Recently in News Media Category

Bishop Jenky's statement on abuse lawsuits

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Since various news outlets are castigating my bishop for "lashing out" against just about everybody in his recent letter, I thought I'd post the whole thing so you can see what a "blistering attack" it really is.

The background, as far as I can tell, is that an appellate court recently overturned a lower court ruling that dismissed several lawsuits due to the statute of limitations expiring. SNAP -- the Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests -- then organized a demonstration after mass outside of Peoria's St. Mary's Cathedral asking Bishop Jenky not to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court. This letter seems at least in part a response to that request.

So here's the full text of the bishop's letter,followed by my comments.

February 7-8, 2009


Dear Priests, Deacons, Religious and Faithful of the Diocese of Peoria,

My greatest responsibility as your bishop is to preach the Gospel, celebrate the Sacraments, and to try my best to be a good shepherd for this local church. The saddest part of my ministry has been to deal with our part of the immense societal issue of sexual misconduct with minors. Where there have been credible accusations made against individuals and with the advice of my Review Commission, I have not hesitated to remove them from all active ministry. I have also tried to attentively follow the charter adopted by the American bishops that deals in a comprehensive manner with this painful subject. I have not discovered any evidence in this Diocese that priests guilty of misconduct were ever moved from assignment to assignment. Our Diocese normally offers counseling to victims rather than paying out large cash settlements. Not every allegation has been found to be credible by our Review Commission, and so our Diocese resists supporting those claims that simply cannot be sustained by the facts. I take very seriously my responsibility to protect all the children entrusted to our care, and I am absolutely convinced that today the programs of our Church now provide the safest possible environment in America for your children.

In these perilous economic times, I will work to be a prudent steward of the money you offer for the work of Christ. Attorneys representing some claimants and some "victims groups" obviously have a significant financial stake in trying to overturn our Diocesan policies. Recent decisions in the Illinois courts may make our legal situation even more difficult in the future. It should be noted that the sexual abuse of minors cuts across all socio-economic lines, ethnicities, ministries, and religions. It is important to remember that the State basically exempts its own institutions from civil litigation. Amid all the tensions of our nation's culture wars and in the face of the media's intense hatred for our Catholic Faith, I am increasingly concerned that our Church in effect no longer enjoys equal justice under the law. I will not be intimidated by choreographed demonstrations or the abuse that is sometimes personally directed against me. I remain immensely proud of the zealous and holy priesthood of our Diocese. May God guide and protect his Holy Church and bless us all in his service.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Most Reverend Daniel R. Jenky, C.S.C.
BISHOP OF PEORIA

Now, had anybody aked my opinion, I'd have strongly advised against referring to "the media's intense hatred for our Catholic Faith." That the media hate the Church is more or less true depending on individuals, but when you're dealing with a national scandal where many churchmen were not forthcoming about the abuse of children until and in many cases even after the press revealed their malfeasance, beating up on the media comes off as retaliatory, and in the context of this letter is unnecessary.

Be that as it may, Bishop Jenky's larger point, that the Church is being shaken down by victims' groups (enabled by courts and legislatures) in a way that no other institution could be, deserves attention. With one hand, the government exempts itself from being sued for abuse and with the other it breaks down legal barriers for the Church to be sued for the same wrongdoing (and remember, the statute of limitations exists for a reason). This unequal treatment affects the Church's spiritual mission and the related material goods it provides: schools, hospitals, family services and other social services. This is something that every Catholic and all people of good will should be very concened about.

Lastly, after reading the bishop's letter, is it not comical to read the characterization of it as an attack? I understand that journalists might bristle at being accused of hating the Catholic faith, but you would try in vain to see a journalist wrestle with Bishop Jenky's arguments about "equal treatment." That's not hatred of the Church -- it's just laziness.

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Twitter

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So, um, you may have noticed the decrease in activity on this blog. I've started a Twitter account and a lot of my snark has migrated over there. (You can see my updates over at the top of the right sidebar or follow me here if you're on Twitter.)

