When should faith communities approach the media with stories of what is happening inside their churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, denominations, etc.?
The "GetReligion" section of Patheos.com has an answer to the question, too, based on what a leading Baptist voice said recently.
Here's a quote from the Associated Baptist Press story:
"Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson said the prohibition in First Corinthians 6 on church members suing one another in secular court means 'we don’t take matters before unbelievers.'
"'This also means that you don’t take matters to the press,’ Patterson said. 'What goes on in the church of God doesn’t go to the press.'"
Well, frankly, the press doesn't care about a lot of what goes on inside religious institutions. Some of it is simply internal stuff of no wider interest. And other matters should be covered but the press has no one to do it or no one competent to do it, so it gets left undone.
But I think the Patterson advice is an odd reading of that passage from the Bible and I think it's bad public relations advice. If you have a story you want the press to tell about you, of course you should shape it yourself and then take it to the press.
What happens after that generally is out of your hands as a religious leader. But you've offered the story to the public in the best shape you can.
If, on the other hand, you have a story of something bad happening in your community, it's always best to tell it yourself and tell it your way and not wait for the press to discover it and make it look as if you've tried to cover it up.
Ask the Catholic Church how it worked out to let the press discover the sexual abuse scandal. Always try to get ahead of bad news. Not only will journalists appreciate your honesty but you'll be more likely to have some role in shaping the story.
I'd be interested to know if you have some experience in media coverage of good and bad stories from your faith community. How did it happen and what would you have done differently? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Yes, I know the image here today is of an out-of-date typewriter, but it's not unlike a portable I used when I began my career.)
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WHAT WOULD JESUS WATCH?
Hollywood is looking for good film ideas and scripts by searching through Bible stories, it's reported. Yes, the Bible. Or, as it's no doubt known in Tinseltown, The Greatest Story Ever Sold.