This fable points toward something that happened this weekend. A parishioner leaving after mass said rather sarcastically, “Boy, you sure surprised me last week stating that the news media unfairly reported and sensationalized news from Rome.” The popular media reminds us daily that their coverage is fair, accurate, and balanced. I peruse its pages or watch the screen and then when I am bitten a say in utter shock, “How could you say that?” And the answer came to me this past week, “What do you expect. The media is a business. That is what they do.”
I find myself less and less motivated to rail against the news media for being who they are. There are those qualities we wish that they had and those that they actually do have. I keep wanting them to be a plum and all they are is a banana. In the end who is upset? Me. If I could just accept the fact that I am dealing with bananas and not plumbs, life would be a lot better. Yet still I find myself yelling at the paper, “Why don’t you get a real Catholic to explain this to you so that you might tell people what is really being proclaimed by the Catholic Church!”
The last time this happened was at Pope Benedict’s latest clarification concerning the primacy of the Church, which our local paper interpreted as Catholics saying that only Catholics are going to heaven. Their remarks were so far off the mark as to be liable. Then it occurred to me, the news media are like any other business and as such they are not necessarily out to report truth, they are out to sell papers, or garner ratings and to make money. It is not always in their best interest to give a fair, accurate, and balanced story about the Catholic Church. After all, what do we expect? They are a business. That is what they do.
That is not to say that I am excusing it. The reporting in our local paper has caused some ill will. The Saturday Opinion Page carried letters from those in the community who have their liturgical underwear all in a bunch. One was from a pastor of a Lutheran Church who I would have hoped would have read the document before commenting on it but it was apparent that he did not. He was “personally offended at Pope Benedict XVI ‘dissing’’” his ordination into the holy ministry. Another was from an “older Catholic” who takes it upon himself to speak for all of his generation when he says, “We are disappointed with the resuscitation of the Reformation-era teaching . . . The ‘fresh air’ of Vatican II has been a boon to the Catholic Church and all religions. Let us hope that it is here to stay.” Again, what is being spoken is not the result of a well-informed reader speaking to the real issues, but shared ignorance.
Perhaps the best way to look at this is to be happy that they take notice of us at all and then know that the next step is to find out the real story behind the headline.