Great moments in journalism: NYT reporter trolling Twitter for dirt on Christian schools

And they wonder why people (uncharitably, to be sure) cheer layoffs in the media. A reporter from the New York Times went on Twitter yesterday afternoon and asked millennials to help him write a story that would, ahem, #ExposeChristianSchools. This project launched just days after the NYT the rest of the national media shredded their credibility in covering what happened to a group of Catholic-school teenagers.

Gee, I wonder how the paper got its Covington Catholic High School reporting so wrong?

To be fair, the hashtag #ExposeChristianSchools existed prior to Levin’s tweet. In a later tweet, he claimed to be following up on the social-media trend and was willing to report “positive stories/impact” as well. In following his Twitter timeline, he does retweet a number of positive-impact replies. Never explained, though, was why an obscure social-media hashtag would be worthy of an in-depth report by a major media outlet, regardless of the topic.

So what about this topic? It apparently goes back, in part, to a lengthy screed on a website called “The Establishment” (with a .co domain) published last March headlined “Meet HSLDA, The Most Powerful Religious-Right Lobby You’ve Never Heard Of.” Levin retweeted a link to this piece himself over the last few days.   It’s a hysterical take on the Home-School Legal Defense Association, which starts off with this measured lead:

The Home School Legal Defense Association has fomented a culture of suspicion and wild conspiracy theories that may put children in danger.

It then moves on to this:

In the early ‘80s, home education was widely illegal, and fell under truancy statutes—which govern compulsory full-time education—in many states. In response, a few intrepid lawyers founded the HSLDA and over the decades have relentlessly pursued the utter abolishment of homeschooling regulation and oversight. As of 2018, they’ve largely succeeded. Not only is homeschooling legal in every state, it is now so unregulated that in 11 states, parents are not required to notify anyone of their intent to homeschool.

In those states, however, no one outside the home may know that a child exists, which leaves the door wide open to abuse—and even death.

This, however, relates to home schooling, not Christian schools. It also ignores the fact that children are abused in public schools as well — in fact, Instapundit has a running feature that highlights stories of sexual abuse and predation by public-school teachers, with new entries every week or even more frequently. And it still doesn’t explain the NYT’s interest in a Twitter hashtag and anecdotal replies focusing only on Christian schools, rather than dealing with abuse issues across the spectrum rather than on one denomination.

The answer lies in three stories that the media has largely botched. One was their coverage of Karen Pence’s volunteer work at a Christian school that actually required staff and students to follow Christian teachings on marriage and family. Number two was the attack on the Knights of Columbus and Catholics by two Democratic Senators, which they passed off as challenges to an “extremist” organization. And the third was their execrable handling of the teenagers from Covington Catholic High School. It’s an attempt to reverse-engineer the concern, a novel approach to “fake but accurate” by a sleight-of-hand that casts Christian schools as villains regardless of what happened at the March for Life last week — and regardless of the failures by the NYT and national media to report it honestly and factually.

Rod Dreher can’t wait to see what Levin is cooking up:

Think of the power differential between a New York Times reporter and conservative Christian schoolteachers. Yet there is the Times, leading a national pile-on to these little schools whose values are increasingly unpopular in America. When Dan Levin’s vicious story is published, it will be magnified by righteous media liberals, and people like this foul-mouthed anti-Christian Yale professor with an endowed chair. I can just hear the Fresh Air interview now, with that self-righteous prisspot Terry Gross fretting gravely over the grave threat to the Republic from these Jesusland bigot factories. …

The New York Times is preparing people for a future in which Christian schools have to be closed by law, or stigmatized out of existence, for the sake of “safety.”

In just the past few days and weeks, the media went after the Knights Of Columbus, they went after Karen Pence, they went after boys from Covington Catholic. Who will it be tomorrow? Which of our institutions? I love the small traditional school that my kids attend, and you know what, New York Times, and elite media? This is personal. You are threatening me and my friends and my family with your hatred, and your punching down. I am going to defend it.

You people have no idea, no idea at all, what you are calling forth in this country.

I’ve linked the essay at The Atlantic by Caitlin Flanagan yesterday, but it’s worth repeating her conclusion in this thread too:

At 8:30 yesterday morning, as I was typing this essay, The New York Timesemailed me. The subject line was “Ethics Reminders for Freelance Journalists.” (I have occasionally published essays and reviews in the Times). It informed me, inter alia, that the Times expected all of its journalists, both freelance and staff, “to protect the integrity and credibility of Timesjournalism.” This meant, in part, safeguarding the Times’ “reputation for fairness and impartiality.”

I am prompted to issue my own ethics reminders for The New York Times. Here they are: You were partly responsible for the election of Trump because you are the most influential newspaper in the country, and you are not fair or impartial. Millions of Americans believe you hate them and that you will causally harm them. Two years ago, they fought back against you, and they won. If Trump wins again, you will once again have played a small but important role in that victory.

When their reporters are digging for dirt on social media with a hashtag like #ExposeChristianSchools, it’s demonstrably neither fair nor impartial. And the notion that the media will “causally harm” millions of Americans is moving way beyond a belief.