Sensational Journalism

So apparently Lipscomb’s Institute for Conflict Management held an event last week to promote dialogue and cooperation between different local religious groups. One of my favorite professors there, Dr. Lee Camp, spoke at one of the sessions.

This is all well and good, but the next day the Tennessean ran a front-page article about the conference, suggesting that Dr. Camp believes Christians should drop certain beliefs (like the Lordship of Jesus Christ) in order to get along with other religions. Naturally, all Sheol broke loose, with bloggers and talk radio personalities calling for Dr. Camp’s head, or at least his immediate firing. Dr. Camp and president Lowry were swamped with e-mails and phone calls. The real problem, however, was not what Dr. Camp said, but how the Tennessean completely misrepresented his views. Here is his response to the Tennessean article. Of all the Christians I know, he is one who has absolutely devoted himself to the concept of Jesus Christ as the Lord of his life, to the point of making suggestions that I think most conservative Christians would find simply too radical. (BTW, I highly recommend his book, “Mere Discipleship“, if you would like a deep and honest challenge to your current perceptions of Christianity.)

So, the Tennessean selectively quoted him to make it sound like he was saying something completely opposite of what he was really trying to say. Do they publish a retraction or correction? No. They do publish Dr. Camp’s response (not on the front page, of course), but don’t admit to any mistake. They simply note that he disputes their representation. They also include an article making note of how much publicity the whole sensational mess got them, and quote some random reader who says he agrees with the views that the paper falsely attributed to Dr. Camp. I’m currently not a Tennessean subscriber, but if they ever come knocking on my door, I’ll be sure to explain to them why I never intend to become one.

Most of the bloggers who first wrote about this and blasted Lipscomb and Professor Camp have since apologized or at least linked to the response, but some have claimed not to see how the paper misrepresented him. The argument is that they accurately quoted the words he said, so if he said it, he meant it. I’ve decided to create a fictional re-enactment to clarify how taking statements out context can distort their meaning.

At a ground-breaking dietetics conference:

Dietetics guru: So how could anyone in their right mind possibly be in favor of eating vegetables? Because vegetables are great for your body! They have vitamins, minerals, fiber, and lots of other great stuff, like bioflavonoids!

Impression given to conference attendees: The guru loves vegetables.

Published in big local newspaper:


At a recent groundbreaking conference in dietetics at … blah blah blah blah…

Says the guru: “How could anyone in their right mind possibly be in favor of eating vegetables?”

…blah blah blah blah…

Impression given to newspaper readers: The guru hates vegetables.

Was the dietetics guru misquoted? Technically, no.

Was the dietetics guru misrepresented? Absolutely!

[tags]Lee Camp,Tennessean,Camp,Lipscomb[/tags]


Bellsouth Woes

So Bellsouth called us last week and tried talking my wife into upgrading our local phone service from the basic plan ($13/month) to the “Complete Choice” plan ($30/month), which includes a bunch of “features”. Needless to say, she refused, but told me that the salesman wasn’t being very clear and was really pushy. Anyways, we came home from dinner the next night and found a message on our answering machine informing us that our recent Bellsouth “service request” had been completed. Suspicious, I immediately logged on to Bellsouth’s website and sure enough, our service had been upgraded to $30/month.

I was pretty steamed, but there was nothing we could do about it by that point in the evening, so we waited until the next day. I called Bellsouth and eventually got to the right department and sat on hold for 15 minutes. When I finally got to talk to someone, I explained the situation and that we had not authorized or requested the change, and asked him to please take us back to the basic service. At this point I expected that they would fix it right away and report the salesman who had upgraded us without permission. This salesma… I mean, “customer service representative”, however, starts arguing with me about whether or not I really want to go back to the basic service. He took on a demeaning attitude, like, “What’s wrong with you? Why wouldn’t you want these features? Does your phone not have caller ID?”

Are the majority of Bellsouth customers sheep? “Oh, I’m sorry. I must have been confused. Now that you’ve told me I actually want the features, I’ve decided I want the features.” How does this company get away with stupidity like this?

“I’m calling to downgrade my service.”

“Sure, I can help you with that! But first, how would you like to upgrade your service?”

Once I firmly explained where they could go put their features, he started working on it. (Actually, my wife can attest that I was very polite, but also made it clear I was very displeased.) After a few minutes he made the change and told me it would take a few days to go into effect. (Funny, it didn’t take that long to do the upgrade.) But not before he tried to convince me to upgrade my Bellsouth DSL. (“Only $5 more per month!”)

Honestly, the DSL is the only reason we have a home phone line in the first place. So any thoughts out there? Other horror stories? Recommendations on how to live in modern society without interacting with one of the Baby Bells? (It’s a separate topic, but I don’t see how breaking up a huge company regionally allowed anyone in those regions to be free from monopoly.)