Religion Reporter Questions LA Times Use of ‘F-Word’

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Centre at Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He also writes a weekly religion column for Scripps Howard and blogs at

Over the weekend, he took issue with a Sunday LA Times news report on a Houston prayer rally attended by Texas Governor Rick Perry. In the first sentence of the Times article, Washington correspondent Paul West branded those in attendance as “fundamentalist” Christians. Argues Mattingly:

Have we reached the point where any Christian believer whose doctrine of scripture and church tradition is high enough to believe that sex outside of marriage is a sin will now be called a “fundamentalist”?

Let me stress that this rally included some fringe folks, for sure. However, instead of accurately quoting these beliefs and, even better, asking the mainstream evangelicals and Catholics to critique them, the Los Angeles Times led the way in settling for multiple uses of foggy terms such as “extreme views”–instead of actually citing on-the-record references to those views.

Mattingly also points out the AP Style definition of “fundamentalist” and the guideline that the description should be used by journalists only if a group applies the term to itself.

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