Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Yellow Journalism and the SBC

NOTE: in the following post, I am and will be very critical of recent posts by Wade Burleson. However, I want to disassociate myself from some of the name-calling (liar, liberal) that is going around. I think the name-calling and character assassination is just as bad as Wade's post. )

First, since I have advocated regularly against the use of pejorative and derogation, let me define the specific use of this term here. Yellow journalism describes a very specific kind of writing.

Thinkquest.com defines yellow journalism as “biased opinion masquerading as objective fact. Moreover, the practice of yellow journalism involved sensationalism, distorted stories, and misleading images for the sole purpose of boosting newspaper sales and exciting public opinion.” This definition seems to be pretty much in line with the general understanding of the term.

At its core, yellow journalism is biased reporting for sensationalistic purposes. I am afraid that yellow journalism is alive and well in the SBC. Today, Wade Burleson has posted a story that is a primer in yellow journalism.

In the interest of full disclosure, let me tell you my general view of Wade Burleson. I am not a part of the “blame-Wade for everything” branch of blogging. I have argued forcefully that his ouster at the IMB was unjust. In the old days, Wade quoted me on his site in a positive way.

I am not, however, a fan of Wade’s blogging today. I think he has “jumped the shark” and has lost credibility by engaging in a constant barrage of attacks against the leaders of the SBC, especially Dr. Patterson. Again, I have said publicly that I wish that Paige Patterson would ride off into the sunset. I appreciate his work in the CR, but not much he has done since. But the attacks on him have gotten increasingly personal, hysterical and shrill to this man’s ears. And, in my view, Wade has abandoned sound hermeneutics as he has embarked on his recent crusade advocating for women in ministry.

My point is honest disclosure – I was a “supporter” of Wade’s in the beginning, but I think he has gone off the rails in the last couple of years. When I have confronted him recently, he has accused me of “questioning motives.” He has taken to deleting my comments, because he thinks I am “mean-spirited” toward him and his motives. Perspectives, I guess...

I consider myself neither a “Burleson Boy” nor a “Wade-hater.” I appreciated and supported him in the early days and have lost respect for him since.

But the post today was pretty close to yellow journalism, by the definition above. We all know that Wade has a problem with Paige Patterson. He has been relentless in his criticism of the man and his ministry. Today, he reports that Paige is going to fire all the Calvinist professors at SWBTS in a cost-cutting move, and claims this was all revealed at a meeting with professors. A SWBTS professor, who is known as a 5-point Calvinist wrote and said that Wade was totally wrong – no meeting had taken place and no firing of Calvinists was anticipated.

Wade responded that he had been right before and that maybe his sources knew more than Dr. Welty did. He also said conveniently that if this did not take place, it might be because Wade had brought it into the light and embarrassed the administration, preventing the action from taking place.

I would make the following observations:

1) Yellow Journalism is sensationalistic. This post hits a couple of the hot-button issues in the SBC – Paige Patterson and Calvinism.

2) Yellow Journalism is opinion masquerading as fact. This post never says, “I’ve heard a rumor,” or “I was told.” It states this as established fact. But there are no sources, no foot-notes, no references. Just Wade’s opinion presented as established fact. In fact, when his facts were challenged, he indicated that he might know more than the professor who was there.

3) Yellow Journalism is biased. I will let the reader decide if Wade might have a biased opinion and a tendency to believe the worst about Dr. Patterson.

4) Yellow Journalism is based on the attempt to up readership and sell newspapers. This is one which I really don't know. Why would Wade publish unsubstantiated rumor as fact? If he has a reason, other than distaste for Paige Patterson, I don't know it.

Here is what I think. Wade would not publish something he knew to be a lie. However, because of his dislike for Paige Patterson, he might easily be susceptible to believe anything someone tells him about Paige, whether true or not. He might well have been fed some unsubstantiated gossip which he then reported, in his zeal to expose Dr. Patterson, as established fact.

However, I agree with several commenters. The time in which any of us believe what Wade says about SBC issues just because he says it is long past. He should prove the post or retract it, delete it and repent of it.

Dr. Welty asked him to repent of his lies. Others have done the same. Wade either needs to prove that he is not lying or do what they have asked.


Tim G said...

You got it! Dave, I did the research. Repent is the option!

Ron Phillips, Sr. said...


I agree. He may not be trying to sell newspapers (his blog), but he does have a book that is soon to be released.


Ron P.

Dave Miller said...

I do not think Wade is that crass. I think he is a true-believer, seeing himself as the white knight swooping in to save the SBC from the Dark Knight of Seminary Hill.

My suspicion is that someone may have fed him information knowing he would buy it.

Dave Miller said...

But, even if no firings are made, he has himself covered. He (and Tom Ascol by some reports) are saying that Wade's post stopped the action, casting his actions again in an heroic light.

Wayne Smith said...


I have to Second every thing you have in this Post. I have experienced every thing you have including the comments going to La La Land. WINK WINK


Wayne Smith said...


I may have to retract my comment in view of the deceitfulness of the SBCTODAY Pastors being caught in their little Game..

I believe it was Wes Kenney that coined the phrase LIAR, LIAR PANTS ON FIRE ABOUT 3 YEARS AGO..

The sad part about all of this is the name calling against a Brother in Christ and the comments by Pastors of the Blog SBC TODAY. Wade shared that He was praying for Tim Rogers and Tim fired back some Smart Comment that is totally out of line for someone who Professed to be a Christian, let alone a Pastor in a NC Church.