Anyway, most people I mention Twitter to say something like, "Oh yeah, Twitter, I've heard of that. What exactly is it?" This NY Mag article is a pretty good look at just what the heck Twitter is.

The first day I was in the Twitter office, I sat in the corner, playing with my own Twitter page, taking notes (it feels somewhat silly to write in a notebook there), and waiting to talk to Williams. For lunch, executives, including Stone, hosted programmers in the lounge to talk about some sort of open-source mumbo jumbo I didn't understand. Their HD television was tuned to a still photo of a fireplace. They were wrapped up in the meeting. I attended to my computer.


And then I noticed something on Twitter Search. The first person was "manolantern," who, at 12:33 local time, posted, "I just watched a plane crash into the hudson rive (sic) in manhattan." After that, the updates were unceasing. Some fifteen minutes before the New York Times had a story on its website (and some fifteen hours before it had one in print), Twitter users who witnessed the crash of US Airways Flight 1549 were giving me updates in real time. One of them was a man named Janis Krums. Krums lives in Sarasota, Florida, and happened to be on a ferry navigating the Hudson when the plane hit the water. He immediately took a photo and posted it to TwitPic and sent a "tweet" with a link to the picture and "There's a plane in the Hudson. I'm on the ferry going to pick up the people. Crazy." He then, perhaps coming to his senses, began to help passengers off the plane. (He ended up giving his phone to one of them and didn't get it back until that night.)

Now think about that for a second. In the midst of chaos--a plane just crashed right in front of him!--Krums's first instinct was to take a picture and load it to the web. There was nothing capitalistic or altruistic about it. Something amazing happened, and without thinking, he sent it out to the world. And let's say he hadn't. Let's say he took this incredible photo--a photo any journalist would send to the Pulitzer board--and decided to sell it, said he was hanging onto it for the highest bidder. He would have been vilified by bloggers and Twitterers alike. His is a culture of sharing information. This is the culture Twitter is counting on. Whatever your thoughts on its ability to exist outside the collapsing economy or its inability (so far) to put a price tag on its services, that's a real thing. That's the instinct Stone was talking about. If the nation has tens of millions of people like Krums, that's a phenomenon. That's what Twitter is waiting for.

Of course, no one at Twitter noticed any of this going on. This is the New Communication. There was no screaming and running through a newsroom, dispatching any reporter in the vicinity to the scene. For an hour, the boring open-source meeting droned on. No one in the room knew a plane had crashed. The next day, Stone would tell me that the site didn't even get a traffic spike. "That's only for huge shared experiences, like the inauguration, or Mumbai." Twitter had unleashed something ... and its executives were completely unaware, as its system worked on its own, without them. That might be what the future holds for Twitter. Or it might not be. It all depends on whether you're willing to wait for something that might not come. It all depends on whether you're willing to believe.

Well, I can't say I "believe" in Twitter, but it's combination of immediacy and simplicity is compelling.

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Almost as trendy as grunge

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To all the dumb schlups writing with condescencion and clever ironic distance about the "25 random things" Facebook meme, allow me to dump some cold water on your "journalism."

You might think that by "covering" social media such as Facebook, you're ingratiating yourself with the millenials who live and breathe the stuff (and who, by the way, will still never buy your newspapers). Let's leave aside the possibility that what your friends are doing on Facebook might not be newsworthy and concentrate on the fact that this new, apparently disturbing trend is not actually a new thing at all. The same exact "random crap about me" chain letters were filling up my email inbox 7-10 years ago. Your treatment of this "trend" as something new in any way except scale betrays real, actual ignorance.

Congratulations!

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Response from AsiaNews

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I received an email back from the editor of AsiaNews with regards to their crazy story on the looming North American Union and the Amero. Attached was a letter from the article's author that was a history lesson stating that the US government doesn't always do what the people want. I realized then that I over-emphasized the ridiculousness of the ideas in the article and under-emphasizing the flimsiness of the author's sources.

