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Thursday, December 16, 2004

Open Letter to Newsweek: Here's How to Turn "Meachum's Folly" Into a Postive for Everybody

This has not been a good week for Newsweek. If you doubt it, check out the 67 posts of Vox Blogoli. Together, these folks have assembled a devastating critique of the Dec. 13 issue's "Religion: The Birth of Jesus" by managing editor Jon Meachum.

The Vox Blogoli VI critique compiles a lengthy list of the Dec. 13 feature's serious misrepresentations and distortions of the scientific, historical, archeological and linguistic research on the veracity of the Christmas story and the claims of Christ about Himself. Newsweek doesn't have to endorse this research, but your readers absolutely deserve to hear about it; otherwise, the magazine is failing in its basic journalistic obligation.

Left uncorrected, these flaws leave Newsweek's credibility in a position not unlike that of CBS in the days immediately following the infamous 60 Minutes/Dan Rather story based on fake National Guard memos during the presidential campaign. Let us be clear on this point: Nobody accuses Newsweek of fabricating evidence; the problem is simply ignoring all evidence that is contrary to the magazine's preferred conclusion.

But Newsweek also has an opportunity now to turn a terrible negative into a uniquely positive milestone for itself and for the Mainstream Media (MSM) it represents. How? Instead of digging in and defending the clearly undefendable, as did CBS with Rathergate, turn the current situation around by doing a serious review of the Vox Blogoli VI critique and then making it the heart of a substantial report as a followup to the Dec. 13 feature.

The followup would examine with equal prominence the immense body of serious scholarship that has been conducted in recent decades that clearly answers and in many cases decisively refutes the claims of the so-called "higher critics" of the previous century, as well as those of contemporaries like the Jesus Seminar. You should consider retaining as an editorial consultant for the followup somebody like Hugh Hewitt, the inspiration of Vox Blogoli VI or Dr. Mark Roberts, the Harvard PhD whose searching critique of Meachum's work is stunning in its detail.

Then, seek out ways to deepen and enrich Newsweek's reporting resources by cultivating a continuing relationship with the Blogosphere. Make it an ally on major reporting projects and stories. Where else can Newsweek benefit from the collective wisdom, experience, skills and insights of thousands of people from around the globe? That concentrated intellectual energy could be the best thing ever to happen to Newsweek. And to its readers who hunger to know all of the facts, not just some of them.

Note: This letter was emailed to Meachum earlier today. As of 6:00 p.m. EST 12/16/04, no response has been received.