Funeral services were held today for Denis Dillon, the long-serving district attorney for Nassau County in New York and a man whose Catholic faith influenced his politics. The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times promptly covered his death, mostly highlighting his high-profile prosecutions. The Journal mentions Dillon's Catholic faith in the lead and then returns to subject with one brief sentence:
A Catholic, Mr. Dillon changed his party affiliation to Republican in 1989, saying the party was more in line with his anti-abortion views.
In contrast, the New York Times uses the abortion angle front and center in Sarah Wheaton's lead.
Denis E. Dillon, the longtime district attorney of Nassau County, N.Y., who quietly oversaw high-profile prosecutions while using his office as a bully pulpit against abortion, died on Sunday morning at his home in Rockville Centre. He was 76.
Seriously? Tell us how you really fell. I would have the same visceral reaction if she wrote "...while using his office as a bully pulpit for abortion rights." It seems odd to use that kind of language to describe someone's advocacy one way or another without more examples. What happened to the reporter's old "show, don't tell" motto?
You would think that if the Times used that angle in the lead, it would be fleshed out in the article a little bit more. The reporter makes a brief mention of his faith as important in his life.
But Mr. Dillon was known as a private man whose commitments to his beliefs--driven by a strong Roman Catholic faith--superseded political ambitions.
Here is what we get on Dillon's so-called "bully pulpit."
First elected as a Democrat in 1974, in an era when Republicans dominated the county's politics, Mr. Dillon did not face serious opposition until 2005, when he was narrowly defeated by Kathleen M. Rice. He switched his affiliation to Republican in 1989, when the local party adopted an affirmation of abortion rights in its platform. He had run for governor on the Right to Life Party line in 1986.
So we have a newspaper that barely mentions Dillon's faith and one that zeros in on the politics of abortion with little explanation. If you had to choose between the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal coverage, which would you pick?
Image via Wikimedia Commons: Pulpit of the cathedral Saint-Cecilia in Albi.