Thursday, 22 April 2010

What IS the purpose of Cath News?

Christine Hogan has published a post on Cath News, Australia's catholic media alert service, defending its often extraordinary selection and reporting of news items.

The problems, as some of the commenters on the post make clear are several:
  • bad news stories (from a catholic perspective) about the Church seem to get pride of place at the cost of the good news - the coverage of the attacks on the Pope was particularly appalling, with little attempt to include the factual and other responses to the allegations;
  • the selection of opinion and other pieces typically highlight the liberal agenda - today, for example, Hans Kung's latest attack gets pride of place under the heading of 'Opinion', while the excellent refutation of it that I highlighted here yesterday is ignored.  An article on Justice Kirby is justified on the basis that we should care about how the secular debate on same sex marriage - but why then are there no stories on the daily changes on boat people (as opposed to priests and bishops speaking on the issue), a topic apparently much dearer to the bishops' hearts if we go on the number of press releases? And why was the last coverage of life issues December last year!  And why doesn't life even rate its own sub-category, instead being subsumed by 'ethics'?;
  • the spin put on the stories is often as bad or worse than the secular media, with no attempt to distance Cath News from the original story, but rather appearing to endorse it;
  • there is little or no attempt to place the stories in a catholic perspective or point to resources which can be used to give the catholic perspective.  A number of sites for example have compiled a list of resources on the abuse claims - but cathnews has not pointed to them;
  • comments over the specified word length from a liberal perspective are let through while more conservative ones just a few words over are rejected (take a look at the item on Dawkins and Hitchens from last week where a 295 word post was allowed through; a post I wrote a week earlier on a  different topic with only 265 words was rejected allegedly for length reasons).
So just what is the purpose of Cath News?

I would have thought it was to equip readers to deal with the debate in the public square.  Yes, that does mean alerting readers to what is happening in the Church, how the media are reporting on the Church, and some broader issues.  But the problems listed above show why Ms Hogan's justifications simply do not stand up to scrutiny.

Cath News should take a hard look at itself.  It should take a look at some better models, such as the Lifesite, or Catholic World News.

And the bishops should consider defunding Cath News if it won't change.

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