Even some media insiders feel 'hijacked' by pastor's Koran-burning threat
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Our country avoided a global embarrassment last weekend when the pastor of a tiny Florida church dropped plans to burn Korans, the Islamic religion's holiest book, on Saturday's anniversary of 9/11 terrorist attacks. But America's image was damaged by the threatened stunt and the heavy media attention it drew. Eleven foreign governments condemned the idea, just as President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Army Gen. David Patreus in Afghanistan had done. Demonstrators marched through seven Afghan cities on Friday, some chanting "death to Christians" and burning US flags.
Pastor Terry Jones of Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., in mid-July announced that his 30-member congregation would mark Sept. 11 as "Burn a Koran Day." News professionals and consumers now debate whether the media coverage that escalated in recent weeks was premature and excessive or justified and healthy. "We created the Rev. Terry Jones from dust," Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Thomas wrote last week. "We could help head off such future nonsense if we folded up the circus tent and left Jones alone with his blowtorch and 30 followers."
In Slate, an online magazine, reporter Justin Elliott wrote Friday: "The U.S. media has given a global platform to a fringe pastor with a tiny flock, elevating him to a level of significance that would make most members of Congress jealous." New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd on Sunday looked back at "a Florida faker holding a complicit media hostage." John Avlon, an author of two books about politics, also calls the pastor a "media hijacker." At a news site called The Daily Beast he wrote: "We can try to justify the coverage by dressing up the burn a koran stunt as a constitutional debate between freedom of speech and freedom of religion . . . but in the Internet age, local cranks can quickly become national -- and even international -- stories, providing that they are willing to be shamelessly crazy. . . . The media didn't create Rev. Jones, but it briefly made him infamous and increased his reach. . . . America came out looking bad."
President says: "We are not and never will be at war with Islam." -- Barack Obama at Pentagon memorial ceremony Saturday
Clergyman says: "The world of credible sourcing and journalism standards has come to an end." -- The Rev. Earl D. Trent Jr., Baptist minister in Washington, D.C.
Scholar says: "One of the great flaws of modern journalism is the preference for dramatic developments and pithy commentary over context." -- Kelly McBride, Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla.
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