While it’s easy to paint any institution—like the press—with the broad brush strokes and to pretend the portrait accurately depicts the entire institution, The Motley Monk thinks it pretty safe to say the general impression of the U.S. public is that the national press is basically liberal in terms of its members’ political leanings and is also generally not balanced when it comes to reporting issues concerning Roman Catholic teaching.
This lack of balance is something liberals and conservatives might actually agree upon. Liberals because they enjoy having the press report their point of view. And conservatives because they are angry because they feel cheated because their point of view isn’t being reported.
In light of this broad brush portrait and observation, The Motley Monk was pleasantly surprised to read the ombudsman for the Washington Post, Patrick B. Pexton, taking time in an op-ed to respond directly to the question: “What would lead so many Washington Post readers during the past six months to conclude that the newspaper is anti-Catholic?”
That’s a great question, no?
Pexton’s conclusion—following a bit of the expected institutional self-defense—revealed more than bit of refreshing candor, in The Motley Monk’s opinion.
Concerning the critics’ charge that the Washington Post is anti-Catholic, Pexton wrote:
They have a point. There are deep divisions within the church that Post reporting should accurately reflect. But sometimes The Post’s reporting and even editorials fall short in conveying the passion with which many Catholics hold their views, whether they be against the contraception mandate, gay marriage, abortion or in favor of aid to the poor. It doesn’t mean that Post reporters or editorialists have to embrace those views, but they should accurately explain them in a ways all readers can understand. That, after all, is also part of getting at the truth.
The Motley Monk thinks Mr. Pexton is absolutely correct.
To be a “free press,” its members will always hold personal opinions—both pro and con—about the various matters they report. But, if the press is to remain “free” and exercise its “watchdog” function, its members must not be beholden to any particular interest or ideology that would cause any of them to distort the facts they are reporting.
A free press reports the whole and entire truth as it’s currently understood, supporting reportage with all of the relevant facts.
As an institution, perhaps the Washington Post isn’t anti-Catholic. However, The Motley Monk wasn’t persuaded by Paxton’s institutional self-defense which included the number of Catholics and members of the Catholic hierarchy whose op-ed columns are published in the Washington Post. The number of Catholics who contribute to a newspaper, whether they are liberal or conservative, doesn’t guarantee a newspaper is “getting at the truth.”
Likewise, what guarantees that the Washington Post is “getting at the truth” isn’t that its reporters “get Catholics,” as conservative Catholics as well as the members of the hierarchy at the Archdiocese of Washington and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops opined to Mr. Pexton as he was cobbling together his op-ed.
Getting at the truth requires that every Washington Post reporter—not its op-ed contributors—report the facts. They mustn’t allow any particular bias to interfere with reporting those facts as objectively as is possible…as is expected of any press that would dare to call itself “free.”
To read Patrick Pexton’s op-ed in the Washington Post, click on the following link:
To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, click on the following link: