Clemente Lisi

Pope Francis and the ongoing fallibility of (quite a few members of) the mainstream media

Pope Francis and the ongoing fallibility of (quite a few members of) the mainstream media

Here is a rather simple test for reporters with experience on the religion beat.

In terms of Catholic tradition, which of the following two forms of communication by Pope Francis has the greater level of authority?

* A formal papal encyclical distributed by the Vatican.

* A comment made during an informal airplane press conference, as Shepherd One flies back to Rome after an overseas trip.

Like I said, it isn't a tough question if one knows anything about the papacy.

Ah, but how about the content of an off-the-cuff Pope Francis one-liner about abortion, "culture wars" and politics? Do those words have more authority, less authority or the same level of authority as a a papal address, using a carefully prepared manuscript, delivered to an Italian conference for Catholic doctors focusing on the sanctity of human life?

That's a tougher one. I would argue that the papal address had more authority than the one-liner. However, if one uses an online search engine to explore press coverage of these kinds of issues -- in terms of gallons of digital ink -- you'll quickly learn that I am part of a small minority on that matter.

Now, I was talking about religion-beat pros. What happens when political editors and reporters try to handle issues of papal authority, when covering tensions and changes in today's Catholic church? Frankly, I think things get screwed up more often than not under those circumstances. But, well, who am I to judge?

If consistent, logical, dare I say "accurate" answers to these kinds of journalistic questions are important to you, then you need to read a new essay -- "Pope Francis and the media’s ongoing fallibility" -- posted by The Media Project. The author is veteran New York City journalist Clemente Lisi, who is now my colleague on the journalism faculty at The King's College in lower Manhattan.

Here's some material gathered from the top of this piece:

Did you hear what Pope Francis said about (fill in the blank)? ...

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Your Thanksgiving think piece: How did 'prayer shaming' become a news media thing?

Your Thanksgiving think piece: How did 'prayer shaming' become a news media thing?

So it's Thanksgiving.

Has anyone heard whether it's OK to offer "thanksgiving" on this day, or has the implication that there is a Supreme Being to whom thanks should be is given been declared a microaggression? Is "thanksgiving" sliding into the "thoughts and prayers" category in American life, both public and private?

That's the subject lurking beneath the surface of an interesting news-related think piece that ran the other day at The Catholic Thing website.

The headline: "Resist 'Prayer Shaming' This Thanksgiving."

I noticed the essay and started reading it. Then I noticed that this piece was written by veteran journalist Clemente Lisi, who is one of my faculty colleagues at The King's College in New York City. Lisi is a New Yorker through and through and has two decades of experience in various newsrooms in the Big Apple, including reporting and editing duties at The New York Post, ABC News and The New York Daily News.

The overture of this piece quickly links the holiday and recent news trends:

Thanksgiving and prayer are intimately linked. While the holiday ... has its roots in Protestant England (the very first Thanksgiving in 1621 was held by the Pilgrims who fled Europe seeking religious freedom), Americans of all faiths have since embraced this uniquely American holiday of giving thanks to God.
You wouldn’t know this from how the mainstream media has generally chosen to cover it in recent years. Thanksgiving has lost its religious meaning -- many people don’t offer a prayer before addressing the turkey -- and has been replaced with a focus on football games and Black Friday shopping. Christmas, unfortunately, has also become less about Jesus and more about consumerism. It’s part of a larger trend whereby our society becomes gradually secularized, even on explicitly religious holidays. And prayer, so central to the lives of millions of Americans, is invisible to those who deliver the news to you each day.

This raises an interesting question for any GetReligion readers who are online today, either before or after the feast.

The key question: Was there any "Thanksgiving" coverage in your newspaper today?

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