First Faust, Now This

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Posted May 30, 2007 by Static in News

And God said, “On Sundays, let there be newspapers that weigh 27 pounds each, contain more than 4 million ads, cover thy hands in pesky ink smudges, and provide little in the way of real news but spread MY WORD to the masses.” Thy will be done.

Yep, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram is the new conduit to Christianity, announcing this month that it agreed to a deal with the International Bible Society to distribute the New Testament to subscribers along with one of its December editions. Newspaper execs justified the decision by saying the Star-T is a “distribution vehicle” and runs church ads routinely, so why not get into the Bible business?

This prompted one reader to send an e-mail to S-T execs saying he wanted to distribute copies of the Koran with the newspaper. Executive Editor Jim Witt responded, “My understanding is that it’s costing the Bible company about $500,000 to do it. I guess if you’ve got the 20 percent deposit, ad director Mike Winter is your guy.” Wasn’t it the Bible that said the love of money is the root of all evil? Distributing the Bible (or the Koran) with the newspaper will be praised by some and lambasted by others and will no doubt prompt some readers to cancel their subDELETEions in protest of a newspaper entrusted to break news and watch our collectives backs instead going door-to-door to push religious documents. Static remembers a time long, long ago, when the daily paper was willing to piss off people and drive away subscribers by writing damning stories about Bell Helicopter, one of the area’s biggest employers. That bold move won them a Pulitzer Prize.

They won’t be winning any journalism prizes for thumping the Bible, but they’ll surely earn Brownie points from the Big Guy upstairs – their accountant, that is. FOIA That Static loves a mystery. So, consider this whodunit currently being scrutinized by the Society of Professional Journalists: A sneaky senator is trying to hurl a wrench into the spokes of civil liberties without getting caught, and journalists are on his/her trail. The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee passed the Open Government Act on April 12, a bill that would strengthen one of the most powerful tools Americans have to oversee the inner workings of government – the Freedom of Information Act. The new law would reduce delays and make officials more accountable for violations.

Reporters, including those at Fort Worth Weekly, rely on FOIAs, or “foyas” as they’re called in the biz, to get information (the FOI Act, technically, applies to federal documents; other open records laws cover state and local government records). Want to know where a city’s missing money went? Asking politely does no good; you’ve got to hit ‘em with a FOIA request, which carries penalties for those who try to hide information. The U.S. House approved a similar measure in March, but the bill was blocked from reaching the Senate floor for a May 24 vote because an unknown senator placed a secret hold on the bill. That’s right, a representative of the people put a secret hold on a bill designed to give the people greater access to public information. That went over like a drunk at the temperance meeting with the national journalism group, which is now determined to learn the identity of the senator. (The good news: The secret squirrel was neither Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, who co-sponsored the bill, nor Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.) When a slew of reporters get fired up, chances are good that a sneak in the grass is going to get mowed. Stay tuned.


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