March 21, 2014

Praying for better journalism at the New York Times

NEW YORK — It was a perfectly ordinary invitation to gather for Christian fellowship, the kind of message believers often circulate among colleagues that they know share their faith.

In this case, Michael Luo invited a circle of fellow journalists in The New York Times newsroom to breakfast, including one former pastor of an evangelical church.

Yes, this tiny Times flock plans to gather again. No, the veteran reporter was not willing to name any names.

"The Times is like a lot of other elite cultural institutions," said Luo, speaking at The King's College in lower Manhattan's financial district. The newsroom is full of "cosmopolitan, urban types, highly educated people who went to the top colleges whose cultural sensibilities are probably more shaped ... by the Upper West Side and Park Slope, Brooklyn, than, you know, the Bible Belt.

"So it's certainly not the easiest place to say that you're a Christian. In fact, some of those people at that breakfast who have confided their faith to me have often sworn me to secrecy."

After giving the matter careful thought, Luo did mention his public lecture at the evangelical college -- "Articles of Faith: A Believer's Journey Through The New York Times" -- on his Facebook page.

The Harvard graduate has faced more than his share of tricky situations, whether reporting in war-torn Iraq or in the culture wars of two White House campaigns. After one of his many Times pieces on loopholes in gun-control laws, ran his photo with a caption that called him a "biased anti-gun" reporter.

During the 2007 Values Voters Summit, Luo tried to assure participants that he was a churchgoer who genuinely wanted to understand their beliefs. One activist then introduced Luo to a prominent conservative Christian by saying, "Don't worry, he goes to church." The leader responded, "Well, he'll have to prove it," with a snarl.

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