The Sacramento Bee featured atheists on the cover of their Metro page a week ago. The headline read “Atheists stand proud.”
On the lower right-hand corner of the page was a story about “a gathering of 13,000 people at Arco Arena put on by the Bayside Family of Churches to raise money for three schools in the region.”
The paper’s Public Editor Armando Acuna explains the controversy:
“I’m offended by the (Metro) page,” said Robert Cunningham, 42, of Granite Bay and a church member who was at Arco. “The atheists have the front spot, and that makes no sense to me.”
Cunningham said that while the atheists had a right to their opinion, The Bee shouldn’t be their vehicle and that by publishing the story it was siding with “people who don’t believe in God.”
Echoing a sentiment lodged by others, Cunningham said that at the very least, “the stories should have been reversed” on the page, with the Arco event getting top billing.
Which, obviously, would have meant the paper was the vehicle of the church…
Why was the decision made to put the atheists front and center on the page?
Assistant city editor Ricardo Sandoval was working last Sunday and was involved in the decision about which story to make the centerpiece.
Sandoval said he knew the decision would be controversial with readers either way. While he liked both stories, he thought the one about the atheist gathering was more interesting from a journalistic standpoint, in part because it wasn’t confined to atheists.
The top of the story, for example, was about a rabbi who took to the stage unexpectedly, thanking God for the sunny day and blessing the crowd. A photo and story also talked about a Christian and a San Francisco atheist debating God’s existence.
Acuna summarizes the paper’s decision nicely:
Those who criticize the paper for publishing the atheists’ story or for “taking sides” by making it the centerpiece don’t understand what we do. As best it can, the paper tries to reflect what is going on in this multifaceted community without fear or favor.
Jason Rosenhouse also adds this nugget:
I can guarantee you that no atheist would have complained if the Christian story had been given top billing.
Of course we wouldn’t. We’re so used to seeing Christianity featured in community pages. That in itself is not a bad thing, but Christians are not the only game in town, and it’s nice for a paper to notice that once in a while.
[tags]atheist, atheism, church, Michael Newdow[/tags]