I still remember my high school history teacher, Mrs. Gibson, and her unit on the muckrakers — a term initially intended perjoratively but later worn with pride, used to describe reform-minded journalists whose in-depth investigative reporting throughout history has exposed all manner of societal ills, corruption and abuses of power.
It was what made me want to become a journalist myself. And though the daily realities of both community and top-level journalism have dulled the romantic ideals I once held, I’m still keenly interested in the few remaining investigative journalists out there who just might have made their muckraking predecessors proud.
I was surprised, then, and not altogether pleased to see a recent story in The New York Times, “A Muckraking Magazine Creates a Stir Among Evangelical Christians.” The “muckraking magazine” in question is World, an evangelical news outlet that — while it admittedly does more actual journalism than just about any other explicitly Christian organization I’ve ever seen (not that that’s saying a lot) — bothers me because it and its editorial staff has a serious, majorly huge and rather obvious chip on their shoulder when it comes to the subject of evolution.
That is to say, they absolutely hate it. They demonstrated this last year, when they published John Hultink’s laughably feeble, bumbling and fallacy-strewn exercise in playground one-upmanship as a “lead story” and described it (in an email to me) as a “civil, generous, and thoughtful discussion.” Which is sort of the equivalent of hailing the nonsensical conspiracy theory-loaded hack job “Zeitgeist” as “reserved, fair-minded and painstakingly well-researched.”