I have followed the work of Terry Mattingly for about twenty years. Terry is an author, professor, and journalist who covers religion news. Since 1988 he has written the nationally syndicated column “On Religion” column each week for the Scripps Howard News Service in Washington, D.C. He is also Director of The Washington Journalism Center, a program run by the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. Since 2004 Terry has directed the GetReligion.org website. That site, where the following article appeared, is devoted to presenting the important faith and religious aspects of news stories which are either omitted or mishandled by the popular media. (See Why We’re Here for the story of how GetReligion.org came to exist.) And, on some rare occasions the site even reports on news coverage which gets things right. I reported such an article here, Justin Forsett Article Done Right. The following article appeared at: GetReligion.org as: Memory eternal: Human-rights activist and, yes, Christian journalist Kenji Goto is gone. This particular article is very illustrative of the blind-spots in media coverage. I followed news accounts, print media as well as local, national, and cable news of the capture and later murder of Mr. Goto at the hands of the ISIS terrorists. And, not once did I hear anything about Mr. Goto’s faith which was very important as it provided the motive for his journalistic and humanitarian work. Obviously, there was a huge hunk of the story lacking in all the news accounts which I followed. So, here is, as Paul Harvey would say, “the rest of the story.” RMF
By Terry Mattingly
First there was the beheading of Haruna Yukawa, a military consultant who had – by all accounts – lived a unique, if not troubled, life leading him the Middle East as a military consultant. Now, it certainly appears that veteran journalist Kenji Goto has also been beheaded, on video.
Who is Goto? What is the media reporting about his life? As I noted in my first post on this topic, the force at the heart of Goto’s life and work depends on the publication that you read. If you look in conservative and Christian media, you will see language similar to the following from the Christian Broadcast Network:
The slaying of Goto, a devout Christian and freelance reporter whose work focused on refugees, children and other victims of war, shocked this country, which until now had not become directly embroiled in the fight against the militants.
“I feel indignation over this immoral and heinous act of terrorism,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters after convening an emergency Cabinet meeting. “When I think of the grief of his family, I am left speechless,” he said. “We are filled with deep regret.”
Was this simply an issue of Christians mourning the loss of a fellow Christian, who just happened to be a veteran and respected journalist? Well, maybe not.
Consider the following material – a lengthy passage from the English-language website of The Japan Times:
Hiroshi Tamura, pastor of the Chofu, western Tokyo, congregation of the United Church of Christ in Japan, said his heart aches when he thinks about what Goto’s family must be feeling. Until March 2013, Tamura had been a pastor at the Denenchofu congregation of the same church, which Goto attended. …
On Sunday morning, nearly 200 people attended a prayer meeting for Goto and his family, said Kazuto Takahashi, pastor at the United Church of Christ in Japan in Denenchofu, a residential area of southwest Tokyo, where Goto was sometimes a member of the congregation.
“We all prayed hard for his family, who are in the midst of deep sadness. We also prayed that God’s blessing be given to him,” Takahashi said. “Furthermore, we prayed that we will have a society with no conflicts, a society where peace prevails.”
Was this man’s faith a key element of his work as a journalist, one who had a special concern about lives of suffering children and their families?
It certainly appears so, yet I cannot understand why this side of his life continues to be missing from the coverage of this story in elite American media. Did his faith matter to Goto and his family? Certainly. Did his faith matter to the leaders of the Islamic State? Who knows, but I think it is a valid question.
Yet, again, here is the key material from the latest report in The New York Times:
The video of Mr. Goto’s apparent execution began with the extremist brandishing a knife toward the camera, while Mr. Goto knelt and stared calmly at the camera, closing his eyes just before the knife was drawn across his throat. They appeared to be in a dry streambed.
“To the Japanese government,” the killer said, “You, like your foolish allies in the satanic coalition, have yet to understand that we by Allah’s grace are the Islamic caliphate, with authority and power. An entire army thirsty for your blood.”
Mr. Goto, 47, was known as a respected journalist and the author of five books who knew his way around conflict zones after having spent more than two decades covering them as a freelance television cameraman. He appeared drawn to Syria and Iraq by a lifelong idealistic zeal to cover the plight of the weak, particularly refugee children.
He was apparently captured by the militants in late October when he crossed into territory held by the Islamic State, which has taken over large swaths of Iraq and Syria, in a bid to win the freedom of Mr. Yukawa. They met in April after Mr. Goto helped negotiate Mr. Yukawa’s release from detention by the rebel Free Syrian Army during an earlier trip into Syria.
“My son’s final act was to go to Syria to help a fellow Japanese,” Mr. Goto’s mother, Junko Ishido, said Sunday. “Please understand his kindness and courage.”
OK, what about the foreign desk of The Washington Post? What did it have to say about Goto’s life and work?
Goto, a 47-year-old father of three, including two daughters under the age of 2, was a freelance video journalist who had been captured by the Islamic State late last year while trying to secure the release of his compatriot, Haruna Yukawa.
Yukawa, a man who had suffered a series of setbacks in his life and had gone to the Middle East on a voyage of self-discovery, appeared to have been beheaded last week. Goto was shown in a previous video holding a photo of an executed man who appeared to be Yukawa.
The two met while traveling in the region. After Yukawa’s capture in August, Goto went back to Syria to try to find him, only to be captured himself in late October.
Perhaps CNN decided to include this aspect of his life story?
(CNN) Kenji Goto had every reason to stay home in Japan. A successful career. An adoring mother. A loving wife. A pair of young daughters, one of them just 3-weeks old.
Yet, in his mind, he had to go into war-torn Syria. The experienced journalist explained why in a video shot in October from southern Turkey. He felt compelled to tell the stories of war in all its trauma, complexity and humanity.
“Syrian people (have been) suffering for three years and a half. It’s enough,” the 47-year-old Goto explained. “So I would like to get the story of what ISIS wants to do.”
Goto covered big news stories for years, hoping that by telling them he could make a difference in the world. His work was featured by numerous Japanese organizations, including broadcaster NHK.
And he wasn’t afraid to put himself in harm’s way to tell a story. One need just look to his previous trip to Syria, where a bloody, complicated civil war has gone on for four years. The United Nations estimated in August that nearly 200,000 had been killed, more than 3 million Syrians had become refugees and at least 6.5 million were displaced inside the country.
Here is the question: Why is this man’s faith part of his life and work in some journalism coverage and not in others?
I don’t really have an answer to that. I am sure that many American news consumers would have wanted to know this information, especially the millions of Americans who would have wanted to voice prayers for him in their churches.