If you are interested in (a) the Jesuits, (b) old-school Catholic liberalism, (c) humor, (d) religion news or (e) all of the above, then you really need to be following Father James Martin on Twitter -- @JamesMartinSJ. You are really going to want to jump on board this week to get his take on the @Pontifex visit to America's elite media corridor between Washington, D.C., and New York City.
Father Martin is well known for his popular books (such as "Between Heaven and Mirth" and "Jesus: A Pilgrimage"), for his analysis work at America magazine and as the official chaplain of the old "Colbert Report" on Comedy Central. He is also, as you would expect, a skilled observer of religion-beat work in the American press.
This weekend, he got an early jump on the papal-coverage tsunami by starting a lively hashtag noting some early mistakes made by print and broadcast journalists in their coverage of the Pope Francis stop in Cuba -- #PapalGoofs. He was very gentle in this series of corrections, providing no URLs pointing directly to examples of these media mistakes. Surely some of these helpful tips were offered as preemptive strikes?
Obviously, #PapalGoofs refers to goofs that journalists may or may not make while covering the pope, as opposed to goofs that observers believe have been made by the pope. Francis critics will need to start their own hashtag.
We will jump into those tweets in a moment -- Bobby Ross, Jr., style -- but first I want to note that many, or even most, of the mistakes illustrated in the first (let's hope he continues) #PapalGoofs stream are addressed in the online stylebook of the Religion Newswriters Association. You may want to bookmark that right here at ReligionStylebook.com.
Now, here we go. And the last shall be first:
You would be amazed how often reporters do not grasp the various levels of authority represented in papal documents, homilies and, yes, off-the-cuff remarks. Moving on.
And back to another crucial style point about doctrine and authority:
And a big "Amen" to this next one, from my perspective as an Orthodox layman:
This one is accurate for some news publications and, verbally, for broadcasters:
Here is a style point that I never was successful in getting editors to grasp, in the newsrooms in which I worked:
A few basics on style issues in coverage of a Mass:
This next one, I must admit, made be laugh -- to keep from crying.
Ditto for this one:
I cannot tell you how often I have seen this mistake:
Father Martin also offered several other helpful guidelines about covering the Jesuits, since Pope Francis is the first Jesuit pope, and religious orders in general.
The #PapalGoofs thread has gone quiet, for now, but here's hoping that Father Martin is back with more. Also, as I read this, I have to admit that I immediately thought that this Twitter blast could serve as an appropriate and humorous hook for his first appearance on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert." Right?
One more thing: I have never been able to launch a successful hashtag. Clearly, it takes more social-media clout than I possess.
However, I think it would be great if, during this media storm, readers were able to tweet tiny bites of quotes from Pope Francis that didn't fit into the emerging news template for this visit (which, so far, will allow papal comments on immigration, the environment and maybe Joe Biden). In particular, I will be listening for quotes linked to religious freedom worldwide and especially the plight of oppressed religious minorities in the Middle East, such as the ancient churches there that are currently being crushed.
What hashtag would work for that? Maybe #WhatFrancisSaid would do the trick?