Cracker-Jack Journalism

There was an article published in yesterday’s Times-Herald in Coweta County, Georgia, titled, “Believe it or Not,” written by ace reporter Alex McRae.

It seems that McRae came across the published brochure for the 2008 Atheist Alliance International Convention, and decided to forgo the journalistic process and use his column to simply mock the AAI’s efforts. Apparently, once you’re granted columnist status in small-town, small-circulation newspaper, you don’t have to put any more effort into your work than goes into the average op/ed letter coming from your average joe.

Instead of taking the opportunity to learn more about the point of the convention and its attendees, McRae chooses instead to level a number of juvenile ad hominem attacks:

Don’t be alarmed. Atheist World isn’t a new planet. It’s a convention of people who don’t believe in much of anything. Small crowds are expected.

Maybe attendance to the Sept. 25-28 event would be higher if it were hyped like a political convention, complete with free whiskey, strippers, red-faced speakers, back-room bargaining sessions and bazillions of balloons.

Apparently, atheists aren’t fond of such frivolity. Guess it might imply they actually enjoyed life.

Is this because the attendees won’t be rolling in the aisles? Apparently, he finds the whole convention’s itinerary dull:

The promotional brochure on the Internet says …

“The Atheist Alliance International (AAI) will hold its annual convention on the Queen Mary, in Long Beach, Calif., Sept. 25-28, 2008. Titled “Unsinkable Atheism,” the conference will mix freethinking intellectual discussion with charity events, an atheist wedding, a salute to ‘atheists in foxholes,’ and a children’s summer camp.”

Intellectual discussion? Atheist wedding? Charity events? Set the snooze alarm and call me when the Cyndi Lauper concert starts.

How about nobody calls you at all? How about people who care about the message (and who want to remind themselves that the world’s not completely full of willfully ignorant, dismissive jerks) just leave you out of the party? I think that would make everyone happier in the long run.

Wait it gets better – we really get a glimpse into the mature, open-minded side of the author:

…[O]ne section of the brochure is titled “Who We Are.” But it doesn’t tell “Who We Are.” It actually describes “How We Live,” described in such nuggets as:

“Atheism is living one’s life without the supernatural,” and “We are responsible for humane interaction with other animals and for the preservation of our habitable planet.”

Yawn.

Nice. This passes for journalism. Here’s his closer:

By the way, AAI bills itself as religion-free. As opposed to sugar-free or fat-free, I guess. But the more you read about this group, it seems like what they’re most free of is a sense of humor. There’s not a light moment on the agenda.

You wonder why. Here’s an “enlightened” guess: Maybe atheists refuse to embrace laughter because they’re afraid that one day they’ll discover the joke’s on them.

I don’t recall seeing anywhere in the header of the brochure that this is meant to be a party-fest, but it seems to me the organizers have done a fine job of including plenty of levity (such as comedians Troy Conrad and Julia Sweeney), interspersed with informative speakers and interesting topics. Some people don’t find learning boring. In a perfect world, someone in the career of delivering news to the masses should be such a person.

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