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Grapevine: Not-So-Sour Grapes

Reported by Nancy - December 3, 2005 -

Jim Angle substituted for anchor Brit Hume on Special Report Friday night (12/2) & as usual did a more professional job, with significantly less smirking or sneering & significantly more objectivity. Even the Grapevine Segment was less partisan & certainly less whiny. Don't get me wrong: all things are relative, & Angle's approach leaves plenty of room for the tactics usually employed by Special Report.

"Picking" #3 on the Grapevine was typical of the usual treatmtent Special Report uses on these stories: a micro-blurb that may or may not convey the substance & context of the story, with quotes selected to elicit an emotional response from viewers rather than to illuminate.

Angle reported that Utah atheists are suing the state "to remove memorials to highway troopers who have died in the line of duty." He said they claim "the 12-foot high crosses constitute a government endorsement of religion." He noted that the crosses "mark the sites where troopers lost their lives." Angle included two quotes in his report:
1 - Richard Andrews (one of the plaintiffs): "I feel the same way a Jew might feel if you put a state symbol on a swastika."
2 - an unnamed "daughter of one fallen trooper:" removing the crosses would be "devastating" for her family.

Comments: A little more background would have clarified what this story is actually about. There are 14 of these crosses, all erected since 1998, & either 7 or 9 of them (this number varied in different sources) are on public land. The lawsuit was filed in federal court by American Atheists Inc & 3 individual plaintiffs. The Salt Lake City Tribune reported.that "the problem with the crosses is the Utah Highway Patrol logo they carry." Without this background, the quote that Angle used from plaintiff Andrews makes no sense

Angle never informed viewers that those who filed the lawsuit have no problem with memorials to fallen UHP troopers; they simply don't want those memorials to be a blend of government & religious symbols.

The article in the Deseret News has a better photo than the Tribune of one pf the crosses -- you can see the UHP logo in both, but there's a woman standing next to the cross in the latter, so you get a good idea of just how tall these crosses are.

That Deseret News article also included these statements:

As for the religious symbolism, [UHP spokesman Jeff] Nigbur said, the cross symbol was chosen as a general symbol to memorialize the fallen. "We chose the cross because the cross is the international sign of peace, and it has no religious significance in it," Nigbur said.

"I think that's less than honest," said Salt Lake civil rights attorney Brian Barnard, who represents the atheists. Barnard said the cross is a symbol of Christianity. He has no objection to memorializing fallen troopers, but Barnard said there has to be a better, non-denominational way to do it. "I don't think there's any question that these troopers should be honored. They have given the ultimate sacrifice," Barnard said. "They can be honored in a way that doesn't emphasize religion."

Wouldn't those quotes have given viewers more useful information than the quotes Angle chose to use?

The way Angle reported this story plays to the "poor persecuted Christians" myth that Fox uses so well & so often & also contributes to Fox's hyping of the equally mythic "war on Christmas."

While I was poking around local Utah newspapers, I found a couple of other "pickings" that would be suitable for the Grapevine, such as

Polygamist could lose Utah judgeship
Site boasts of low black population in Eagle Mountain

I wonder if the Grapevine will cover those?

NOTE TO READERS: Please stay on topic (Angle's selective reporting of only some of the details of this story). O/T comments will be deleted. Thanks.