Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Chase Out the Fundies

From Signorile:

Why would Rivenburg be pushing an agenda in his reporting? Let's look at the website of the World Journalism Institute, where Rivenburg is listed as a "guest faculty" member.

"In this age of mass secular media, the mission of the World Journalism Institute is to overcome the culture's efforts to eclipse God by providing a counter-thrust to the secular media, as well as the tepid and non-discerning Christian media," the institute's site reads. "By helping train aspiring Biblically-minded journalists, WJI can lift the spiritually impoverished public to the renewing grace of God, and to this end we must press our unwilling materialistic-naturalistic newsroom culture itself into the strategic service of the universal and unrelenting claims of the Lord of the cosmos."

Responding to some questions I emailed him, Rivenburg, whose Columbia University master's thesis about modern exorcism was titled "Deliverance From the Devil," attempted to distance himself from WJI.

"I'm not sure that listing me as an instructor for a five-hour feature-writing seminar necessarily implies that I'm an evangelical Christian [I'm Catholic] or endorse all of their philosophies," Rivenburg said. "But I have, in the past, thought about asking them not to put me on their website. Maybe I should reconsider that."

If he doesn't agree with the institute's philosophy, why would he lend his name and reputation to it? Why would he work for it at all?

"It's not like I'm doing ads or cover blurbs for them," he responded. "I simply agreed to teach a seminar on feature writing and they've listed me as one of their instructors, which I am." (Rivenburg told the LA Observed website last week that though he didn't fully agree with WJI, it did offer a "generous" fee and that a friend told him to "give it a whirl.")

As for his own position on same-sex marriage, Rivenburg prefers to stay in the closet, even as his association with WJI seems to have outed his leanings.

"When I wrote about the presidential race in 2000, it would have been unprofessional for me to publicly discuss my political beliefs or voting record," he said. "Likewise, I think it's unprofessional for me to publicly discuss my personal views on this topic."

Rivenburg, who says his editors assigned him the same-sex marriage piece (an example, perhaps, of bias or carelessness on their part), often writes opinionated political and cultural humor columns for the L.A. Times, which raises the question of why he can't offer me a position on same-sex marriage. It's interesting that he takes on the mantle of objective reporter when he's writing about issues important to Christian fundamentalists, such as his pieces on so-called partial birth abortion and how Hugh Hefner brought us the era of AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases.

If Big Media is going to stop gay journalists who get married from covering the same-sex marriage movement, shouldn't it be clamping down on reporters and editors aiding and abetting a hidden Christian right agenda as well?