The faithful have a duty to keep the media honest in reporting on matters important to the Church
What if all of us were to quit discussing particular societal ills about which we’re concerned? What if we merely accepted that those issues, however destructive and massive they may be, will probably be with us long-term, no matter how hard we try to promote positive change? Sounds like a truly defeatist attitude, doesn’t it? But that is exactly the approach a radio listener of mine is asking of me regarding media activism and awareness.
Dan, a radio listener in Texas, emailed me after a recent on-air exchange I had with a Catholic radio colleague concerning the sorry state of the secular press. We were discussing the hype and hysteria occurring with a number of stories, including the travel ban signed by President Donald Trump, as well as the media’s general approach to politics. Our comments during the radio broadcast acknowledged the many incidents, along with a number of studies documenting blatant media bias and coverage attacking or misrepresenting conservative lawmakers and organizations.
Regarding the travel ban, my point was to focus not so much on the order itself, but the reality that, when covering any topic, the media do great harm when they focus on fiction verses fact. There was so much misinformation — and in some cases even blatant lies — put out by the press concerning the ban, including a sad but false story about a Muslim man who claimed his mother died waiting to come into the United States from Iraq. It turned out the man lied to the press, that his mother had kidney disease and passed away some five days before the ban was even issued. Obviously, very little of the media coverage was helping in promoting fruitful dialogue. Our radio discussion encouraged listeners to avoid the hype and always check the source when consuming secular news. We also reminded the listeners about their Catholic responsibility to respectfully engage the media through emails, phone calls and letters to the editor.
Dan, however, called the commentary mere “moaning,” insisting that we accept the media the way they are. Since they are so far gone, nothing we do or say is going to make any difference, so why bother?
“It is a fact that the modern media is an arm of the Democratic Party,” he wrote. “It is dirty, disgusting, frustrating and upsetting. If you doubt it, just read the Wikileaks. It is not the media you joined in 1982. … It has all changed; that is a fact. Deal with it.”
In my written response to Dan, I explained that while I was glad he supported Catholic radio, his overall defeatist attitude was anything but Catholic. The Church in its wisdom has always called on the faithful to engage the culture. The Vatican II document Inter Mirifica, from which sprung the annual papal World Communications Day statements, not to mention a long list of other Church writings, calls on us to do what we can to be a light in the darkness.
I also reminded Dan that if Trump and concerned pro-lifers did not engage the media, calling on them to give the March for Life more than just 10 seconds of air time, we never would have seen the amount of media coverage we did this year: 37 times more coverage than 2016, according to a study by the Media Research Center.
As St. Teresa of Calcutta said, “God doesn’t expect us to be successful, only faithful.” At least in the case of the secular media and the March for Life, we were able to accomplish both.
It’s far from where we as a society need to be, but the so-called “moaning” can be put to good use when we move our passionate discussions into active engagement.