Romney’s Mormonism is an easy hook upon which to write a story. This is as true for the Times of London as it is for the New York Times. In Britain, the Guardian and the Times have recently written the Romney-Mormon story, for example. With this is mind, I solicit your advice, BCC readers. If you were to summarise Romney, Mormonism, and Romney’s Mormonism to the international media, what would you want them to understand before they spill their journalistic ink, both about the church and about Romney’s faith?
When writing about Mormonism (exotic and a little strange to many observers) it’s easy to make mistakes. If you were writing a story on Romney’s Mormonism from overseas, it would be tempting to simply amend some stories from the news wires and regurgitate the usual: Romney is using the Mormon network to get elected, Americans hate Mormons, etc. etc.
I’m not interested in how Romney’s team or LDS PR would tell these stories, but I am interested in cutting through the red herrings and giving advice that would produce accurate reporting. So, what’s the light rather than the heat in “Romney the Mormon President, 2008″? I think there are four main issues that good journalists could cover.
1. Is Romney the Evangelical hopeful or the Mormon candidate? Does he intend to run more to the tune of the SBC rather than SLC?
2. Is the Mormon church really politically neutral?
3. Are Mormons just too bizarre for Americans? Who hates Mormons more, the left (for Mormonism’s social conservatism), or the Christian right (for being a non-Christian cult)?
4. What are the biases in the American media’s coverage of Romney that one should be aware of?
The straight dope, please, if you have it. Neutral sound bites requested.
One last thing: most journalists would eventually land on lds.org’s Newsroom pages. Which of the following parts of the style guide should journalists adhere to:
- In the first reference, the full name of the Church is preferred: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
- Please avoid the use of “Mormon Church,” “LDS Church” or “the Church of the Latter-day Saints.”
- When a shortened reference is needed, the terms “the Church” or “the Church of Jesus Christ” are encouraged.
- When referring to Church members, the term “Latter-day Saints” is preferred, though “Mormons” is acceptable.
- “Mormon” is correctly used in proper names such as the Book of Mormon, Mormon Tabernacle Choir or Mormon Trail, or when used as an adjective in such expressions as “Mormon pioneers.”
- The term “Mormonism” is acceptable in describing the combination of doctrine, culture and lifestyle unique to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
- When referring to people or organizations that practice polygamy, the terms “Mormons,” “Mormon fundamentalist,” “Mormon dissidents,” etc. are incorrect. The Associated Press Stylebook notes: “The term Mormon is not properly applied to the other … churches that resulted from the split after [Joseph] Smith’s death.”