I’ve always been curious, at least when I realize there’s something to be curious about.  I remember when my Dad took me to see the radio station next to the church growing up (WEAV or WIRY?  I don’t remember).  I was amazed at all the records that they had inside.  He said something on the order of “Surely you didn’t think they had all the bands performing the music in the studio!”.  He wasn’t mean, just shocked.  I had never thought about it, one way or the other.

This time I’m aware of it.  The object is an article in the New York Times that has my “howcum?” radar buzzing.  Well, it’s two articles.  But really only one.  Except it’s not.

I follow the AP news feed from NYT.  Lots of stories, straight text so they load faster, and frequent updates.  Sometimes those updates mean you get the same story twice.  I mean a duplicate, word-for-word copy.  And then occasionally will be two flavors of the same thing.  Not a correction (fix first graf Pres Obama sted Clinton), but a different spin using the same framework, from the same author.  I’m going to look at the differences in one example and see if there’s a “why” behind the “what”.

Here are the two articles (on a minister dealing with cancer): shorter and longer.  The stories were published a minute apart, longer one first, with the shorter one getting ABRIDGED added to the URL, but no notice in the story.  I think they were afraid of getting something out there that was not for publication.  On to the differences.

<Steve goes away and works for a while>

Ooooh.  The short version contains 67 lines.  The long one has 95.  Ain’t no way I’m going to dump 28 differences in here.  Some highlights instead:

First change:

Another cancer patient Chandler has gotten to know spends his time in radiation imagining that he’s playing a round of golf. Chandler on this first Monday in January is reflecting on Colossians 1:15-23, about the pre-eminence of Christ and making peace through the blood of his cross.

Another cancer patient Chandler has gotten to know spends his time in radiation imagining that he’s playing a round of golf at his favorite course. Chandler on this first Monday in January is reflecting on Colossians 1:15-23, about the pre-eminence of Christ and making peace through the blood of his cross.

Nothing major.  An interesting shortening is in the description of his church:

One of Chandler’s sayings is, ”It’s OK to not be OK — just don’t stay there.”

One of Chandler’s sayings is, ”It’s OK to not be OK — just don’t stay there.” In other words, your doubts and questions are welcome at The Village Church, but eventually you need to pull it together.

Directly followed by a line completely dropped from the shorter story:

He’s also been known to begin sermons with the warning, ”I’m going to yell at you from the Bible.”

And then a slam at Rick Warren or Max Lucado:

Chandler’s long, meaty messages untangle large chunks of Scripture. His challenging approach appeals, he believes, to a generation looking for transcendence and power.

Chandler’s long, meaty messages untangle large chunks of Scripture, a stark contrast to the ”Eight Ways to Overcome Fear” sermons common to evangelical megachurches that took off in the 1980s. His approach appeals, he believes, to a generation looking for transcendence and power.

One line that makes it through unscathed is this:

His theology teaches that all men are wicked, that human beings have offended a loving and sovereign God, and that God saves through Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection — not because people do good deeds. In short, Chandler is a Calvinist, holding to a belief system growing more popular with young evangelicals.

It’s a bump against those of us who don’t follow the Reformation movement, and he missed several petals of the TULIP, but it’s not bad at all as an introduction to Christianity to people living in a secular world.

The final change:

Chandler is drinking life in — watching his son build sandcastles at the park, preaching each sermon as if eternity is at stake — and feeling a heightened sense of reality.

Chandler would rather this not have happened. But he is drinking life in — watching his son build sandcastles at the park, preaching each sermon as if eternity is at stake — and feeling a heightened sense of reality.

Steve’s assessment: no bias in the abridgment.  The longer version adds a lot of details that make the story come alive, but the shorter one is not slanted.  Good job, AP/NYT!

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