Aiming for accuracy

mary_ann_glendon_ambassadorEarlier this week, Elizabeth opened a discussion about what standards religion journalism blogs should be held to. Some mainstream reporters insert quite a bit of personal opinion while others retain their journalistic distance. Some use the blogs as a means of unloading information that couldn't make it into brief stories. Many use a slightly more personal tone. Veteran religion journalist Cathy Lynn Grossman wrote a rather flippant post about who should receive Notre Dame's Laetare Medal in light of the fact that this year's recipient is declining it:

Who's Catholic enough -- besides Pope Benedict and some ultra-traditionalists aren't so sure about him -- to be honored with Notre Dame's Laetare Medal this month?

Former US. Ambassador to the Vatican and top-ranked Catholic Mary Ann Glendon, has turned down the most prestigious award given to U.S. lay Catholics -- intended to honor someone who exemplified the church's ideals and contributed to humanity -- to avoid sharing the podium with President Obama.

I really find that initial paragraph completely unnecessary. But it's blog writing and maybe I should lower my standards. And I'm wondering what it means to be a top-ranked Catholic.

But a reader who submitted the link noted other problems as well. Grossman says Glendon declined the award to avoid sharing the podium with President Barack Obama. Not so much says reader Kyle:

Glendon's stated reasons were that 1) she is concerned that in her view Notre Dame violated [United States Catholic Conference of Bishops] guidelines in honoring the president; 2) did not wish to be used as "balance" for that appearance; 3) did not consider a commencement service the time and place for a discussion of the issues involved and 4) is concerned that there is a "ripple effect" from Notre Dame's example and didn't feel in conscience she could participate in it. Zero of those things involve not wishing to share a podium with the president.

Why are so many reporters having so much difficulty accurately conveying such a clear statement?

It's true. Glendon's statement was clear and not terribly long or otherwise difficult to digest. By all means, please read it.

But some reporters handled it differently. Writing for the Associated Press, reporter Tom Coyne explained that Notre Dame will not be awarding anyone a Laetare Medal this year:

The University of Notre Dame has decided against awarding its top honor at commencement this year after its intended recipient turned it down over the school's decision to have President Barack Obama speak to graduates. ...

The school originally planned to award the Laetare Medal to Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard University law professor and anti-abortion scholar who turned down the award, saying the school shouldn't be honoring Obama.

I must note that it is quite interesting to watch Glendon -- a scholar in bioethics, property and human rights in constitutional and international law -- be described as an "anti-abortion scholar."

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