We are not just material beings, but spiritual persons with a need for meaning, purpose, and fulfillment that transcends the visible confines of this world. This longing for transcendence is a longing for truth, goodness, and beauty. Truth, goodness, and beauty are called the transcendentals of being, because they are aspects of being. Everything in existence has these transcendentals to some extent. God, of course, as the source of all truth, goodness, and beauty, has these transcendentals to an infinite degree. Oftentimes, He draws us to Himself primarily through one of these transcendentals. St. Augustine, who was drawn to beauty in all its creaturely forms, found the ultimate beauty he was seeking in God, his creator, the beauty “ever ancient, ever new.”―Sister Gabriella Yi, O.P.

Bishop Lopes: A Pledged Troth. A pastoral letter on Amoris Laetitia.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Journalistic Integrity—Is there such a thing anymore?

Recently we have heard and/or read that a prominent television journalist has had his allegiances to the Clintons exposed. A journalist acting as a journalist can ill afford to be identified as partisan. It is hardly a secret, however, that most of the so-called dispassionate journalists in the mainstream media are entirely partisan as demonstrated by obvious editorial biases that often marginalize factual and balanced reporting.
ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos has given $75,000 to the Clinton Foundation in recent years, charitable contributions that he did not publicly disclose while reporting on the Clintons or their nonprofit organization, the On Media blog has learned.—Politico
It is no secret that Mr. Stephanopoulos was White House Communications Director then Senior Advisor for Policy and Strategy for President Bill Clinton and is currently a political advisor to the Democratic Party.

News to me!

Biased reporters routinely commit sins of omission as they seek to minimize awareness of their political allies' problematic behaviour:
Among the more notable revelations to come out of (Peter) Schweizer's research is the relationship between the Clinton Foundation and Uranium One, a former Canadian mining company that was taken over by Russia in 2013 with U.S. government approval. From 2009 through 2013, Uranium One’s chairman donated $2.35 million to the Clinton Foundation.—ibid.
See also: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/15/us/politics/george-stephanopoulos-discloses-gifts-to-clinton-foundation.html?_r=0
Have the mighty have fallen?

The noble profession of journalism has suffered like so many other disciplines in this era of profiting from the misery and/or exploitation of others. The loss of journalistic integrity has been accelerated by individuals who, lacking a well formed conscience, attempt to attract attention to themselves, inflate careers and sell the news that should not need selling. News is treated as a commodity, and journalists have not been able to avoid succumbing to the temptation to sensationalize issues in an attempt to gain or preserve market share. Profitability and power are frequently the motivating forces in modern journalism, and where those preoccupations exist, facts are made malleable and are massaged often beyond recognition in order to serve an ignoble agenda.

Democratic nations rely heavily on journalists who understand a responsibility to report the news, not to make or invent the news, by presenting the facts, which is to say truthful information without spin. So often the content that journalists and media organizations proffer is little more than commentary without substance, or reflective of personal bias that many journalists are tragically unaware of or incapable of freeing themselves from in order to serve the truth. Mainstream journalists have amply demonstrated an inability to convey information regarding a wide variety of topics ranging from the law to religion to science and social issues. Who can deny the impact journalists have had on reshaping the narrative to assist the reengineering of social institutions in the West?
Little do journalists realize that the reason we in the West have laws and constitutions protecting freedom of the press is that our nations have been guided by a Christian moral compass. Democracy, imagined and implemented by America's founding fathers, for example, can only work if the population understands and practices Christian morality, for without a Christian heart there can be no constitutional 'head' in a nation. After priests, poets and musicians, the press will be the next group to be persecuted in a nation without a Christian moral compass to ensure its constitutional moral principles will be respected.
So then, journalists—be careful that your actions do not help to rob citizens of their religious freedom. Freedom of religion is the canary in the democratic coal mine.
When freedom of the press becomes a license to engage in disseminating propaganda, especially propaganda that seeks to silence legitimate critics, the democratic state will surely suffer. With perhaps one exception, i.e., the libertarian National Post, the mainstream media in Canada routinely demonstrate a politically left leaning bias that marginalizes other voices, most notably the voice of faithful believers of most religious bodies in Canada.
FYI: the United Church of Canada as an institution may not be considered an ally among authentic religious bodies since it has long established itself as the religious front for the New Democratic Party (The Collapse of the Liberal Church by Margaret Wente, Globe & Mail, 2012), among other secular progressivist agendas, that attempt to marginalize Catholics, Evangelicals, Muslims, Sikhs and "conservative" social movements.
Unlike our American cousins who have access to several independent media watchdog groups, Canadians largely rely upon the media to self police (Can you say the 'guilty banging the gavel' or the 'inmates running the prison'?). Student media enterprises on secular universities and colleges are particularly vulnerable to journalistic impropriety due to a lack of professional oversight.

In our neck of the woods, wonky media types have long inhabited the media corridors of the Province of British Columbia. One such misguided individual was William Alexander Smith who, prior to arriving in Victoria, rebranded himself Amor De Cosmos (1825 – July 4, 1897). Yes, you read that right—Amor de Cosmos. Smith, founder of The Daily British Colonist newspaper, the paper which would later merge with the Times to become today's Victoria Times-Colonist, used his media organization to make libellous statements against Governor Sir James Douglas and misrepresent political issues to foment opposition to the Black community under the pretence of serving the common good (cf. Chapter 6, Go Do Some Great Thing: The Black Pioneers of British Columbia by Crawford Kilian. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre). De Cosmos was Premier from 1872. He resigned in 1874 amidst accusations of impropriety.

