I keep thinking that Presbyterians need an alternative to the Layman, an advocacy operation dressed in journalistic garb that can’t see fit to perform the most basic functions of journalistic due diligence. The Layman is misleading and (more to the point) useless for constructive conversation about disputed matters in the Presbyterian Church.
We need an alternative.
(The Presbyterian Outlook is, in every respect, a superior product to The Layman; it’s a bi-weekly print magazine with strong convictions about a balanced rotation of commentary. Yet its news reporting resources are deployed mostly in Louisville and at national events.)
Here are two examples of why we need an alternative to the Layman.
1) A decade ago my colleague and I had a spirited disagreement about the state of things in the PC(USA). She expressed her views on a personal blog, and I believe I added comments. Mere days later The Layman published something in news story form that reported that this pastor, my colleague, had said all of these things as if a reported had spoken with her; the piece quoted her at length and added incisive editorial comment in support of her statements.
I, of course, recognized my colleagues comments as direct quotations of her blog posts. So I called her. “Did you know you’re in The Layman?” I asked. She did not. She was gobsmacked. Nobody from the Layman contacted her before printing a “news” article full of quotes from her blog.
2) Then last Friday The Layman published this piece about the presbytery I belong to threatening to “Renege” (sic) on a dismissal agreement it had made with a church (it hadn’t). The story’s sole source is an email from a party to the dismissal proceedings sent the previous day to multiple parties (myself included), and it shows zero evidence of even the most basic fact checking. No phone calls. No emails. Nothing. It simply dresses up an aggrieved individual’s email as a news story.
We need an alternative. The future of the church could be well served by a digital, broadly-distributed instrument of news and analysis. The only alternative now is to ignore The Layman. After years of dumping their unsolicited print piece in the recycle bin, that alternative is well-practiced. I think we need something else.
I think there could be real value in a digital source for news and information pertaining to the PC(USA) that has a progressive editorial agenda but takes seriously the conventions of ethical journalism?
Who’s with me?