Monday, September 10, 2012

Houston Chronicle's Dawn Mountain coverage

Last Thursday, Houston Chronicle published this article about Houston's Dawn Mountain temple. 

The article provided unusually prominent exposure of a local Buddhist institution, especially given that it floated on the front page of Chron for several hours that day and thus was immediately accessible to the browsing masses. 

Chron does have a religion blogging section called Houston Belief, but many "skimmer" type newspaper readers probably don't encounter it very often, given that its contents are buried within Chron's many layers of web pages, such that navigation to it is difficult unless you already know where you're going.

So that's the good news, in a sense - some front-page exposure of a facet of our local Buddhist community did occur last week. 

The bad news is that the coverage wasn't necessarily of the flavor that was in the best interests of that community.  There's a substantive description as to why in the Comments section below the Dawn Mountain article.  For brevity, I won't repeat those observations and logic chains here, but basically, readers who knew nothing about local Buddhism probably came away from that article with the impression that Buddhism was (a) rare in Houston, (b) the dominion of mature western academics, and (c) rightfully restricted to Montrose, which is largely defined by its counterculturalism (and which has been called "the strangest neighborhood east of the Pecos"). 

Houston's 70,000+ largely conservative, largely non-countercultural Buddhists distributed among about forty local thriving temples would probably disagree with such impressions. 

I'm not quite sure what else we might contribute at this point to help improve such perceptions and presentations.  I have previously reached out to most of our local academic faculty members who teach in the realm of religion, and I have reached out to commercial news journalists, just to let them know that there's a network being built here through which they can access people, facts, and perspective within the Buddhist community as a whole, if they have a need for that kind of information. 

Beyond that, it may just be a matter of accruing additional authenticity through continued building of our local Buddhism database and content.  I'm gradually chipping away at that, but it's a huge task.

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