Read the daily quote from Pope Francis

What the media don’t know can hurt us

By:

Given the current state of the press and their frequent attitude of either being totally indifferent or completely antagonistic when it comes to Christianity — and Catholicism in particular — it is refreshing to see the ongoing, as well as positive, interest in the developments surrounding the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Perhaps the coverage will serve as a spark to reignite someone’s faith.

But given the significance of this story, is it too much to ask that the media actually know the basics about the event, topic or entity they’re covering so they can accurately explain it to their readers, viewers or subscribers?

The answer to that question, not only regarding the media coverage of Notre Dame but reporting in general, should be a resounding “no.” It’s not too much to ask for accuracy, as well as a general understanding of the topic at hand. That is Journalism 101. It should be a given.

When I was studying journalism, our professors repeatedly told us that, as reporters, we would be expected, in some ways, to be a jack of all trades. In other words, we were going to have to get used to doing our homework on a lot of subjects. That meant contacting reputable sources and asking questions, as opposed to making assumptions. We wouldn’t be able to be an expert in all things, but we should be able to cover a variety of different topics.

One might give a little slack to a cub reporter just out of the gate who’s under deadline pressure and working for a small-town TV-news operation or newspaper. But The New York Times? No.

Now, I’m not being naïve about the “Gray Lady.” Her liberal bias has been well-established for years. In addition to that paper’s bias, there is a real problem with reporting religion on the part of the secular press. One-too-many members of the news media are woefully ignorant when it comes to matters of faith. This problem led to the unfortunate mishandling of one of the big stories that emerged shortly after the Notre Dame blaze broke out.

So how bad was it? Well, brace yourself. On Holy Thursday, the Times published a major story about the heroic efforts of the fire chaplain, Father Jean-Marc Fournier, who risked his safety to recover the religious relics in the cathedral. As the priest stressed in his many interviews, there was something else — and, more precisely, someone else — inside Notre Dame that needed to be rescued from the flames engulfing the church. He said he had to save the crown of thorns and, most importantly, the body of Christ.

As faithful Catholics, we know Father was determined to retrieve the Blessed Sacrament, the source and summit of our Faith. On the other hand, The New York Times assumed the priest was referring to a statue of Jesus, and they misquoted the priest as saying as much.

“I had two priorities: to save the crown of thorns and a statue of Jesus.”

Apparently there was no error in the translation from French to English. But there was a major error in the reporter’s understanding of those words in Catholic doctrine. So why not ask the priest or another Catholic expert instead of assuming the priest was referring to a statue?

After being called out for the mistake for referring to the Eucharist as a statue, the paper did print a correction. But damage was already done, as too many people, including quite a few Catholics, still receive a majority of their information on the Church from the secular press.

This latest journalistic gaffe is one of many in a series of errors on the part of the Times, and unfortunately it’s still happening there and elsewhere in the press, even after media executives admit they need to do better. Following the 2016 presidential election, the media admitted they were pretty much clueless where a large percentage of Americans stood on faith and other moral issues. The executive editor of the paper admitted in an NPR interview that they had a big problem.

“We don’t get religion. We don’t get the role of religion in people’s lives, and I think we can do much better.”

They still don’t get it, and, by the look of things, the situation isn’t going to be changing any time soon.

This article comes to you from OSV Newsweekly (Our Sunday Visitor) courtesy of your parish or diocese.

 

Catholic News & Perspective

Provides information on the Church, the nation and the world from OSV, America's most popular and trusted national Catholic news source


Recent

What the media don’t know can hurt us

Monday, May 27, 2019
By: Teresa Tomeo Given the current state of the press and their frequent attitude of either being totally indifferent or completely antagonistic... Read More

Opening the Word: The world’s satisfaction

Friday, May 24, 2019
By: Timothy P. O'Malley Scriptural numbers have meaning. In the Book of Revelation, the city of Jerusalem is designated as a city saturated with... Read More

Motu proprio’ provides firm, universal response

Wednesday, May 22, 2019
by: Kurt Martens The document Vos estis lux mundi (“You are the light of the world”), issued motu proprio (“on his own... Read More

Seeking something better

Monday, May 20, 2019
By: Msgr. Owen F. Campion Once upon a time, the Byles family, with Irish origins, lived in England. One son, Thomas, remained in England and was... Read More

Catholic graduates are called to be a collective force for good

Wednesday, May 15, 2019
By: Brian Fraga               As the school year wraps up, tens of... Read More

Can you hear them now?

Monday, May 13, 2019
By: Teresa Tomeo During one of his visits to his native Germany early in his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the need for silence in our... Read More

Opening the Word: Church prophecy

Friday, May 10, 2019
By: Timothy P. O'Malley At present, critique of the Church has reached a fever pitch within American society. One cannot read a non-Catholic media... Read More

Green New Deal reframes climate issues

Wednesday, May 8, 2019
By: Brian Fraga The so-called Green New Deal, particularly because of its lead congressional sponsor, is controversial and polarizing, but the... Read More

Gift to the Church

Monday, May 6, 2019
By: Msgr. Owen F. Campion My first visit to this storied church was long ago. I was a seminarian on holiday touring Europe. I have returned to... Read More

Opening the Word: Winning in weakness

Friday, May 3, 2019
By: Timothy P. O'Malley When we hear the word “apocalyptic,” images of wrath and destruction come to mind — blockbuster films... Read More