You Are: The burning of the Quran

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Time for another installment of “You Are.”

Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of forces in Afghanistan, issued a statement today, urging a preacher in Florida not to carry out plans to burn the Quran to commemorate 9/11.


“Images of the burning of a Koran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan – and around the world – to inflame public opinion and incite violence,” Petraeus said. “Such images could, in fact, be used as were the photos from [Abu Ghraib]. And this would, again, put our troopers and civilians in jeopardy and undermine our efforts to accomplish the critical mission here in Afghanistan.”

Petraeus’ statement has been characterized by news organizations as a message to pastor Terry Jones, but the wording also seems to carry a message to news organizations: Don’t cover it. Without images and film of someone burning the Quran, the intended effect — to inflame the Islamic word — will be somewhat muted.

You are the editor of a major news organization. How do you cover the event if you cover it at all?

  • CHS

    If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

    If an event happens and no media cover it, is it news?

    The world is full of events that are not news because the media have chosen not to cover it. Why is this zealot’s stunt newsworthy? Because the media make it so.

    Personally I don’t know why we should pay attention to the rantings of one outspoken bigot preacher who clearly needs a lesson on his own Book rather than burning that of another.

    Just because something is shocking or from the fringe, doesn’t make it newsworthy. Why cover the fringe as the news when the everyday reality goes by with a whisper, unnoticed.

    If that is indeed a hidden message in the good General’s statement, he’s being very subtle, and very astute. I believe that the attention given this situation is creating news rather than reporting it.

  • BJ

    If I was an editor, no I wouldn’t run it. I would not run it for the same reason I wouldn’t have other fringe people covered. Real movements with real growth sure.

    Also I saw some reports that this guy, Terry Jones, has had some recent legal troubles.

  • Noelle

    I wouldn’t cover it. Period.

  • Bob Moffitt

    The news is already out, so I would cover it. I would not include any images of burning scripture OR of angry protests. I would state the facts, as clearly as possible, and move on. It would not be a lead story — just a mention.

  • matt

    I guess it depends on how the actual event plays out when it happens. I burned a copy of Pippi Longstocking in my backyard over the weekend because of the message that red hair is acceptable but nobody covered that! I would have to say if you get 100 book burners it should make the local news, if you get 500-1000 it probably should make national news. Hiding bigotry only allows it to grow.

    France proudly proclaims its expulsion of gyp..Romas – we should be able to publicly proclaim our biases as well.

  • Bob Collins

    Just for the record, I would totally cover a Pipi Longstocking book burning. You don’t even need a good reason.

  • AL

    It seems to me that the General’s real message isn’t to the Pastor or the news media. It is to Muslims around the world.

    I would cover it, since it’s already out there, and make sure to get the General’s statement in the same breath.

  • bsimon

    If I were the editor, I might cover the story, but I’d be sure to get lots of input from others; perhaps other pastors, perhaps political leaders, perhaps the proverbial ‘man on the street’. What are they saying? Do people think this guy is just crying out for attention? Is he a kook? Or does he represent wideheld views?

  • Chuck

    I think it should be covered – if only to expose the hypocrisy of Terry Jones and his flock. Did they learn nothing from their holy book? The aftermath needs to be fully covered as well.

  • tired

    A mass Pippi Longstocking book burning?

    I’M IN!!!

  • Heather

    It seems to me that there’s a value in covering it now that it’s out anyway, but the “balance” would need to be content that makes it clear how whacko the rest of the country thinks it is. We *do* think it’s whacko, right? If so, cover them like the extremists they are, and emphasize the distance.

    The thing that is making me uneasy typing this is, how great is that distance? And is it too much to hope that people could use coverage of the extremes in both these religions to define the moderate spaces more clearly?

    Great seeing you at the Fair on Thursday, Bob!

  • PATTY

    This pastor would be first be going against the christian bible. He would also cause more problems with the U.S. and muslims around the world. Is he crazy????????????

  • Momkat

    All this flurry caused by a nut with a 50-member ‘church’. He’s trying to be as hateful as the extremist terrorists. Just going for his 15 minutes of fame?

  • The Big Dog

    This should only be covered by the Big 3: Stewart, Colbert, and Collins

  • Noelle

    To bring the conversation full circle, I overheard a bit of NBC’s Today show this morning as I was getting ready for work. They did cover this story – and spent a significant portion of time discussing, as General Petraeus initially noted, the negative impact Terry Jones’ planned action would have on our soldiers.

  • GregS

    Instead of this, we should have yet another Michelle Bachman story.

    Don’t you just hate her?

    On MPR, we need to hear more stories about people we are suppose to hate instead of hate stories about people we are suppose to tolerant.

  • “Pops”

    Wow, do I really want to do this? I’ve been thinking about this all night and it just seems like the right thing to do. I know I’ve shot my mouth off before and then never really did what I said I was going to do, but I really think I need to do this.

    I think it’s important to “Show the World” that we are truly a free country and that we can burn any old book that we want to without regard for anyone’s feelings on the book. If it is considered sacred, so much the better!

    So I propose to find out how many Qurans Brother Jones is burning and I will burn an equivalent number of Bibles on Christmas morning. Even Steven, eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth and all that sort of thing.

    The Bible says to love your neighbor as yourself and this seems to be the best way to even the score, one Bible for every Quran!

    I could get all preachy here and believe me, I do want to, but my bottom line is to be fair. So Christmas morning 2010 I’m going to burn as many Bibles as I can up to the number of Qurans that Brother Jones burns on 9/11.

    Plus, as an added attraction and to make the fire warmer I’ll be happy to throw in any “Purpose Driven Life’s” and “Tuesdays with Morrie” that get sent to me. Last but not least, I’ll add one sacred copy of “Fahrenheit 451″ to complete the symbolism and yes I am serious about this. I will do this…now lets see if I get as much coverage as Brother Jones.