Thursday, February 02, 2006

Reporters often not prepared to write about religion

Scripps Howard News Service:
Reporters often not prepared to write about religion

Scripps Howard News Service

"It's a law. Whenever the Vatican issues a papal encyclical, journalists have to figure out what the pope was trying to say.

To do this, we contact scholars, politicos and clergy for background information and edgy quotes. Thus, a reporter recently called Father Richard John Neuhaus of the journal "First Things" to discuss Pope Benedict XVI's "Deus Caritas Est (God is Love)."

During this interview Neuhaus referred to the pope as the "bishop of Rome." The reporter then said, "That raises an interesting point. Is it unusual that this pope is also the bishop of Rome?"

(Sound cue: One comedy-club rim shot.)..."

Terry Mattingly, in his usual witty way, tells why he thinks reporters make so many mistakes when reporting about religion.

As a Presbyterians know well, there is often a large gulf between what General Assembly does, and what the press says it did.

It is, perhaps, unreasonable to expect reporters to understand the finer points of Presbyterian polity, but maybe our spokespersons can take a litle extra time to explain things.

Mattingly merges Occams Razor and something C.S. Lewis said: "Do not multiply explanations when ignorance will suffice." Or as a friend of mine says from time to time, "Assume positive motives."

[UPDATE: Terry Mattingly has also blogged on this story at]

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