Anglican Watch

AW: Our approach to sourcing, bias, NIMNOS and more

Anglican Watch

Recently, we’ve received several messages asking about Anglican Watch’s approach to covering issues. Specific questions have been around fairness and bias.

In a nutshell, here is our approach:

  • Like most so-called discernment bloggers, we don’t accept funding from outside sources. We do this to maintain our independence and integrity. That said, we have received donations of IT security services and other grants with no possibility of influencing us.
  • We are a platform of news and advocacy. Thus, we are not unbiased. Nor do we claim to be impartial.
  • Our sympathies consistently rest with those hurt or marginalized by the church. At the same time, we are not an anti-church publication. While some may quibble over this point, we believe bringing light to the darkness is central to the message of the gospels. Moreover, the church must learn to look its shortcomings in the eye if it wants to survive.
  • We also serve as advocates for those hurt by the church. This runs afoul of journalistic strictures, which hold reporters should not be part of the story. We’re okay with that. But we try to be upfront about it.
  • Generally, we only publish if we have two or more sources for a particular claim. When doubt is possible, or a judicatory could ultimately reach a different conclusion, we label claims “allegations.”
  • Don’t assume you know who our sources are. Or conclude we don’t have a second source. The Episcopal Church is tiny, and we have yet to bump into a story that’s more than three or four degrees of separation away. So our source may be hidden in plain sight or on the other coast. And our sources range from bishops to sextons, ACNA members, rectors, folks who work the front desk, and local government officials. Or they may be a former church member, someone on the relevant vestry, or someone we sat with on a plane 20 years ago. We spend a lot of time digging around.
  • We sometimes use private investigators when a primary source is not available.
  • We do background checks on virtually everyone and everything we cover. We use this information to make go/no-go decisions and assess credibility. So, if someone says they are a victim of abuse but have a criminal record, we’re more likely to take a pass.
  • For every story we run, we’ve probably got at least a dozen that don’t run. Behind the scenes, we may be helping our contact file a disciplinary complaint, find an attorney, whatever.
  • Forget the ad hominem attacks, either on us or victims of misconduct. You’ll get blocked in record time and your comments will not be posted. That includes questioning our integrity.
  • We are not opposed to letting our humanity show. That may include expressing anger or frustration or snide comments. We try to keep things PG-rated and not communicate anything we wouldn’t say directly to the subject.
  • We’re okay with inflammatory rhetoric. While this should be the exception versus the norm, issues like intentional and repeated abuse, victimization of children or animals, or domestic violence probably will draw a harsh response. We might even call a particular group a “brood of vipers.” Jesus was not always nice, and neither are we.
  • Relatedly, we have chutzpah, in spades. We’re willing to go where (the late) Episcopal Cafe, Anglican Ink, and in some cases, even VirtueOnline won’t venture. That’s what makes us different, and we’re proud of it.
  • We get irritated with Not in My Narthex or Sacristy (NIMNOS). Yes, we get that church situations can be awkward, especially if misconduct is involved. But for heaven’s sake–the early Christians got eaten by lions. A little courage, please. And we are not likely to cover a story in which names can’t be used.
  • Our moderation decisions are final.
  • We have zero patience for gaslighters, abusive language, deception, or deceit. And don’t pull the “differing facts,” routine. Facts are, by definition, immutable.
  • Don’t like our approach? If so, go elsewhere. Or start your own publication. In fact, we may help you with the latter.

Hopefully, this answers some of the questions we receive.

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