Evolution, Creationism, and Objectivity in the Press

Lauri Lebo

in The Oxford Handbook of Religion and the American News Media

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780195395068
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Evolution, Creationism, and Objectivity in the Press

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During the infamous 1925 trial of Tennessee v. Scopes, the Evening Sun columnist H. L. Mencken spared no brutal adjective in his tirades against William Jennings Bryan, a populist orator known as the Great Communicator. Fifty-six years later, the media would turn out for another battle over evolution, this time in Little Rock, Arkansas. Seeking to project neutrality, newspapers, beginning in the 1920s, gradually developed a style in which the writer carefully balanced two opposing sides. This article analyzes the impact of this desire for objectivity on coverage of the battle between religion and science, focusing on newspaper reporting on the courtroom trials of Tennessee v. Scopes, McLean v. Arkansas, and Kitzmiller v. Dover. It reviews the institution of “objectivity” as a practice of modern American journalism and its limitations in producing fair and accurate newspaper coverage of these anti-evolution battles. It also examines the press's tendency, in its bid for objectivity, to treat science and faith as two sides of the same coin.

Keywords: press; objectivity; evolution; science; religion; trials; newspapers; William Jennings Bryan; H. L. Mencken; newspaper coverage

Article.  6312 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Religious Studies ; Religion and Science

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