New times, same old stuff.

In recent months, a new front in the war on religion appears to have opened in Europe. Reporters there have now allied themselves with the practices of cold war era and WWII spies who entered the precincts of the Church to pursue some real or imagined advantage that supposedly served their twisted understanding of the common good (Nothing Sacred: Nazi Espionage Against the Vatican, 1939-1945; Spies in the Vatican: The Soviet Union's Cold War Against the Catholic Church); All War, All The Time: Lessons for the Defense of Religious Freedom in the Future by George Weigel/First Things; cf. also Freedom to Believe: Rethinking Freedom of Conscience and Religion in Canada by Mary Anne Waldron, QC).
Bologna, Italy, Mar 13, 2015 / 04:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The confessional is one of the most private and privileged places in the world. So when an Italian journalist violated the bond of trust between penitent and priest, the Archbishop of Bologna decried her “grave lack of respect” for all Catholics.

Laura Alari writes for Quotidiano Nazionale, which is headquartered in Bologna. She authored a series of four articles in the newspaper which disclosed the responses of priests in the area when she approached them under the pretext of seeking Confession.
Alari went to Confession several times, inventing delicate issues for herself: she pretended to be a lesbian mother asking to baptize her daughter; a woman who cohabitates with her same-sex partner; and a divorced and civilly remarried woman who receives Communion every Sunday.
She then reported the responses of priests when they heard her “confessions.”
Cardinal Carlo Caffarra of Bologna responded with a statement March 11: “In bewilderment at the incident and with a soul wounded by a profound sorrow, I mean to reiterate that these articles objectively constitute a grave offense against the truth of Confession, a sacrament of the Christian faith.”
Life imitating art. Art irritating life.

Journalists should have little cause for doubt why public opinion about the media is decidedly negative when reporters routinely engage in misrepresentation or sensationalism to gain an editorial advantage over competing journalists. The movie The Nightcrawler (2014) starring Jake Gyllenhaal provides a disturbing reminder of the power of the media and the potential for great good or, as in the case of the creepy videographer portrayed by Gyllenhaal, the great threat to journalistic integrity by individuals and organizations with little moral aptitude and little appreciation for the harmful consequences of their actions. Gyllenhaal ably portrays a violent individual who skillfully manipulates crime scenes and literally eliminates his competition to further his career and power over the news.

The suspension of NBC News anchor Brian Williams (NYTimes, Brian Williams Suspended From NBC for 6 Months Without Pay) is hardly the only case of journalistic malfeasance. The antics of Stephen Glass, Jayson Blair, Janet Cooke, Jack Kelley, Judith Miller, Jonah Lehrer, Michael Finkel and many others confirm decades of impropriety by media organizations and journalists. While forgiveness should be granted to the penitent, the damage done to society is serious and lasting. Every shabby report affects real lives for decades. Sadly, there is little that can be done to undo the effects of bad journalism once it is released into the media ether.
A very recent example of terrible journalism which was quickly identified, Sabrina Erdely is the journalist whose Rolling Stone article on a major sexual assault case involving a fraternity at the University of Virginia makes our number one. She took a hot button issue, slapped a case of one-sided and biased “investigating” on it and sent it off for publishing.
Since being published in November of 2014, it has been called one of the worst pieces of reporting of the year and has been widely criticized for misrepresenting the case, the issue and leaving a University’s reputation tarnished, along with the fraternities, clubs and students of the school. While other cases of poor reporting or absolute storytelling may be more blatant, Erdely used one of the issues that must be reported with the utmost honesty and diligence and fabricated parts of the situation while omitting others.—Chris Langton.
Sins of Omission and Commission

When the media cannot nor will not represent the facts with precision, fair-minded people will abandon the purchase of newspapers and online news services and simply avoid the mainstream media that more and more are resembling their formerly distant trashy tabloid cousins. The behaviour of individuals representing the mainstream media—national, regional, local, college—can and should be derided as an obstacle to creating an informed populace. As long as media organizations and individual journalists engage in cheap editorializing, rumour mongering and the uncritical selective adoption of political enterprises, society will be mired in useless controversy and partisanship. 

To paraphrase Pope Saint Leo the Great: Journalists, remember your dignity!
4. For the proper use of these media it is most necessary that all who employ them be acquainted with the norms of morality and conscientiously put them into practice in this area. They must look, then, to the nature of what is communicated, given the special character of each of these media. At the same time they must take into consideration the entire situation or circumstances, namely, the persons, place, time and other conditions under which communication takes place and which can affect or totally change its propriety. Among these circumstances to be considered is the precise manner in which a given medium achieves its effect. For its influence can be so great that men, especially if they are unprepared, can scarcely become aware of it, govern its impact, or, if necessary, reject it.—Inter Mirifica, Decree on the Media of Social Communications, PP Paul VI, 1963.
7. Finally, the narration, description or portrayal of moral evil, even through the media of social communication, can indeed serve to bring about a deeper knowledge and study of humanity and, with the aid of appropriately heightened dramatic effects, can reveal and glorify the grand dimensions of truth and goodness. Nevertheless, such presentations ought always to be subject to moral restraint, lest they work to the harm rather than the benefit of souls, particularly when there is question of treating matters which deserve reverent handling or which, given the baneful effect of original sin in men, could quite readily arouse base desires in them.—ibid.
Catholics can be thankful that we have many reputable news organizations that do a much better job of reporting the news obtained at ground level in places the mainstream media hardly know exist.

Check out the media organizations listed on this blog in the left column and near the bottom of the blog in the Oasisphere section.

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