist Cathleen Falsani)?

CLJ: I thought it was fascinating. I thought it was varied. I thought they had very interesting information for us. I thought they had good dialogue between one another, and you could tell they had a lot of respect for each other, which was interesting. They weren’t afraid to answer any questions. They were very open.

MMB: At first I was disappointed that the original panelists were not able to show. We went to school with Major Garrett (of FOX News, originally scheduled to moderate the session). So we would have liked to see him. … But I thought the coverage was excellent, very professional. … And then I learned more about this center for religious studies (the Center on Religion & the Professions), which I don’t remember even hearing about when we were in school. … So I thought that was interesting, that there are classes (about religion reporting) that students can take.

 

What about the questions and discussion portion of the seminar?

CLJ: I thought that people asked some amazing questions. I thought it was very interesting in this discussion on religion and politics and faith that someone would ask a question that was so obviously very biased. It was full of hate, the way she said, “How could creationism be taught in the 21st Century?” I thought that was amazing.

MMB: I thought one of the best questions was from a student (Laura Kebede), the one about the Rick Warren forum. I thought it was fabulous. I thought it was terrific, and it was raised not by some alum or a person in the media, but a student. And I thought that was the best question that was asked.

CLJ: I agree, that was a great question, very timely. I probably could’ve sat in there for another hour. I found it to be that interesting. Obviously, as they mentioned, by the size of the people that were in the room—that it was standing room only—it was something that a lot of people are thinking about and are interested in learning more about.

MMB: Not only that, I think we’re now going to change our schedule and go to the next session that has to talk about faith.

 

If there are one or two things that you take away from this discussion and the presentations, what would that be?

CLJ: Mine would be that, as a person of faith, I felt that they were very good at reminding me how important it is to be open and understanding of other people’s faith and to not immediately jump to conclusions and labels. I felt it was a very good reminder to be respectful of other people’s faith, whether it’s something you believe in or not. It’s important to hear what people have to say. You don’t have to necessarily agree with them, but that’s part of what’s great about this country is that we have the opportunity to speak of our faith and our religion freely.

MMB: There are three things that hit me. First was the comment that was made (by Gilgoff) that American elections are now won or lost on character. I thought that was a very good point. The second thing that I thought was interesting was, now, our culture has changed or our society’s expectation has changed to the extent that you can no longer take the old-line view and say, “My faith is personal and I want to keep it quiet.” Now, really it’s a requirement, I think, based on what I heard today, for all candidates to be out there, very transparent and open about what they believe. And then they’re judged by the American public about their beliefs. I thought that was an interesting shift. … Then the third thing that I thought was fascinating is that it sounds like faith coverage is going to be most accessible on the Web. I haven’t ever blogged on Beliefnet, but now I probably will.

CLJ: I would be interested to ask (Gilgoff) a question: did any of the faith issues … become so important when we all walked through the Clinton era, where this man was obviously a churchgoer with his wife? … But yet the whole character issue came up as, “Wait a minute, who is this man really? What does he really believe in?” And I just wonder how that played into, all of a sudden, people talking about faith, what’s real and what isn’t, what is really personal, and the whole character issue. … Actually, as an evangelical, I have voted all over the spectrum, because I look at character more than I look at just specific religious preferences.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: