Often even professional writes and reporters following the emotional wave of a story can get caught up in hyperbole at the expense of facts. Over the past few days, several well-known and respected publications have produced information about the Mormon Church that is incorrect and could have been easily verified, but wasn’t.
Concerning the Mormon Church’s clarification on same gender marriage, one can agree with the policy or not but in fairness it is founded on core Mormon scriptural principles and aligns with the Church’s document, “The Family A Proclamation To The World” issued just over 20 years ago.
The news reporting process however leaves much to be desired.
Case in point. KIVI TV in the Boise Idaho area aired a report of a planned event that was to include public resignation from the church by some of its members. They interviewed “One Utah-based attorney and ex-Mormon — Mark Naugle — who helps people resign from the church free of charge…”
According to the report Mr. Naugle is promoting the event and facilitating the exit process by having forms available for attenders to fill out, which implies that the forms or his legal services are somehow connected with the normal exit process from the church. The implication is that legal assistance is somehow advisable in the process.
As KIVI TV reported “Utah attorney, Mark Naugle, has offered his services for Mormons who are upset about the information to resign from the church through his office.”
The broadcast was indexed by Google and spreads though the internet.
On Wednesday the story was then picked up by The New Civil Rights Movement organization and David Badash who is the founder and publisher added this…”Since leaving the Church can be a tricky enterprise, far different from leaving other faiths, attorney Mark Naugle will be on hand to assist.”
How Mr. Badash determined that exiting can be “tricky” and in what way it is “far different from leaving other faiths” is unknown.
Later that same day Slate Magazine picked up The New Civil Rights Movement’s rendition of the story and Associate Editor J. Bryan Lowder wrote “Because leaving the LDS requires certain legal proceedings, Utah attorney Mark Naugle has volunteered to help with the paperwork; notary publics will also be in attendance.”
How Mr Lowder determined that “Because leaving the LDS requires certain legal proceedings” is also unknown and incorrect.
The reality is that there is no legal process for a person leaving the Mormon Church. If an individual truly wants to leave, a very important decision for any person of faith, all that’s required is to write a letter to their local congregation leader or Bishop.
In each case the original story was referenced and then embellished by the next writer with no basis of fact. Where the story has gone from here and what other uninformed embellishment it’s been subjected to is also unknown. It does at the very least appear to be an attempt to cast Mormon Church in an unfavorable light.
The unfortunate part is that from a journalistic accuracy standpoint these articles fail. The correct information and basic fact checking is readily available on the church’s own media website mormonnewsroom.org.
Loyal readers of online magazines also expect journalistic integrity. Even when they agree with the political or ideological views of the publication they expect their writers to produce factual articles. Otherwise they risk losing the confidence of their readers.