Just for fun: A look at journalism word games and RIP for The Weekly Standard

Just for fun: A look at journalism word games and RIP for The Weekly Standard

The Religion Guy Memo usually explores religion beat issues, tips of the trade, or stories and sources worth consideration.

But this non-religious item, just for fun, regards word games that journalists enjoy, including a farewell to a verbally clever magazine, The Weekly Standard. Actually, come to think of it, the Standard was a news-and-commentary magazine often paid close attention to religious and cultural trends.

The New Yorker’s obituary proclaimed the Standard to be America’s “most influential, and often the most interesting” conservative periodical. (Yes, The Guy also consumes ample liberal journalism.)

Most coverage blamed the weekly’s demise on its consistent criticisms of President Donald Trump. True, former editor William Kristol was an outspoken #NeverTrump voice. However, it’s more accurate to say TWS was favorable when the president backed its longstanding conservative or hawkish or Republican principles, and hostile on the numerous occasions when he did not.

Politics aside, The Guy hails the magazine’s original reporting alongside the usual thumbsucking, stylish authors, and its Lincoln-esque exploitation of humor, a cherished commodity amid drearily earnest and self-important political journalism.

We’ll miss the back page Parody and occasional Not A Parody, pungent Ramirez cartoons, devilish caricatures on the cover, and the continual ribbing of liberal cant, including squibs up front in The Scrapbook, e.g. the immortal “Articles We Tried Not to Read,” and “Sentences We Didn’t Finish.”

TWS should not vanish without also noting the astute cultural coverage, for instance a Dec. 24 disquisition on the word “schadenfreude.” The Dec. 10 edition served up this gem, an amusing 10-page history of proper word usage per the popular “American Heritage Dictionary” and its advisory panel. Author David Skinner was a panel member before the publisher abolished it “without ceremony” last February.

Back in 1961, elitists were aghast when the unbuttoned third edition of “Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged” radically reduced “slang” labels and abolished “colloquial.”

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Framing Pope Benedict XVI: What, pray tell, is the opposite of a Catholic 'reformer'?

Framing Pope Benedict XVI: What, pray tell, is the opposite of a Catholic 'reformer'?

At the moment, Catholic leaders and news consumers are in a kind of holding pattern during the crisis linked to the life and career of former cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

Everyone is waiting to see if Rome's current strategy -- silence at the Vatican and the slammed doors (metaphorically speaking) in most Catholic offices -- is going to work. Will it inspire journalists to dig deeper or will pros in elite newsrooms retreat, since many may not want to hurt progressive Catholics (who are on the right side of history, after all)? Time will tell.

Meanwhile, the coverage has slowed down a little, with most stories focusing on the kinds of background details that frustrate editors yet keep the chess match alive.

Take, for example, the Washington Post story that ran the other day with this headline: "Pope Benedict, in retired seclusion, looms in the opposition to Pope Francis."

The old news is that there are currently two popes and this could -- repeat COULD -- change games of Vatican chess. More old news: The retired pope has, once again, remained silent. The potential news there? What does Benedict's silence mean, in light of the public testimony offered by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano? Inquiring minds want to know, and all that.

The answer to that question is certainly above my pay grade and, besides, this Post piece does a decent job exploring some of the theories linked to Benedict. No, what struck me about this feature is that it is a perfect example of what your GetReligionistas call the "frame game." Early on, big issues that loom in the background are framed in such a way that the whole editorial product leans to one side. Pay close attention to this crucial section:

Although many people hoped to hear from Benedict amid new allegations that a coverup of sexual misconduct reached the highest levels of the church, he has established that an ex-pope should maintain a vow of silence about church matters — even during crises and even though he is particularly well positioned to affirm or knock down the accusations.

Some Vatican watchers and insiders say the mere fact of Benedict’s 2013 abdication has made the modern papacy more vulnerable, emboldening voices of dissent. They say it’s hard to imagine a letter like the one released last week by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, provoking Pope Francis with a call to resign, without Benedict having created the possibility that modern popes might give up their seats before death.

Wait for it.

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