When I was breaking into the mainstream religion-news biz — soon after the cooling of the earth’s crust — the words “church press” basically meant one thing.
It meant working for the news office in a denomination’s headquarters or, perhaps, in the outreach office of a religious non-profit. In other words, it was one step from the world of public relations.
As the old saying goes: It’s hard to cover a war when a general is signing your paycheck.
However, the Internet has — year after year — been blurring many of these lines. The denominational press is still out there, but so are lots of non-profit publications that offer an often dizzying mix of commentary and factual news.
This is especially true for reporters covering Catholic news. As my colleague Clemente Lisi noted the other day, referring to developments on scandals surrounding ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick:
The growth of conservative Catholic outlets, for example, and their ability to break stories against “Uncle Ted” has coincided with the internal struggle contrasting what traditionalists see as inadequate news coverage from the mainstream media regarding Pope Francis’ leadership. Filling that void are conservative journalists and bloggers on a mission to expose what they see as the Vatican’s progressive hierarchy.
In 2002, an investigation by The Boston Globe unearthed decades of abuse by clergy never before reported to civil authorities (click here for links). These days, accusations of wrongdoing within the Catholic Church are being exposed by smaller news organizations. No longer are mainstream outlets setting the pace here.
Yes, he stressed developments on the pro-Catechism side of Catholic life. Why? Well, there has always been a lively market for Catholic news and commentary coming from the doctrinal, cultural and, yes, political left. The assumption was that official Catholic news offices would be defending the doctrinal fort.
This is no longer a safe assumption. Take a look, for example, at that “trusted” list of Catholic news outlets (at the top of this post), produced the other day by Father Thomas Rosica, head of the Salt & Light Catholic Media Foundation in Canada. Notice any patterns in this list? Any obvious holes?