The last place you’d expect a healthy rumble between the media and a high profile critic is at a meeting of religion journalists. But a speech by high-profile Catholic Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver at the Religion Newswriters Association meeting on his home turf turned into an opportunity for Chaput to air his grievances with the press and journalists–especially the New York Times’ Laurie Goodstein–who challenge Chaput on how he treats the media.
Chaput, who has become one of the most visible spokesmen for the Catholic Church in the U.S, alleged a “seeming collusion—or at least an active sympathy—between some media organizations and journalists, and political and sexual agendas hostile to traditional Christian beliefs.”
He suggested that journalists were hostile to traditional Christians and Christianity while being overly sympathetic and respectful to Muslims. In addition, he accused journalists of being unwilling to admit their mistakes and examine missteps in how they cover the news.
Journalism is a “knowledge profession.” But like any other profession, the work of journalism doesn’t necessarily translate into self-knowledge or self-criticism. And any lasting service to the common good demands both. Journalism has its own unstated orthodoxies. It has its own prejudices. And when they go unacknowledged and uncorrected—as they too often seem to do—they can diminish our public life.
Like other Catholic officials, Chaput has questioned the coverage of the abuse scandal and been especially critical of the NYT’s spring ramp-up of its coverage of the connection between Pope Benedict XVI and alleged cover-ups.
Once the speech was over, he took questions from the audience, and that’s when the fireworks began, according to the Twitter feed from the speech.
Goodstein, the Times‘ national religion correspondent, confronted Chaput on why he has refused to speak to the Times. According to a report by Nicole Neroulias of Huffington Post, Chaput’s beef with the NYT goes back to 2004 when the paper reported on attempts by Catholic bishops to derail John Kerry’s campaign for president because of Kerry’s position on abortion.
After acknowledging the six-year grudge and boycott, Chaput was challenged by USA Today’s religion reporter Cathy Lee Grossman who asked how the church can expect good coverage when it refused to talk to a major, national newspaper like the Times. Chaput responded “[w]e don’t boycott everybody, just The New York Times.”
During the presentation, Chaput praised former Denver Post and Associate Press religion writer Eric Gorski and religious conservative media criticism site GetReligion. In the past, Chaput has said he reads the Denver-based Catholic News Agency website every day, as well as the Denver Post and the Wall Street Journal. He said he reads four or five monthly magazines and listens to National Public Radio and to Fox News.
Now, Chaput is free to hold a six-year old grudge against the paper if he wants, no matter how petty it may be. And there’s little doubt that the media’s skepticism of religious people and institutions can be equally petty and ill-informed. But the media-savvy (and some one said attention-grabbing) Chaput makes a mistake by shutting off the NYT and its highly-regarded religion reporters.
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