An update on this post:

I occasionally read NYT news stories now, for a very particular reason: the newspaper’s two chief religion reporters, Elizabeth Dias and Ruth Graham, are former students of mine, and I am so proud of the careers they have made for themselves — they are both outstanding at what they do.

So I read whatever they write, but not much else, from the news side anyway. (Sometimes friends send me links and I will usually read those stories.) In general, I simply can’t rely on the NYT, any more than I can rely on Fox News, to tell the truth about anything that I really care about — and my suspicion has increased, if that’s possible, in the year since I wrote that post, thanks to the gradual conquest of the NYT newsroom by “insurrectionists” who openly disdain fair-minded reporting in favor of whatever stories and angles they think will serve their political agenda, AKA Justice.

Recently Elizabeth and Ruth were interviewed in the Times itself about “the challenges of covering religion during a pandemic in a campaign season,” and one thread that ran through the whole interview was reporting under conditions of mistrust. Elizabeth: “I’ve found conservatives are increasingly wary of talking with us no matter what the story is.” Ruth: “The rising distrust of the media among a lot of conservative religious people is a major challenge, and one that is not going away.”

Now, I’m not one of the conservatives they’re talking about — QAnon true believers, MAGA-hat wearers — at least I don’t think I am; maybe Elizabeth and Ruth would disagree. But in any case, if in the highly unlikely event that either Elizabeth or Ruth wanted to interview me about religion, I would be really hesitant. I trust them — I trust them both implicitly — but I don’t trust their editors or the newsroom in which they do their work. I don’t feel I could reasonably expect the final published version of any such story to be … well, to be anything but driven by an ideological urgency in which any white male small-o orthodox Christian such as myself is an Enemy of the People.

This is I think the inevitable outcome in a journalistic world increasingly shaped by Manichaean binaries of the kind that the Right used to specialize in (remember RINOs?) but that the Left now owns the rights to. Consider for instance an idea that I’m sure is highly popular in the NYT newsroom, Ibram X. Kendi’s claim that everyone is either a racist or an antiracist — with the implicit but necessary corollary that he and people who agree with him wholly get to (a) establish the categories, (b) define the categories, and (c) put any given person definitively in the category they choose. What category do you think I am going to be in, regardless of what I have written or said?

In such an environment it’s hard for me to see what good would come of my being interviewed in the New York Times, at least about matters Christian — even if I were being interviewed by people with the honesty and integrity that Elizabeth and Ruth possess. I just think that’s where we are right now.