Sunday, July 23, 2006

Oregonian Needs to Rethink Journalism Standards

National Archives photo
Actually, it's the sidebar editor in the Living section who especially needs to rethink them.

Nancy Haught has an article in Saturday's Oregonian on the sliding definition of the terms "agnostic", "atheist" and "humanist".

Unfortunately her sidebar editor came up with a quote from Abraham Lincoln taken from a shopping website: One of the storefronts on the website sells atheist products. One is a quotation from Abraham Lincoln that is for sale on t-shirts, tote bags and mouse pads.

The Bible is not my book and Christianity is not my religion. I could never give assent to the long complicated statements of Christian dogma.

Maybe Lincoln did say this sometime, somewhere. But, the storefront does not give a reference or context. And the sidebar editor apparently wasn't curious enough to check it out.

However, Lincoln's first and second inaugural addresses, which are easy to find and substantiate, tell a different story.

In his first inaugural address, the Lincoln who doesn't find Christianity his cup of tea recommends it in pretty high terms:

Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him who has never yet forsaken this favored land are still competent to adjust in the best way all our present difficulty.

As for the Bible, which is not his book, Lincoln quotes from both the New Testament and the Old Testament in his second inaugural address:

It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." [Mt. 18: 7] If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether." [Psalm 19:9]
[scripture references and emphasis are my additions]

I don't mind a strange quotation from Abraham Lincoln. But when it cuts across the clear tenor in Lincoln's official and most well known addresses, you gotta wonder what the editors were thinking. I mean anyone who got a B or above in a college U.S. history course should at least have an idea about the second inaugural address. It's kind of famous.

It may give "color" to a story to throw in an off-the-wall quotation from a famous historical figure. But, even in the Living section, to give a view that is not accurate of the thinking of the man in is prime and to rely on a storefront website for verification . . . Well, I guess the Oregonian won't be criticizing blogs anytime soon for being second-rate journalistic sources.


George Berryman said...

Terrance is MIA! He's gone rogue--!!

terrance said...

It just takes me longer than you, George. Thanks for noticing.

George Berryman said...

Anytime. I am always interested in news from the front, be it from Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon... or Oregon, Washington state and California! Heh :)

terrance said...

Yeah. You never know what cockamamie scheme will come from the blue west coast.