It is getting harder and harder to explain to many GetReligion readers why we see a bright red line between basic hard-news journalism and advocacy/analysis journalism.
In the latter, select journalists are allowed to make obvious leaps of logic, to use "editorial" language that passes judgment, to lean in one editorial direction (as opposed to being fair to voices on both sides) and to use fewer attributions telling readers about the sources that shaped the reporting. In other words, analysis writing offers a blend of information and opinion. Reporters who are given the liberty to do this tend to be experienced, trusted specialty reporters.
In the past, editors tended to be rather careful and let readers know what they were reading -- flying an analysis flag or logo right out in the open so that readers were not confused. (For example, I am a columnist with the Universal syndicate. By definition I do analysis writing every week.)
The problem is that the line between hard news and advocacy journalism is increasingly vanishing and editors have stopped using clear labels. Your GetReligionistas are constantly sent URLs for stories that are clearly works of advocacy journalism, in which no attempts have been made to quote articulate voices on both sides of hot-button issues, yet they are not clearly labeled as analysis. We are left asking, "What is this?"
Want to see what I mean? Well, in the near future, Pope Francis will name some new cardinals. Right now, editors want journalists to produce stories -- modeled on political campaign coverage, of course -- ranking the American candidates.
So here are crucial passages from brilliant writers at two major religion-news outlets. Your task is to figure out which is a hard-news story and which one was labeled "analysis."
Ready? Example No. 1 is:
So if he were to choose an American -- or two -- who might it be? Here are four options, listed in order of likelihood:
1. Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles
Los Angeles is far and away the largest diocese in the U.S. church, with more than 4 million baptized members. Gomez, who turns 63 this month, is Mexican-born and, like his flock, represents the Latino future of the church. Although he hews to doctrinal orthodoxy, Gomez is increasingly outspoken on social justice issues such as immigration — a priority for Francis.
2. Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago
Cupich, 65, was only appointed to Chicago in September, but he was Francis’ first major U.S. nomination and one the pope took a personal role in. Cupich is seen as much more in line with Francis’ agenda than the retired archbishop, Cardinal Francis George. George is nearly 78 so has two more years of conclave eligibility, but he is also seriously ill with cancer.
3. Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta
Gregory, 67, was considered a contender for the Chicago spot, but a red hat would be a nice consolation prize. It would also make some sense: Atlanta is a fast-growing diocese, unlike shrinking dioceses in the Northeast and Midwest, and although it has never had a cardinal as archbishop it may be time. Also, Gregory is one of a handful of African-American bishops and making him a cardinal would be like, well, electing a black president.
4. Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia
Chaput, 70, is widely seen as a leader of the culture warrior wing of the U.S. hierarchy, and not particularly in sync with Francis. But Chaput is hosting the church’s World Day of Families next September, which will serve as the main venue for Francis’ first U.S. visit. The retired archbishop of Philadelphia, Cardinal Justin Rigali, turns 80 in April. On the downside, Philadelphia -- like many other dioceses in the declining “Rust Belt” of Catholicism -- may no longer be considered an automatic red hat as it once was.
Now, here is example No. 2:
In terms of candidates from the United States, there are three prelates from archdioceses traditionally led by a cardinal who are currently in line. In order of how long they’ve been waiting, they are: Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, who took over in March 2011; Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, who was appointed three months later in July 2011; and Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago, tapped by Francis in September 2014 and installed in November. ...
Francis could skip the United States altogether, citing the tradition that a new cardinal isn’t appointed for an archdiocese while its retired cardinal remains under the age of 80. (The reason is that it would seem odd if one archdiocese got two votes in a papal election.)
In Los Angeles, retired Cardinal Roger Mahony is 78; in Philadelphia, Cardinal Justin Rigali is 79; and in Chicago, Cardinal Francis George is 77.
However, Francis has already demonstrated a willingness to break with protocol. So the question would still be asked of why he chose not to in this case. Moreover, Rigali turns 80 in February and George is in ill health, so there would be a clear logic for setting tradition aside in at least those two cases.
No matter what Francis does, many Americans will be tempted to read it as a statement.
If a red hat goes to Gomez, it will be seen as history’s first pope from Latin America creating the first Hispanic cardinal in the United States, thereby giving a shout-out to the country’s burgeoning Latino Catholic population.
If it’s Chaput, it will be styled as a sign of confidence ahead of the pope’s trip to Philadelphia next September for a Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Families.
It would also probably be seen as an indirect rebuttal to perceptions of a rift between the “liberal” Francis and the “conservative” Chaput, as well as to the idea that Francis is conducting an ideological purge at senior levels of the church.
If it’s Cupich, the perception may be that Francis is moving quickly to ensure that his hand-picked allies occupy the Church’s most senior posts. Critics may resurrect charges familiar from the John Paul era, albeit in a different ideological direction, that the pope is “stacking the deck” in the College of Cardinals.
Which is which? Which is being circulated as hard news and which is labeled "analysis"? What differences do you see?