After reading the rewritten press releases offered by the Los Angeles Times, Daily Pilot and Orange County Register on the appointment of the Diocese of Orange's latest pedo-priest-protecting bishop, Cirilo Flores, it's become clear that the worst casualty in Southern California's dying newspaper industry is the religion beat. Not a single report mentioned Flores' role in the rapes of innocents, yet all of them gushed about how Flores has a law degree from Stanford University, mimicking almost sentiment-for-sentiment the Orange diocese's own press release. Well, lah-dee-bleepin'-dah! I don't blame too much the poor reporters assigned to cover the story for each paper for not knowing the dirty details, because none cover religion full-time. And that, dear readers, is both an insult and a threat to ustedes.
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I don't think I have to mention that Southern California in general and Orange County in particular is a hive of religious influence in the United States--not just the Warrens, Schullers, and Chuck Smiths, but the Siddiquis, the rabbis, the Zoroastroans. Or that millions of us attend places of faith with some regularity (although yours truly is sticking to the Rosary and the Santo Niño de Atocha until the Diocese of Orange hierarchy crumbles). And yet neither the Times or Register have a full-time religion reporter anymore. Oh, for the glory days (otherwise known as 2005) when both papers not only had full-time religion reporters, but brought in the big boys and girls of their investigative side when warranted. Now? Most any story about Orange County religion in the two papers involve photo moments, press releases, or breaking stories covered by everyone, such as the Cirilo Flores case. Meanwhile, the heavy lifting gets ignored or pounced upon by yellow journalists such as yours truly. You'd think bloggers would step in, but most of the Southern California religious blogs are too narrow in focus, too biased, too apologetic to take a skeptical look at our Gospel Swamp. And that's a damn shame.