Thursday, March 2, 2006

“First Things” Responds

by Steve Ray on March 2, 2006

When Magazines Continue to Make Mistakes:
Joseph Bottum & First Things Magazine

Updated 3/5/06 1 PM EST

First Things finally published my letter to the editor along with a few other responses. I had written in response to their article that misrepresented me and my website. I have forgiven them for their misrepresentation and shoddy response. I hold no grudges and forgive them–but at the same time truth matters.

They published my letter — but they edited it. Bottum edited himself out. I am disappointed, though not surprised, that Joseph Bottum (picture below on right) “removed himself“ from my letter since he has not wanted to be responsible from the beginning. He rather deferred to his friend.

They did a good bit of cutting from my letter. They removed a sentence that would have belied Jonathan Last’s (picture on left) whole thesis about my website and about me. In my letter I wrote “Last week I sent $1,000 worth of my books and DVDs to a religious order overseas at no charge.“ I can understand why they cut that from my letter. It would have shown Last to be mistaken and journalistically irresponsible — and maybe then he would have been morally compelled to apologize. But in avoiding the truth he and Bottum assume an apology is not needed.

And that’s not all they edited out of my letter. By publishing the edited letter they try to take the high road, but in reality it demonstrates that they again took the low road.

And to make fun of the “Indiana Ray“ appearance was a bit petty. Actually, had he looked a little closer he would have known the nickname is actually  “Jerusalem Jones“ which was affectionately pinned on me by another periodical. It was meant to emphasize the adventure flavor of our series which was made for Catholic families. Also, had Last seen me leading a pilgrimage through Israel last week, he would have noticed that I looked exactly like I do in the picture. I am not a suit and coat kind of guy.

But even sadder, they did not publish other really excellent letters that slammed Jonathan Last’s article as petty and sloppy. Bottum chose a few letters that did not hit Last too hard — softball pitches. I can understand why they didn’t publish some of the more hard hitting responses. They published the easy ones so that Last wouldn’t look too bad!

Here are a few examples of letters First Things received which Bottum was apparently too cowardly to print. For example, read Al Kresta’s letter (CEO of Ave Maria Radio and host of Al Kresta Live on EWTN and Sirius Radio). Bottum also didn’t publish Rosalind Moss’ excellent piece probably because it was too hard on his buddy. And everyone already knows about Karl Keatings e-letter (president of Catholic Answers). These are just a few of the letters I am aware of and I know there are a lot more — I received at least 25 myself.

Jonathan Last got hit pretty hard for his sloppy piece. I thought these guys — Bottum and Last — might be big boys. But instead Last’s response shows that he is defensive and touchy and that Bottum deferred to his friend. Last poked at me in his article and was mad at me for poking him back. Because his buddy owns the bully pulpit, it seems that Last gets the last word.

PS.  Oh, and one other factual detail that shows Last is incompetent and doesn’t do his homework before he writes. He says “Click on the link and you can buy the series for $249.95.” Unfortunately, it does not say that anywhere on my site because the set is not yet complete and won’t be for another 4 years. What else does he write that has no foundation in fact?

PPS.  He also made a big deal about the first three items on my Menu Bar: “Resources,” “Products,” and “Online Store” as though these are all selling products and proving his point. If he would have taken the time to look he would have noticed that “Resources” is actually totally free material I offer to people. Thousands of pages of material and thousands of hours of my work freely offered to help people understand and defend the Bible and their faith. What about it Mr. Last?

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