Editorial: Leading horses to water

Our main mission at the Pagan Newswire Collective is to provide primary source reporting for our local communities.  A secondary mission is to assist mainstream reporters and news organizations when they are covering news that touches on Paganism.  Most of the time you never know about the article because, after talking with us, they realize the story they thought they had doesn’t really exist.  That’s a good thing.  You wouldn’t believe what we are approached with from time to time.  Other times we give reporters information about Paganism, point them towards reputable persons to interview, and do basic research for them.  This is an invaluable service for reporters, who often know little to nothing about Paganism and have extremely tight deadlines.  We do this to promote better, more nuanced mainstream reporting on issues that affect us.

Thursday the Pagan Newswire Collective was contacted by Matt Nestel, a reporter for the New York Post, who needed help on an article about New York Councilman Dan Halloran.  Halloran, and five other elected officials, are accused of accepting bribes and attempting to rig an election.  What makes this germane to Pagans is that Halloran is Theodish, which is a tribal form of Heathenry.  The reporter was looking for assistance on several things – understanding the religion, seeing if Halloran’s alleged actions were influenced by his religion, and interviewing Heathens who know Halloran.

To his credit, Nestel spent the better part of two days researching Theodism.  That’s a considerable amount of time in the news industry.  He asked intelligent questions, asked for more information on areas he still didn’t understand, and requested multiple sources to interview.  We spent just over 4 hour son the phone with him during the course of two days answering his questions.  We connected him to some really fantastic, knowledgeable people to interview.   Sources to read to learn more about the religion of Theodism.  Then we stepped back and hoped our assistance wasn’t in vain.  We can help, but we can’t write the article for the reporter.

So how did Nestel’s article turn out?  The first sentence read, “The city councilman who bungled his way into federal bribery charges is also a total bonehead in his kooky heathen religion — whose members wear medieval garb, make sacrifices to multiple gods and compete in combat games.”

As the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but can’t make ’em drink.

6 thoughts on “Editorial: Leading horses to water

  1. Mark Digtn says:

    I thought it was “You can lead a man to Congress but you can’t make him think” well anyway it is too bad that the article went the way it did and bravo for attempting to inform the ignorant

  2. johnstitely says:

    I jst mailed the author of that article the following:

    I love the even handedness of the media with minority religions. You began an article with a sentence that contained:

    “…his kooky heathen religion — whose members wear medieval garb, make sacrifices to multiple gods and compete in combat games.”

    Would you have considered writing the sentence “The city councilman who bungled his way into federal bribery charges is also a total bonehead in his kooky christian religion — whose members wear medieval garb, make sacrifices to multiple (3) gods and practice symbolic cannibalism.”?

    I would suggest if you continue to write such articles you at least purge the word “kooky” from your vocabulary. Every faith from the outside is a collection of nonsense and fairy tales and from the inside is a metaphor for the most sublime spiritual experience.

    Every religion has individuals who the faith is not proud of. You would not have considered writing a similar sentence about the catholic church—the church that aided and abetted child molesters for years and still has difficulty distinguishing these crimes from consensual fornication in public pronouncements. What religion is it we should be nervous about?

    Do you believe there is a value in derogation of minority religions? If you are on the outside and not familiar with the forms lets take a look at some mainstream faiths, Christianity and Judaism both start with a story of a talking snake who is claimed to have deceiving mankind by telling him things that by any honest read were the complete truth and led them away from the God who apparently was not telling them the truth. (They were told that they would die and did not. They were told that they would be as gods and the concern was if they ate of just one more tree they “would be as one of us”) Christianity was founded by a man who claim to have been accosted by a dead criminal, he had never previously met. This individual (zombie?) claimed to have been born after his mother had been impregnated by a god. We won’t even talk about Islam which was founded by the husband of a successful merchant who was secretly told by a spirit that every religious text in existence was wrong and that he should use all means necessary to replace them with what the voices told him to do.

    The absurdities abound, each of which can be invidiously characterized as strange- at best. If you are going to write about religions you might meditate on what I tell door to door evangelists. “ I don’t believe any of that silly stuff. I believe a completely different batch of silly stuff.”

    You should also apologize for your insensitive characterizations.

  3. Michael Smith says:

    The work that PNC does is so very important and necessary in this world and I am very thankful that there are people who are willing to do this work for our community. Dealing with the press, no matter who they are, is difficult work.

    That said, I knew when I saw the words “New York Post” that the article was going to be a sensationalized piece of horse poo no matter what you did. The NYP is “News Of The World” for the US and sits, editorially, between The National Enquirer and the Star. It is gutter press at its most demeaning. So it is not a surprise to me that the article turned out exactly like this. Even if the ‘journalist’ that contacted you wished to write a realistic article the editors know that is not what people who purchase that rag desire and voila! we get this.

    Fortunately, I think most people realize that the Post is a supermarket tabloid and treat every article in it as a ‘I saw Elvis at the park and then gave birth to a bat boy’ article. And the few that do not would not have been convinced by any article, no matter how reasonable or thoughtful.

    Keep calm and keep up the good work.

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