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ERIC Number: ED310415
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1989-Jan-31
Pages: 12
Abstractor: N/A
Reference Count: N/A
Reflections upon an "Atheist Epic": Madalyn Murray O'Hair and "Baltimore Sun" Reporters Comment about Coverage of the First Incidents Leading to the Supreme Court's Banning of Compulsory Prayer in Public Schools.
Bowman, Jim; Kahan, Bob
In 1960 a teenage boy, Bill Murray, refused to participate in Bible reading, and the result was a series of court cases that culminated in the 1963 United States Supreme Court decision banning compulsory prayer in public schools. To gain insight into the dynamics of journalism practiced during controversy, a case study attempts to examine the thoughts, the feelings, and the "mind-sets" of those involved by focusing upon the influence of personal factors in a charged situation. The "Baltimore Morning Sun" and the "Baltimore Evening Sun" were read for all of 1960 through 1962 when the events took place, and the three reporters (who wrote most of the copy) and Bill's mother, Madalyn Murray O'Hair, were all interviewed. Findings showed that: (1) there was an imbalance in the disproportionate amount of space given to representatives of authority and proponents of school prayer in the newspaper compared to the relative paucity of space allotted to O'Hair, Bill, and opponents of school prayer; (2) there was distortion, which linked atheism with an irrelevant issue, communism; (3) there was a quickness on the part of the press to find a stereotype for what they did not fully understand, dissent in the form of atheism; (4) the personal dislike of O'Hair interfered with the professional judgment of two of the reporters; and (5) the portrayal of O'Hair and her son by all of the reporters was uni-dimensional, that is they were seen only as dissidents and there was no sense of them as people. (Twenty-four notes are included.) (MS)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Reports - Evaluative; Historical Materials
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A