Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Distinct Disservice

Ray Ring’s report on the Mormon Church’s effort to pass Proposition 8 in California does the Mr. Ring, High Country News, and its readers a distinct disservice. Mr. Ring’s article is an example of how a lazy reporter can slant an article to make a situation match the preconceived notions that reporter brings with him.

I contest that Rexburg and the surrounding community is “in denial,” as Mr. Ring quotes a local police officer in saying, about the troubles this community faces. Had Mr. Ring spent time talking with more area residents than he did, he would have found many who are concerned about the issues of suicide, child abuse, drugs and other pernicious social issues he implies this area’s citizens sweep under the rug. Had he spent time in some of the meetings local Mormons are “forced” into attending every Sunday, he would have heard frank discussions on these subjects, at least in some of the meetings I attend.

Though these subjects may not be the subject of every discussion held both inside and outside the walls of the local LDS churches, these topics are discussed enough that the article’s claim of an area in denial rings hollow to my ears. I do not deny that there are members of the Mormon Church here who choose to remain ignorant of the area’s ills, nor do I deny that their treatment of gays and lesbians is reprehensible. I protest, however, Mr. Ring’s choice to paint the area’s population with such a broad brush.

The majority of residents of Rexburg and the surrounding area are fully aware of the troubles that lie beneath the calm patina, as would be residents of any small town of any religious or non-religious bent.

Again, if Mr. Ring had spent more time in Rexburg talking with more sources than he quotes in the article, he would have found a broader spectrum of opinion and concern. The High Country News’ choice to print this article without asking Mr. Ring to put down the broad brush reflects poorly on Mr. Ring and the publication he works for.

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