Thursday, May 05, 2005
Demonizing religious believers: Former New York Times reporter John McCandlish Phillips takes the "elite" commentariat to task over their outrageous rhetoric when it comes to the religious right. The piece is well worth a read, but I'd like to highlight the autobiographical portion of the article.
I come at this with an insider/outsider vantage and with real affection for many of those engaged in this enterprise. When the Times put me on its reporting staff, I was the only evangelical Christian among some 275 news and editorial employees, and certainly the only one who kept a leather-bound Bible on his desk. As a professional insider (18 years of reporting, mostly general assignment work) and a spiritual outsider, I reaped some sweet rewards. Two Times editors, A.M. Rosenthal and Arthur Gelb, collaborated on a sketch of me. Responding to skeptics about the capacity of a "deeply religious man" to do such work, they concluded: "There are editors, indeed, who believe that if having a Bible on his desk has been of any help to Phillips, the Times might well be advised to form a Gideon society of its own for the benefit of other reporters."
The idea of the Times forming a Gideon society is probably the most ludicrous thing I've heard of in a long time. The very idea makes me chuckle.
But the other very curious thing that this reveals is the incredible lack of diversity in the Times' newsroom. Phillips doesn't mention how long ago it was that he worked for America's newspaper of record, but talk about monolithic -- one third of one percent of the Times newsroom was evangelical Christians. Maybe the Times does need some sort of outreach program to hire "people of faith." You know that the liberals who run the Times wouldn't coutenance having only one African-American, one Asian-American or only one homosexual in the newsroom.
Frankly, I'm a bit surprised that the Times only had one evangelical Christian in the newsroom. I mean, it seems like you've really got to go out of your way to avoid hiring evangelicals to have just one.
There's the possibility that there's some self-selection at work -- evangelical Christians not wanting to work in that environment -- but if we were talking about some other minority group, one would also have to put some stock in the odds that there is/was also a hostile work environment in place.