Once upon a time, journalists had a simple device that they used to signal readers when experts and insiders on one side of a story were not interested in taking part in a public debate about their work or their cause.
When dealing with a Catholic controversy, for example, journalists would write a sentence that went something like this: "A spokesperson for the archbishop said he could not comment at this time." Or perhaps this: "The (insert newspaper name here) made repeated attempts to contact the leaders of (insert name of activist organization here) but they declined to comment at this time."
In other words, it was clear that newspapers thought that readers -- if they were going to trust the content of a hot-button story -- needed to know that reporters and editors offered shareholders on both sides of the issue a chance to offer their take on key facts. It was important for readers to know that journalists were not interested in writing public-relations pieces for a particular cause.
The bottom line: Have you ever noticed that people on both sides of complicated or emotional stories almost always have different takes on the meaning of key events and quotations?
That was then. Today, there are journalists who clearly think that this kind of extra effort in the name of balance, accuracy and fairness is no longer a good thing when covering stories that touch on key elements of their newspaper's doctrines. This leads us, of course, to yet another five-star example of "Kellerism" -- click here for background -- in New York Times coverage of Pope Francis.
As is the norm, the story begins with a very emotional and complex anecdote about Catholic church life in which, it appears, there was no attempt whatsoever to talk to people on the other side.