I sent a clarifying email, pointing out that whatever my difference of opinion with the author, his research did not even reach high school levels of acceptability. Just to recap, here's what the author offered as evidence that "the United States along with Canada and Mexico, appears to be getting ready to launch a new single currency - the Amero":

  • a report by the Council on Foreign Relations. The report nowhere calls for an Amero.
  • a clip of a CNBC report he found on YouTube. The report cites no evidence, it's an interview with some conspiracy theorist who urges viewers to google Amero and see what the government is planning.
  • a webpage of an alarmist far-right US radio host. The site features pictures of fake Amero coins which were made by a private Denver company.
  • a suggestion that the Denver mint, currently being renovated, is actually being turned into an Amero factory.
  • a Wikipedia page. The page he references merely discusses the CFR report and notes that one of its members has publicly called for an Amero.

Not one single person was interviewed. Not one actual piece of evidence that there are plans for an Amero was presented. He simply touted internet rumors.

If they can publish this, how do we know they're getting Lebanon, Indonesia or, for goodness' sake, Chinaright? This is a Church institution putting this stuff out. This is very very frustrating.

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AsiaNews on the "North American Union"

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I read AsiaNews just about every day. It's a news service compiled by the Church's missionary congregation that features reports from around the world. Until today, I assumed they were a fairly reliable source of news.

But if they can get something like this so drastically wrong, one has to wonder what else they get wrong.

With a bank crisis looming on the horizon, an odd piece of information is becoming news. As unlikely as it may seem, the United States along with Canada and Mexico, appears to be getting ready to launch a new single currency: the Amero.

Really? Do they really think this?

Wikipedia already sports a page dedicated to the Amero with the photos of prototypes.

A news report on the Amero broadcast on CNBC is also available on Youtube.

Similarly, 20 Amero coins can be seen on the Hal Turner Show webpage, with a small D visible, D as in ‘minted in Denver.’ Curiously, the Denver Mint is currently closed to the public, ostensibly for restoration work, till September 28.

It's on Wikipedia and YouTube - it must be true! And the Denver mint is being converted into an Amero-factory AS WE SPEAK! AMERICA LOSES MONETARY SOVEREIGNTY NEXT WEEK!

Here's the kicker:

Whilst AsiaNews is unable to determine whether there is any basis to such claims, it does seem certain that a plan for a North American union is being developed.

If you read the entire article, you'll discover that the author did not interview a single person. It's based entirely on what likely amounted to 5 minutes of googling. He encountered some kooky websites - likely the products of either one-world wannabe master-planners or nationalist conspiracy-theorist fear-mongerers who respectively have dreams or nightmares about the North American Union - and wrote them up as newsworthy. Had he tried talking to actual Americans he would have found that not only is the idea of a looming North American Union a fiction, it's also opposed by any American with any sense. Sure, it's possible to find individuals, like former Mexican president Vincente Fox and various (looney-tunes) think tanks and opinion journalist, who favor the idea, but there are certainly no plans in the works.

I'm not being flippant here, this is kinda serious. I honestly don't care that they got this particular story wrong. I can't imagine it hurting anybody to propagate the idea that a North American Union is coming. This would be a laughing matter if it weren't for the source.

The problem is that up until now, I've considered AsiaNews a reliable source. They report on wars, refugees, famine, disease and religious tensions (including the persecution of Christians) around the world, and I've assumed they get reports from contacts "on the ground" so to speak. Yet this article was clearly written by somebody who does not live in America and has not the slightest clue about such things as a North American Union and a continental currency. If they can get something so completely wrong that's so easily refutable, how can we honestly trust what they have to say about complex civil wars on the other side of the world? We should hope that they take greater care to verify stories about more serious subjects, but really, how can we know that?

I have emailed the editor and asked for an explanation. I'll let you know what I hear.

