Friday, September 24, 2010

Mainstream US media asleep on the job?

A friend of mine, a retired Hollywood actor, who rightfully prides himself on keeping up with the news, wrote me recently and included a newspaper clipping on the Pope's recent trip to Great Britain. The newspaper article featured a large photo of crowds of placard-bearing anti-Catholic demonstrators and was substantially devoted to only one subject: the Pope's meeting with sex-abuse victims and the outrage of Britons over the sex scandal. If one's news sources were limited to the mainstream print media and TV networks in the US, this is likely all he would know about the Pope's journey to Britain, if he knew about it at all. By contrast, the historical magnitude and significance of the Pope's visit, which had little if anything to do with the sex scandals, was widely reported in the international secular news media, not to mention Catholic news agencies and blogs. The astounding lack of coverage of this event by American media, however, was noted in a recent post by Deacon Greg Kandra, "The pope, and the greatest story never told" (Beliefnet, September 21, 2010):
One of the biggest surprises of Pope Benedict's historic trip to the United Kingdom may be how few people realize that it was, in fact, historic.

Sunday night, I was chatting by phone with my father-in-law in Maryland. I told him I'd been busy with the papal coverage all weekend.

"Didn't seem like much happened," he said.

"Really?," I replied. "He was the first pope to visit the Church of England's Westminster Abbey. He stood there with the Archbishop of Canterbury, side by side, as they both pronounced the final blessing and made the sign of the cross together."

"He did that?" My father-in-law sounded genuinely surprised.

"He went to the hall where Thomas More was sentenced to death and delivered a speech about religion to the civil leaders of Great Britain."

"He did?"

"And he took part in his first beatification: Cardinal John Henry Newman, an Anglican priest who converted to Catholicism."

I could almost hear him scratching his bald head. "How come nobody said anything about that?"

Now, my father-in-law is a pretty smart guy, and what you might consider an observant Catholic. He attends mass every morning. He keeps up on current events. Now retired from the FDA, he regularly checks in with the Washington Post, USA TODAY, MSNBC and CNN. But he was baffled that this stuff I was telling him wasn't on the nightly news.

"All we saw down here," he explained, "was that he met with sex abuse victims."

I started to wonder what sort of coverage the trip had received. After I hung up the phone, I searched through several newspaper websites. I clicked on the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe. Nothing, nothing, nothing. None of them mentioned on their home page the pope's just-completed trip.

When I got to work on Monday, I searched CNN Newsource, which provides newsfeeds to my show, "Currents," as well as to countless other news programs around the country. I found a grand total of one item, running about a minute long, slugged "Anti-Pope Demonstrations."

That was it.

Based on my conversation with my father-in-law, you could be forgiven for thinking that the pope made the trip just to meet with victims of sex abuse -- and that a lot of Britons were ticked off about it.

Now, I know: it's tempting to argue that it was a conspiracy of media bias. But I think there's something sadder and less sinister at work: it's the economy, stupid. The religion beat, in most places, just doesn't exist anymore. (Ironic, considering that a recent report says it's something that people crave.) But it's one of the first things to be cut in a budget crunch. In television news, the days when CNN had a Delia Gallagher or ABC had a Peggy Wehmeyer are long gone. It's worse at newspapers, many of which are on life support, gasping for air. Truly historic moments, potentially earth-shifting events, like the pope's trip to the UK, are going under-reported, or un-reported, or mis-reported. They get coverage, but not necessarily from a regular reporter, who understands the nuances of the beat. As a result, they happen in a void, without any real context beyond the hot-button issues of sex or violence or protest. And isn't it sad: that seems to be all that we hear about religion -- any religion -- in the media these days.

Call me old school, but there's something wrong here.

If my father-in-law, a fairly well-informed guy in the pews, didn't know what he didn't know, I have to wonder: how many others in the pews are also being left in the dark?
[Hat tip to E.E.]


Teresa said...

Spot on!! The MSM ( Left Stream Media) is certainly asleep at the switch. Some things that the media decides not to report is done purposefully because it doesn't fit their agenda, but their highlighting the Pope's meeting with the abuse victims keeps the abuse story alive, and that is in their agenda. The media just doesn't get religion anymore. They have turned away from religion in order to turn to reporting on what they perceive to be more "important" news in the pop culture today. The media is ignoring these types of life changing or monumental events and by doing so, they are doing our country and its citizens a great disservice.

Lutheran said...

Media is not asleep. They're covering exactly what they want to cover--the news.

It's a matter who or what dictates reality. We are presently in a NWO of opinion-driven news, not the current of events-driven news.

If you're looking for right or wrong, good and evil--ask the opinion-makers (to include media and "ruling elite" of politics plus the millions of mindless trolls who tow their line) what it is for the day or week. I suggest glancing at The Daily Beast to get a clear idea of the "reality" being dictated and simutaneously slurped up. The facts are not being kept in the way of what they think are grand "realities" = news.

Anonymous said...

Religion has always been poorly covered, but it used to be accorded a degree of regard. Contrarily, entertainment and Hollywood news used to be accorded attention only in Style sections. All that really has changed. Religion is covered only in the post politicized of terms, and entertainment is typically front page news. A banner weekend at the box office or an American Idol runoff will get mentioned about the fold, whereas the Pope... not quite. And the mechanics of religion stories is routinely off. Religion specifics now are viewed as about as important as details in Dungeons and Dragons rulebooks.

I don't think it is the economy. It is the culture. We've lost a part of the culture war, and the Church is simply one of many voices, one that is less credible and interesting to many, one that seems archaic and dated. The younger generation thinks it strange the Church was ever accorded so much import, and also sees it primarily as hypocritical and dysfunctional, unable to manage its own house.

As mulitculturalism ascends, the older voices lose authority and also novelty, and become tired sounding. We see ourselves as a creative minority. Many others see us as Amish minus the country charm.

Anonymous said...

FIL doesn't get EWTN I suspect?


Ralph Roister-Doister said...

They're not asleep. They are hard at work finetuning a slanderous and vulgarized view of the CAtholic Church, many of whose US leaders are only too eager to assist them, performing seals that they are.

Pertinacious Papist said...


You're right. We've never had cable nor satellite TV. For a period of about 5 years, we had a pair of rabbit ears antennae when someone foisted a black-and-white TV on us out of "pity" for us, so our boys could watch sports. But there is so little of any abiding value on TV at all, that we quickly did away with it. When does one have TIME to WATCH the glow-in-the-dark tube?

Whatever is convenient and important to have -- like the news -- has always been available on radio, which allows one to multi-task by preparing dinner or doing the dishes. Or, nowadays, most things like EWTN are available online if you have a computer anyway, and then you can decide what you want
to spend time on, if you so decide.

Anonymous said...

Benedict's first trip to Germany was also a huge event there, but ignored in the media elsewhere. His British trip was a wonderful morale-boosting moment. Blessed JHN smiled down on us.