Or, when is news not news? I note with bemusement this article from the Irish Independent that tells us There will never be any women priests, insists Papal Nuncio. If you take the bother to read the story, you'll see that the actual news part of the article doesn't appear until the 9th paragraph of the story when we learn that the Archbishop Charles Brown (Papal Nuncio to Ireland) was in Killarney for celebrations commemorating Msgr Hugh O'Flaherty's 'escape line' in war-time Rome. So much for the WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN and WHY being given to us promptly. We're eventually given a short quote about the nuncio's assessment of the Church in Ireland, but that just squeaks in at the very end. We're never even given a hint that the nuncio might have said anything about Msgr O'Flaherty. And we're never told why and in what context the nuncio made his statement about women priests. Was it a question fired to him by a journalist? Was it in the context of a speech or homily? Did the nuncio raise the question or did someone else. Now, the article as it stands is certainly factual - I have no doubt but that the nuncio's words are being recorded correctly. But is it news? It's not news in the sense that any half-informed reader will already know that the Pope's man in Ireland is almost certain to follow the orthodox line on things. If the nuncio were to say other than he did, THAT would be news. Now, I would imagine that most readers who have an interest in the Church in Ireland would actually rather learn what assessment the nuncio has of his 9 months in the country. They might or might not agree with it, but it'd certainly be more worthy of the word 'news' than the non-news the Indo prefers to serve up. Personally, I'd also like to know what Archbishop Brown had to say to the people at the celebrations about Msgr O'Flaherty and his wartime exploits. Both O'Flaherty and the nuncio both worked in the same Vatican department. Perhaps that'd be an interesting angle to interview the nuncio about.
I suppose the question I would have is what purpose the article has. I really don't think it's supposed to inform us. Consciously or unconsciously, the editorial team at the Independent seem more interested in reinforcing the picture of a hierarchy who have little to say about a limited range of issues rather than giving a full and accurate picture of what's going on and what church leaders actually say. Is it that the journalistic and editorial staff lack the knowledge to report on the real news here, or is it that they just don't want to?
I came across this lovely story today - an account of the Pope visiting some senior citizens at a home for the elderly in Rome. He speaks to those present as 'an elderly man visiting his peers' and gives a beautiful reflection on old age. If you were to only read the Irish secular press, you'd get the idea that pretty much all the Pope does is talk about 'sex', and when he does, it's usually to 'condemn' something. I'm sure that if this story IS picked up by the secular press, it'll probably be spun as the Pope 'slamming euthanasia'. I guess the 'love one another' angle doesn't sell papers.
It's important that we be aware how our news is filtered for us by media organizations and how one of the great benefits of the internet is the opportunity it gives us to circumvent the concious or unconscious ideological filters of the mainstream media. We need to question why particular stories are presented for our attention and why others are not. And we need to realise that in Ireland the vast majority of practising Catholics rely on the mainstream media to let them know what's happening in the church beyond the bounds of their own parish.
A final comment - I feel obliged in justice to the reporter whose byline appears in the Independent to point out that I've noticed her report reasonably well on religious and regional news before. One can never be sure whether a news article reflects the work of the journalist or the editorial staff.