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Today's word on journalism

Monday, October 22, 2007

Can't Scare the Old Gray Lady:

"Good journalism for an intelligent general audience is hard. And we’re really good at it. Taking on The Times is not as easy as waving a credit card and proclaiming yourself 'fair and balanced. . . .' We have every reason to feel confident that we can hold our own if [Rupert] Murdoch decides to build The Journal beyond its business-reader base. In all the Murdoch parlor-gaming, I don’t hear anyone suggesting that he would attempt to match the depth of our coverage in culture, science, education, health, religion, sports, lifestyle, etc., etc. Not to mention business coverage that even devout Journal readers find they can't afford to miss."

-- Bill Keller, editor, New York Times, on Murdoch's promised Wall Street Journal challenge to Times national dominance, Oct. 16, 2007


What ward am I in? Can't you see my coffee mug?

By Cynthia Schnitzler

September 20, 2007 | I grew up non-Mormon in southern Idaho. Because of this, I thought that I had prepared myself for college life in the LDS Holy Land.

I didn't worry too much about whether or not I'd be able to handle being a member of a different religion than virtually everyone else. Most of my friends growing up had been Mormon, and so was my best friend all through junior high and high school, so I thought I knew what to expect. I figured once I got to Utah, I could find a group of people with religious views more like mine. I did, but I quickly realized after arriving in Logan that living here would be an entirely different experience than anything I was familiar with.

At first, everyone just assumed I was Mormon. I am from Idaho, so I supposed that this is an almost-fair assumption. If I had been from the west coast, or from back east, or from anywhere but the back door to Zion, maybe they wouldn't have been so surprised when I answered their favorite question, "What ward are you in?" with, "Actually, I'm not Mormon."

The first week of school my freshman year, a couple of LDS girls on my floor that I had made friends with invited me to go to an Institute dance with them. After protesting and telling them that I'm not much of a dancer, they told me that I could just hang out and socialize—that lots of people did this at dances.

I finally agreed, but then something I hadn't counted on happened: someone asked me to dance. This kid looked like he might never ask another girl to dance again if I said no, and so I reluctantly allowed him to lead me out onto the dance floor. We talked for a few moments, and then the inevitable question regarding my ward was asked, followed by the only answer that I will ever have for it. He didn't even wait for the song to finish. He scurried off into the crowd so fast that, for a moment, I was left wondering what had happened.

It wasn't just the people I talked to who knew, however. There was something about me that tipped people off. Somehow, they always seemed to know that I wasn't one of them. I think it's a safe bet to say it was the coffee mug.

My freshman year I lived in the towers, so I of course was required to eat at the Junction. Every morning I would fill my mug with the brown swill that was trying really hard to be coffee, and every day everyone who saw me do it would glare at me as if I had just stomped on a box full of kittens. I would hang out with my friends in the Hub behind the Ibis, where we would all meet between classes to drink our coffee and not do our homework, and ignore the funny looks we would occasionally get from those passing by.

My sophomore year, a couple of Mormon missionaries finally came after me. They called and asked if they could come by and talk with me about my faith. I warned them that my Mormon friends had been trying to get me to repent of my heathen ways for a long time, and that if they were hoping to get results from their effort, they might be better off talking to someone else. They insisted they wanted to talk to me, however, and so I told them that they were welcome to come by.

My roommate Ashley had heard the conversation and asked if they were coming over. Ashley had left the LDS church and did not much care for the company of their missionaries, so when I told her, yes, they were coming over, she disappeared into her room. I was a little worried, honestly, that she would come out while they were there and try to make them feel uncomfortable enough to leave. She emerged only once, however, right before they showed up. She stood in her doorway long enough to flash me a mischievous grin, and then slapped a sign on her door before disappearing behind it again. In big, bold letters, her sign read, "Sodom and Gomorrah." Maybe they wouldn't notice…

I later found out that these two missionaries had been sent after me by my roommate from freshman year, Brandi. Brandi had run into some missionaries in Temple Square, and they pestered her until she broke and gave them my name and phone number. She told me that I was the only person she knew who wasn't LDS that wouldn't get mad at her for giving them my contact information. I told her that it was fine, because the two girls who came by were very friendly, and even though they never got anywhere with me, they brought me a plate of cookies right before Christmas break.

I have very slowly gotten used to living in Utah and not being Mormon. I've gotten used to people staring at me for a moment when I sit down next to them in class and set my coffee on the edge of my desk. I've gotten used to the slightly shocked expressions on peoples' faces when I tell them I'm not in any ward. I've even gotten used to their surprise when they find out that I really am a religious person, I'm just not a member of their church. Maybe someday they'll all get used to me.



Copyright 1997-2007 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-3292
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