Jun 29, 2011

How to effectively report on a 'cult' murder

Item: Yesterday: 7 indicted in 'cult' murder case
Item: 1994: Third man Emerges at Center of Cult Death Mystery
Item: 1933: 10 Arrested in Cult Death Case
Item: 1933: Daughter of Aged Sacrifice Victim Tells of Slaying

Use the word 'cult' a lot, but don't define it.
Everybody knows it means freaky.

Don't say what the connection is between the religion and the homicide.

They're a cult. It was only a matter of time.

Don't bother with theological distinctives.
Besides the murder itself, obviously. That's pretty distinctive.

Don't give any social or cultural context for the group.
It's not in the police report.

Emphasize anything strange.
If you don't know anything strange, just say 'cult' some more.

Don’t use words like ‘religion,’ ‘faith,’ ‘group,’ or ‘sect.’
You are not a thesaurus.

Make it so the cult itself seems like the crime.
You're just saying 'alleged' cult leader. The jury will decide.

Mention the actual name of the group only once, in the very middle of the story.
You'll have to look it up on Wikipedia for the spelling.

Don't worry if your editor makes you put quotes around 'cult,' as no one will notice.
Copy editors aren't really people.

Make sure it confirms the biases of both the anti-religious and conservative Christians.
Links, baby, links!