I got wind of this article today, and really it dwarfs my other recent complaints against the N&O. And this time it's written by the paper's Executive Editor, John Drescher. After watching him on WRAL's Headline Saturday, I've got to say I'm really hoping that he takes the N&O down.
Now, setting my personal biases aside, let's look at his complaints about the IAR. He tries, as did a previous article I blogged about before, to illustrate some "shocking" change of position on the part of the IAR administration. Basically, he thinks that before the arrests of 7 local Muslims accused of terrorism, the mosque used to be "open," and that now (afterwards,) the mosque is "closed." To the media, that is.
He's upset about restrictions on journalists that the IAR supposedly is enforcing. Now, I never heard about these restrictions until this article, so I can't really say if they're true or not, but let's just go with the flow. One such restriction is that journalists aren't allowed to interview anyone except a mosque spokesperson on the facility premises. And I think that's a pretty good idea, personally. Let me explain.
I've read plenty of articles thus far about the men who were arrested, and people (journalists, bloggers, etc.) love to say that they've talked to someone "on the inside." They talked to some random guy at the mosque, and since people don't seem to know better, they assume that person is talking for the entire community. And I've heard some pretty stupid nonsense from some random "unidentified sources." In fact, I've heard some pretty stupid nonsense from people I know who I've seen being interviewed on the news.
Some kid off the street who wants to feel important, get his name in the papers or whatever, can give an interview and then is hailed as being an "insider" who knows the "truth" about what's going on with the men who were arrested. Frankly, it's kind of shameful, the way the media has raised up some obscure and ridiculous interviewees as representative of the entire Muslim community.
The IAR is not part of the indictment. It is a place of worship, a place of learning--in addition to holding worship services five times daily, it also houses three schools, two of which are full-time. I don't think that the media should be able to just enter at will and start photographing people (I know other sisters who might have a serious issue with this!) and interviewing people. People go to the mosque to worship, and to learn about Islam. Why should they have to worry about dodging reporters? And now that it is Ramadan, the mosque fills with people every single night (to such an extent that if you're not on time, you might not find parking anywhere nearby.) I think that's just another reason that the media shouldn't be lurking around the premises.
But more importantly, why does the media want to interview people at the mosque in the first place? The only reason I can think of is that they wish to continue pushing this story about Muslims, and want to catch bystanders willing to profess uninformed judgments about the men who were accused.
So I would like to remind the N&O that the IAR had an Open House just a few weeks ago, an event attended by several local media outlets in addition to elected officials and representatives. And the N&O did not attend. So sure, Mr. Drescher can boast about his "full-time faith reporter." But what good is that if an activity exactly demonstrative of the openness he's looking for is blatantly ignored by his staff? As I understand it, the "full-time faith reporter" was on vacation. So nobody came. Not even someone at a lower level, to at least take pictures.
If the N&O wants accessibility to the IAR, then why didn't he send someone to the Open House? The article is incredibly frustrating, and really doesn't do much to impress on me a favorable opinion of the editor. Moreover, the mosque is not a place to be asking questions about politics or ongoing criminal investigations. Its a place to worship and learn about Islam. What will it take for Mr. Drescher to respect that?