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On The Economist

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The Economist is a fine roundup of world news, I guess, but it's always struck me as a boring, overpriced relic of a period when the only other options for overseas reports were TV news and the big national newsweeklies, and its outsized reputation seems mostly due to a cultural inferiority complex that also explains the damage Andrew Sullivan and Christopher Hitchens have been allowed to do to American journalism. Not that the Economist has ever allowed a warmongering fool such as Sullivan to besmirch its pages, but I think there's a connection.

Ouch. I have to agree about their international coverage, though it's important to note that the Economist is also valuable because in all of its coverage, it packs a lot of punch into very brief articles. I appreciate that.

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Classical Structures in a Jazz Age

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I was just listening to a piece from NPR's On the Media about the Google purchase of YouTube. The analyst pointed out that three years ago. if you were predicting the future of the Internet, YouTube, MySpace and iTunes would not have been on your radar.

Furthermore, in the past month:

RISHAD TOBACCOWALA: ...In the last three weeks, give or take one week, you basically have had the Google/YouTube relationship, you've had Freston getting thrown out -

BOB GARFIELD: Of Viacom.

RISHAD TOBACCOWALA: Right. You've got Jobs talking about iTV. You've got Amazon basically talking about Unbox. And so forget about three years. In a month, you've got a new world, and this whole idea of planning is becoming very, very difficult. In fact, what we basically say is we now have classical structures in a jazz age.

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Off Schorr

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I generally appreciate NPR, but their commentariat is the absolute worst, and sometimes I just don't get to the dial fast enough, and so I find myself listening to ageing nutbag Daniel Schorr get all misty-eyed reminiscing about Fidel Castro while spitting in the face of the Cuban exile community.

For years, under several presidents, but especially under President Kennedy, plots were hatched, sometimes in alliance with the mafia, to eliminate what was regarded as a Communist menace on our doorstep. He leaves his mark on history in the hundreds of thousdands of Cuban exiles and conservative Americans who have hated him for all those years. But in the end, Castro survived them all.

Emphasis mine. Funny that Schorr doesn't mention that Castro also survived millions of Cubans whom he immiserated in poverty, and tens of thousands of Cubans who've drowned in the Caribbean trying to flee his tyranny, and thousands more Cubans who have been killed by landmines trying to reach the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, and thousands of Cuban dissidents who died in prison or were executed after no trial or a show trial.

None of this matters to award-winning media legend Daniel Schorr when he spies an opportunity to stick his thumb in the eyes of Castro's enemies.

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Psycho-analyzing John Allen

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Austin Ruse tries to peer into the soul of my favorite Vatican reporter. A very interesting article. I pretty much agree with Ruse, but I hasten to add that I don't much care where Allen's sympathies lie because he performs a marvelous job as a reporter. He doesn't editorialize and he treats a subject with a precise fairness.

Still, Allen's prejudices can sometimes bubble to the surface, such as during his coverage of the release of Deus Caritas Est when he told NPR that the encyclical was Pope Benedict's version of "compassionate conservatism." Blech. Thanks for gettin' the message out, John. In that light, it is good to keep in mind that despite the great pains he goes to to present his stories fairly and accurately, he is a man with beliefs and a point of view, but nobody is immune from that charge.

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2 from NRO

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I've had these links bookmarked for a while, but am trying to clean house, so here they are, posted with relaively little comment.

Cathy Seipp sort of bugs me (all pro-choice "conservatives" do, I guess), but she's pretty good at exposing journalistic lunacies. Read this and contemplate the fact that much of what is commonly called "news" is written by such narcissists.

The "Cathy Seipp anecdote," as I heard it became known in-house, seems to have been ruined for the Times by Cathy Seipp having the gall to use it in a Cathy Seipp column first; their story was evidently supposed to run about three weeks ago and so far has not. Johnston hadn't been one of the reporters working on the piece, nor, as far as I know, did he have anything to do with it.

