A race to the bottom is underway in the media, and the ‘quality’ press is in the lead.
HANNAH: Is there anything in it?
VALENTINE: In what? We are all doomed? (Casually.) Oh yes, sure—it’s called the second law of thermodynamics.
HANNAH: Was it known about?
VALENTINE: By poets and lunatics from time immemorial.
Arcadia, by Tom Stoppard (1993)
Almost three years have passed since I took pen to paper in aid of the work of GetReligion and TMP. I welcome the opportunity to return to the team of writers led by TMatt who cover the coverage of religion reporting in the secular press.
Much has changed in my life these past few years. I have left the Church of England Newspaper after 18 years and have been engaged in the parish ministry in rural Florida as rector of Shepherd of the Hills Episcopal Church in Lecanto. I’ve gone up in the church world and now can claim the right to wear purple buttons on my cassock following my election as dean of Northwest Central Florida, and I remain active with two online ventures, Anglican.Ink and Anglican Unscripted.
The media world has not stood still either. The decline in professional standards — clarity of language, honesty in reporting, balance and integrity in sourcing — continues. We in the media are all doomed.
Rudolf Clausius’ 1865 maxim: “The energy of the universe is constant; the entropy of the universe tends to a maximum” — from which he formulated the second law of thermodynamics — is true for journalism as well as physics. A race to the bottom is underway.
We are now at a point where the Sun, a British redtop or tabloid, is a better source for religion reporting than the Independent (one of Britain’s national papers). Compare these reports on a Catholic abuse scandal in Italy published earlier this month.
The Sun’s story is entitled: “ROMPING IN THE PEWS: Randy Italian priest ‘with 30 lovers’ faces the sack for ‘organising wild S&M orgies on church property’.” The Independent’s piece has the less colorful headline: “Italian priest faces defrocking for ‘organising orgies on church property’.”
Naughty vicar stories are a staple of the British press. Though the influence of religion may have receded in the lives of many Europeans, they still enjoy a good story about sex, hypocrisy and the clergy. Both articles give details of the misconduct of Fr. Contin. (With that name like that, I was surprised not to see allusions to “incontinence.” That might say more about me, but I digress.)
Both report the police raided Fr. Contin’s home, and noted the Bishop of Padua was awaiting the results of their criminal investigation, saying he will act once the law has run its course.
Yet only the Sun tells us why the law is at issue. Why are the police involved? Are the police called out in Padua every time there is an orgy, or just clerical orgies? I must say the Italians do things with style. When we Episcopal priests gather for a wild time, it means wearing Bermuda shorts on the golf course.
The Independent story works on a premise that sexual misconduct by clergy (not involving children) is subject to criminal investigation. While the Catholic Church does have its own “church police,” e.g., the Swiss Guard, they were not called out to investigate. It is left to the Sun to state the police became involved after allegations of “pimping” (criminal pandering and procurement) were leveled against the vicar.
All of which led me to think of Tom Stoppard’s play, Arcadia. Set in a country house in Derbyshire, it moves between 1809 and the present day, juxtaposing the lives of modern to past residents. … See the rest at The Media Project.