Friday, August 21, 2009

Stubborn facts on Episcopalians

Friday, August 21, 2009
by Douglas LeBlanc

Jon Meacham has occasionally cited John Adams as saying facts are stubborn things, but apparently some facts aren’t stubborn enough to be noticed by Newsweek under Meacham’s editing.

I truly wanted to like Lisa Miller’s latest Newsweek column. For starters, I agree with her: The Episcopal Church attracts far more news coverage than its membership numbers merit. I’ve devoted much of my journalism career to writing about the Episcopal Church, and I am part of the problem. I have no trouble admitting this or laughing about it.

Further, Miller steps up to one of tmatt’s favorite hobbies: Explaining why the Episcopal Church attracts so much coverage.

What ruins the piece for me is that Newsweek has not corrected errors first pointed out by fellow Godbeat scribe Frank Lockwood. It openly corrected one error: The claim that President Reagan ever identified himself as an Episcopalian. It quietly corrected two other problems: Referring to the church’s General Convention as an annual rather than a triennial meeting, and referring to President Ford as if he were still alive. (Under a sacramental reading of Hebrews 12:1, one could make the case for referring to President Ford’s faith in the present tense.)

But Newsweek has let stand some howlers involving membership statistics. As one of many journalists cursed with innumeracy, I sympathize with Miller on these mistakes. I once wildly overstated the membership of the Episcopal Diocese of Springfield, but as soon as I realized my error I alerted my editor to it, and he corrected it. the rest


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