But apparently his status as a press critic — Johnston has written for Columbia Journalism Review, and is a frequent crank on the Romenesko letters page — obligated him to weigh in. So he felt moved to lecture me via e-mail (subject line: "Gosh, Catherine"), press-critic-to-press-critic, that my scooping his paper by using an incident that had happened to me, in my own column, was "not honorable."

As a press critic myself, Johnston told me, I should have known this. Also, I'd better not tell anyone about his unsolicited opinion. That was a secret.

Stanley Kurtz is rock-solid on marriage. He had a good column a few weeks ago whose money quote is the subtitle: "If everything is marriage, then nothing is."

Canada, you don’t know the half of it. In mid-January, Canada was rocked by news that a Justice Department study had called for the decriminalization and regulation of polygamy. Actually, two government studies recommended decriminalizing polygamy. (Only one has been reported on.) And even that is only part of the story. Canadians, let me be brutally frank. You are being played for a bunch of fools by your legal-political elite. Your elites mumble a confusing jargon to your face to keep you from understanding what they really have in mind.

LANGUAGE EXAM
Let’s try a little test. Translate the following phrases into English:

1) Canada needs to move “beyond conjugality.”

2) Canada needs to “reconsider the continuing legal privileging of marriage and other conjugal relationships.”

3) Once gay marriage is legalized, Canada will be able to “consider whether the legal privileges and burdens now assigned to marriage and other conjugal relationships can be justified.”
4) Canada needs to question “whether conjugality is an appropriate marker for determining legal rights and obligations.”

[Answers: The English translation of #1,# 2, and #4 is: “Canada should abolish marriage.” The translation of #3 is: “Once we legalize gay marriage, we can move on to the task of abolishing marriage itself.”]

This argument was very publicly made to Canadians in 2001, when the Law Commission of Canada published its report, “Beyond Conjugality.” But nobody got it. Everyone noticed that a government commission had backed same-sex marriage. But few recognized, grasped, or could bring themselves to take seriously, the central thrust of Beyond Conjugality: that after the legalization of same-sex marriage, Canadian marriage itself ought to be abolished. (For more on this, see my article “Beyond Gay Marriage”)

Read the rest.

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The whole problem with mainstream media...

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...can be found in one sentence here.

The news media do for democracy what liturgy does for religion; what poetry does for experience; what gesture does for feeling. With words out of silence, the press tells you who you are.

Now most sane people might say that voting is the way the citizen participates in his democracy. But that's not how the press sees it. They see their product as the liturgy of democracy. So what does that make them? The priest, bishop, pope.

That odor you smell is the stench of smug self-importance. It's also the smell of irony: the irony of an East Coast Liberal telling men - not the national collective mind you, but individual citizens - that their identity comes from what they read in the NY Times and the Boston Globe. So much for individuality and disdain for institutional pre-programming! I guess adhering to a common faith is only bad if that faith is in God.

UPDATE: Added previously omitted link.

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WONKETTE??

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I subscribe to Yahoo's RSS feed for opinion articles. Yes, I have to deal with junk from The Nation and Ted Rall, not to mention The Huffington Post. In the end, it's been worth it for Maggie Gallagher, and the occasional Bill Buckley piece that is coherent these days.

Imagine my chagrin yesterday when I opened the feed and saw a piece from.... Wonkette!

That's the last straw. I'm dumping Yahoo.

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Dahlia

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Can NPR stop pretending that Dahlia Lithwick is an analyst? Every time she opens her mouth the piece should be labeled "Liberal spin."

Discussing two of Judge Alito's rulings: that a Christmas display was constitutional "even though" it contained "overtly Christian symbols" and a decision to let Christians evangelize ("proselytize," she says) at a public school, she said Alito "has clearly been a fan of allowing greater entanglement between Church and state."

Entanglement. This is how these people really think.

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So what the heck is going on,,,

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in France?

Would it be politically incorrect to note that this is the fourth report I've read on this in the past three days and the first to note the Muslim flavor of the rioters?

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