Wichita Eagle: Reporting, then research

Wichita Eagle reporting on a controversy involving religion might leave discerning readers wondering just what is the correct story.

Wichita Eagle 2015-10-06 01In its article of October 6 titled “News of Wichita State chapel renovation to help Muslims sparks backlash” the Wichita Eagle reported:

Muslims at Wichita State University wanted a better place to pray. In May, workers renovated the campus chapel and removed the tiny altar and pews.

WSU administrators thought the change had resolved the problem by giving Muslim students a place to kneel on the floor and pray. Christian students could use portable chairs.

Everyone on campus seemed satisfied.

Later in the same article: “Muslims say they feel taken aback. They’d asked for the accommodation in the spring, in part, because they had difficulty finding a prayer space on campus.”

On October 8, the Eagle reported in “Wichita State president: ‘Grace Chapel can serve the needs of all faiths'”: “The pews were removed by WSU officials after some Muslim students asked that more space be made for them to pray there, in part by kneeling on roll-out rugs.”

What conclusion should we draw from these two stories? That the renovations were the result of requests by Muslim students? That seems to be what the Eagle reported.

Wichita Eagle 2015-10-06 02But if you formed that conclusion, you were wrong, evidently. On October 12, this report from the Eagle in the story “Campus minister: Muslims not ones who asked for Wichita State chapel renovations”: “The removal of the pews at Wichita State University’s Grace Chapel — criticized by some as a Muslim takeover of the facility — actually was sought by a Christian campus minister and Christian students who wanted a more flexible worship space, the former campus minister and others said Monday.”

Here we see a reversal in the story. Renovations weren’t at the request of Muslim students after all.

Finally, the largest newspaper in Kansas reports on October 29: “Eagle research has found that the request to remove pews and other furnishings from the chapel had originated not with Muslims, but with Christian students and former campus minister Christopher Eshelman, who wanted a more flexible space for their worship services.” (“Wichita State sets Friday town hall on controversy over university chapel”)

I guess it would have been nice if the Eagle had performed its research before printing the October 6 and 8 news stories. Or, at least the newspaper could acknowledge that its earlier stories were incorrect. I haven’t seen that.

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