Tennessee seems to be a focal point of media coverage when it comes to issues dealing with religion. Controversies over building new mosques, Muslims in general and Sharia Law in particular, rage throughout the state and have garnered local and national coverage. Evolution and creationism now get their chance to share the media spotlight in Tennessee.
This is not new for the state. Tennessee is home to the famous Scopes Monkey trial in Dayton, Tenn., in 1925. The 1960 movie “Inherit the Wind” came from the play about the trial. Edward R. Murrow’s examination of the movie and the trial can be seen here.
So why is this important now? Because creationism is back in the spotlight after the Tennessee house passed a bill with which Tennessee media still are coming to terms. While some newspapers find this bill to be bad for the state’s image overall and a bad bill in particular, others find it to be what the readers want. Newspapers in Chattanooga and Knoxville framed their stories differently than did Memphis and
the Tennessee Associated Press. Is this a question of writing for the audience or different ways of interpreting the information? Can these stories be viewed as another way media slant stories?
On the other hand, do journalists have a responsibility to “fairly” represent both sides of a story when one side has scientific fact backing it and the other doesn’t? What role should media play? If they defend science they get hammered for being liberally biased; if they defend creationism they lose credibility on a national basis. If they play the story down the middle, are they giving credence to creationism? How should media approach the rift between religion and science?
Tennessee took the brunt of ridicule for the original Scopes trial. Does the state really want to revisit that issue?
Creationism isn’t the only bill affecting Tennessee educators with which the Tennessee media deal. While some see Tennessee education reform as a continuation of the Tea Party agenda seen in Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana and Ohio, others see it as a chance for charter schools to become fixtures in the state.
With battles in education reform and creationism in schools a key issue, how can the Tennesseean write that the Republican Party in Tennessee is taking a moderate approach to social issues?