media

Vatican ‘wags the dog’ on McCarrick and the American press is powerless against it

Vatican ‘wags the dog’ on McCarrick and the American press is powerless against it

Journalism isn’t what it used to be.

You hear a lot of people in the business — most of them over 40 — say things like that either in a newsroom or afterwards at the nearest bar at the end of a very busy day. The internet and layoffs are the two biggest culprits. The internet radically altered newsgathering methods and distribution of information. That “disruption” — as some have called it — led to financial loses and smaller staffs. That and digital advertising that drives many news consumers crazy.

Smaller newsrooms and dwindling budgets means fewer journalists. More importantly, it means fewer of them can travel. The ability to actually be in the place where something is taking place — rather than thousands of miles away in an office — does make a major difference. It’s why The New York Times and Washington Post produce such quality work from foreign correspondents.

This leaves most U.S. newsrooms reliant on wire services, most notably The Associated Press and Reuters, for international coverage. This brings us to the Vatican, which is located across the Atlantic from most newsrooms and Pope Francis, like pontiffs before him, has a penchant for traveling, it means having to rely on these news organizations for what’s going on/being said so far away.

Pope Francis is a great example of an international leader whose handlers like to control the message. Not too different from the White House press office, where access can often be very limited. That makes the papal news conference, the one that takes place aboard the pope’s flight on the way to Rome at the end of very trip, very important. President Donald Trump and his press shop get plenty of heat, and deservingly so, for sparring with reporters. He isn’t alone. Sadly, the slow death of local journalism in many once-thriving market across the United States has made it easier for town boards, mayors and even governors to get away with more.

Covering the pope is on a global scale, but some of the same problems afflicting local journalism can also be found here. The papal news conference, it turns out, isn’t what it used to be. What is it like these days? Here’s one recent observation from John Allen, a veteran Vatican reporter, in a piece for Crux. He noted that the most-recent news conference on June 2 after the pope’s return from Romania, was an example of how these gatherings “have been considerably less spicy, often serving up little more than reiterations of things Francis already has said, or excuses to allow the pope to say things that he or his advisers want on the record for one reason or another.” Here’s what Allen’s piece is about:

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Mormon Church practices discipline; news reports missed key transparency question

Mormon Church practices discipline; news reports missed key transparency question

Usually when an organization has bad or embarrassing news, it'll release the details on a Friday, perhaps in the afternoon, realizing that Saturday's newspaper is (or was) perhaps the least-read edition of the week.

In the fictional White House of TV's "The West Wing," this was referred to as "taking out the trash day."

In the real world, however, some organizations will release bad news when it happens, which explains the wide media coverage of Tuesday's announcement from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more popularly known as the Mormon Church. Elder James J. Hamula, a general authority of the 15 million-member denomination, was "released" from his church administrative position as well as removed from the church membership rolls.

The Salt Lake Tribune gave us the facts:

For the first time in nearly 30 years, the Mormon church has excommunicated one of its top leaders.
On Tuesday morning, James J. Hamula was released from his position in the First Quorum of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after disciplinary action.
LDS Church spokesman Eric Hawkins provided no details about the removal. But the church did confirm Hamula was no longer a member of the church and that his ouster was not for apostasy or disillusionment.
In cases involving members of Mormonism’s presiding quorums -- rare as they are -- the faith’s governing First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles form a disciplinary council to consider such actions.

There was no gloating of any sort by the Tribune and certainly none at the Deseret News, the general-interest daily owned by the LDS Church. (Disclosure: I served as a national reporter for the DNews in 2014 and 2015.) And as you might expect, the "hometown" newspapers provided solid coverage of the dismissal.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Hillary Clinton wants to preach, and The Atlantic omits, yep, some really obvious context

Hillary Clinton wants to preach, and The Atlantic omits, yep, some really obvious context

Love her or loathe her -- there are millions of people willing to line up behind each option -- former U.S. Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic Party candidate for President Hillary Rodham Clinton is a person of strong beliefs.

One of those, if media reports are to be accepted at face value, is that she's a dedicated person of faith who might want to step onto a platform and declare her spiritual viewpoint. A church platform. Behind a pulpit. As a United Methodist lay preacher, perhaps.

In other words, as The Atlantic notes in an analysis piece, "Hillary Wants to Preach."

Noting that Clinton is planning a campaign memoir for a fall release, the magazine/website adds that she approved -- and wrote the foreword for -- a book of devotionals sent to her on the campaign trail:

Hillary Clinton wants to preach. That’s what she told Bill Shillady, her longtime pastor, at a recent photo shoot for his new book about the daily devotionals he sent her during the 2016 campaign. Scattered bits of reporting suggest that ministry has always been a secret dream of the two-time presidential candidate: Last fall, the former Newsweek editor Kenneth Woodward revealed that Clinton told him in 1994 that she thought “all the time” about becoming an ordained Methodist minister. She asked him not to write about it, though: “It will make me seem much too pious.” The incident perfectly captures Clinton’s long campaign to modulate -- and sometimes obscure -- expressions of her faith.

The rest of this article is long on historical analysis but short on issues-focused context. We learn, for example, about her upbringing as a progressive Methodist teen-ager:

Hillary Rodham grew up attending First United Methodist Church in the conservative suburb of Park Ridge, Illinois, often taking field trips into Chicago with her youth pastor to see figures like Martin Luther King Jr. While other girls were flipping through beauty mags, she was reading about Vietnam and poverty in a now-defunct magazine for Methodist students called motive. (The title was always styled with a lower-case m.)

So we go on, and on, and on about Clinton's faith and its sometimes halting expression in the political realm.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Washington Post really, really tries to listen as grace-saying Donald Trump supporters explain life

Washington Post really, really tries to listen as grace-saying Donald Trump supporters explain life

Before the inauguration of President Donald Trump, before his chief White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon instructed the press to "keep its mouth shut and listen," reporter Monica Hesse of The Washington Post was trying to do just that. 

Well, we're talking about the "listen" part, at least. 

In one off-the-mainline feature, Hesse hung out with a middle-class family from Corbin, Kentucky, known to many as the place where Colonel Harlan Sanders came up with Kentucky Fried Chicken.

But it was politics, and not poultry, the Post was interested in: "This is the first in an occasional series of stories dropping in on families in the first year of a new presidency, and at a time of societal change," an editor's note atop the story read. In introducing the Razmuse family, we see the complexities from the get-go:

They were an American family, at the beginning of a presidential term in which the biggest clarifying lesson was that there were many different kinds of American families trying to share the elbow-space of one country.
There were the ones who hated Donald Trump from the beginning and made it clear. There were the ones who loved him from the beginning and made that clear, too. And then there were lots of ones like the Razmuses, for whom moments of clarity were centered on subjects that were considerably less divisive.
What Suzie Razmus was sure of: how she loved her husband and their three sons. How she was devoted to her faith and her community. How Shane, 13, really needed to eat more breakfast. How that inane “Pen-Pineapple­Apple-Pen” song got stuck in her head every time Henry, 17, sang it. How the low, green mountains surrounding Corbin, Ky., could be breathtaking to newcomers but banal to lifelong residents, which is why, every morning when she drove to the movie theater her family owned and operated, she worked hard not to take the view for granted.

Lots and lots of human details there. Keep reading. You just know where this is going to end up, sooner rather than later.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Baptist pro: Don't meet the press, unless you want to

Here’s an interesting piece of church-crisis communications advice: Don’t take your story to the press. In fact, don’t even try to answer their questions.

Please respect our Commenting Policy