A GOOD EXAMPLE OF HOW TO NOT REPORT
Spero News publishes on the Internet news reports supplied by a large group
of contributors. 1 One of
their articles deals with the decline of membership in Canada's major Christian
denominations. It was sent to them by Ferdy Baglo and published on 2005-DEC-05.
2 It was attributed to a report by
Ecumenical News International (EMI). 3
The main topic of the article is the declining membership of two major Canadian
Protestant denominations: the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) and the United
Church of Canada (UCC).
It is a good example of how to not report religious information.
Some of the problems with the article are:
|The original article is copyrighted by Ecumenical News International.
However, their copyright was not acknowledged even though it appears to
have been copied in full from their web site.|
|The article quotes Keith McKerracher who prepared a membership study for the ACC.
He indicated that:|
|The church membership was 642,000 in 2001. However the source for
this information is not given. Other information sources give much
higher memberships. For example, the 2001 Canadian Census reports that
2,035,500 Canadians identify with the ACC. To be helpful, the article
should give the source of the data, and a definition of who is included
in the number -- whether it be only active and baptized adult members,
all adult adherents, adults and children, etc.|
is losing 13,000 members a year and "is facing extinction by the middle of
this century." The assumption(s) for the extinction conclusion are
not given. Presumably McKerracher divided the 2001 membership by the
loss in membership per year and came up with the value of 49 years. If
one assumes that the rate of decline in membership will remain constant
over the next five decades, then his conclusion is valid. However, that
is not necessarily valid. The article gives no room for other scenarios.|
|The article refers to at least six organization directly by name. But
when the mention the name of the group that maintains this web site, they
state: "A group that calls itself Ontario Consultants on Religious
Tolerance....." (Emphasis ours). To at least some readers, this
probably projects a condescending attitude to our organization and may imply
hypocrisy or phoniness. |
|The article refers to Anglicans, Christians, Jehovah's Witnesses,
Lutherans, Mennonites, Pentecostals, and Roman Catholics:|
|In each case, they capitalized the name of the faith group. This is
normal practice, and is a sign of respect. But when the refer to
non-Christians, they use lower case, as in "atheists, agnostics,
humanists, secularists..." which might indicate lack of respect.|
|They refer to Christian groups directly by name. But when referring
to non-Christians, they refer to "self-professed
atheists, agnostics,..." (Emphasis ours). This term appears
frequently in the media and on the Internet. Christians, Muslims, Jews,
etc. are referred to directly; references to such folks as Wiccans,
Atheists, Agnostics are "self-professed" or "self-identified."
This can project an condescending, belittling attitude. |
|The article states that the Ontario Consultants on Religious
Tolerance web site refers to self-professed atheists.... Many readers
would conclude that one of our essays, presumably the one on
non-Christian census data, uses this phrase "self
professed." It does not and to our knowledge never did. We do avoid the
phrase (except when quoting the media) because we regard it as derogatory.
- Ferdy Baglo, "Canada's churches suffering serious decline. Researcher
says membership losses pushing Canadian churches to brink of 'extinction',"
- Highlights: "Plummeting attendance shows Canadian church faces
'extinction'," ENI-05-0938, 2005-DEC-15, Ecumenical News International,
Copyright © 2005 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2005-DEC-16
Latest update: 2005-DEC-16
Author: B.A. Robinson