Editor's Space

Objective Journalism and Readers’ Political Preferences

During the last two weeks, I received several letters about two separate stories that appeared on the front page of The Tablet. The first article, “Catholic Iowa Democrats Weigh Choices,” was published on Jan. 25. The second article, “Presidential Seal of Approval,” was published on Feb. 1. You can see a sample of some of the reactions in this week’s Readers’ Forum.

What struck me from reading the letters is that the writers focused on criticizing The Tablet for covering the news, implying that the coverage and front-page placement of it was tantamount to supporting a party or candidate. In other words, the readers are saying that The Tablet shouldn’t “endorse” politicians who fall short of what Catholics want for our society. We couldn’t agree more about endorsements. It is our policy not to endorse any politician.

Simply covering an event or politician doesn’t mean the paper is endorsing a political agenda or a person. In the instance of the two stories in question, it would be impossible to think that we were pro-Democrat on Jan. 25, just to turn pro-Trump, a week later, on Feb 1.

We don’t place our “favorite” stories on the front page. As journalists, we feature the news that is the most important or most relevant for the Catholic reader.

The Catholic vote in the United States splits almost evenly between Democrats and Republicans. Curiously enough, the largest differences in the Catholic vote in recent history happened in 2008 (54 percent for Barack Obama, 45 percent for John McCain) and in 2016 (52 percent for Donald Trump, 45 percent for Hillary Clinton).

Covering the Catholic participation in the Democratic Party primaries is indeed an important issue.

And President Trump’s participation in the March for Life was the biggest  news of this year’s event. For the first time in 47 years, a U.S. president addressed the marchers in person.

We were able to have our reporters on the ground to cover both the caucuses and the March for Life. We are particularly proud of that fact, because Catholic participation in Democratic primaries and the March for Life in Washington are largely ignored by the secular press.

Some of our readers may have been disappointed to see the party they don’t support receive coverage. But it is our duty to report all news, so that readers can make informed decisions. We know that neither the Democrat nor the Republican party are a perfect expression of Catholic teaching. Our readers know where the political parties and the Church stand on the issue of abortion.

If they are unclear, in many editions of The Tablet — in articles and columns, and especially in Bishop DiMarzio’s column — readers can find a consistent defense of life that is an essential part of Catholic doctrine.

Sometimes news is painful to report, but that doesn’t mean we — as journalists — can ignore it. The most obvious examples are when we report on the sexual abuse crisis in the church or on the closing of a beloved Catholic school.

A story’s relevance is a big part of the editorial process, which includes its placement in the paper.

In the current climate, heated arguments about political opinions are becoming the rule. I hope that we as Catholics can continue to debate with civility and respect for one another.

I invite you to continue to express your ideas and thoughts by sending me your letters. Thank you for supporting The Tablet, which has been reporting the news since 1908.

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