Editor's Space

‘Why did The Tablet report that story?’

Be an observer of events, not a participant, ask probing questions, and do not allow personal opinions or political allegiances to taint your reporting. 

These are some of the journalism tenets students of the craft learn — at least they used to. Today, those simple but oh-so-important rules that make journalism … journalism, seem to have gone out the window.

Activists masquerading as journalists have severely damaged our profession. They proudly flaunt their political leanings, editorialize freely, inject themselves into the story, and send out snarky and immature tweets. These are not journalists. They’re opinion writers at best, and in some cases, extensions of spin machines. They undermine a person’s agency, force-feeding information they don’t believe the public can digest or make sense of on their own. 

At The Tablet and Nuestra Voz (our Spanish-language newspaper) we take pride in doing old-fashioned journalism. We cover all news and we approach stories with curiosity, and when necessary, with skepticism — another principle you learn in journalism class. We strive to find balance in our stories, giving our readers enough information so they can form their own opinions. In some cases, this sparks debate or provokes thought. We know this because of the many letters to the editors, columns, and comments we receive from our readers. This is a good thing!

And yet, something quite concerning is happening, and it is time to address it. I have noticed a spike in criticism for merely reporting the news.

“How dare you cover that!” “How shameful that you would promote that!” “You need to remove that now!” Those are many of the sentiments we hear these days. It’s a classic example of shooting the messenger. 

The criticism is almost always politically charged, and it comes from both sides. For instance, last week, we reported news on the controversial drug hydroxychloroquine. Support of the drug appears to be split down party lines. Covering the controversy sparked anger on Twitter. However, these critics seemingly didn’t read the article beyond the headline. Most, if not all, of their objections were reported and addressed in the story. One tweet argued that presenting both sides shouldn’t be done because it’s just too dangerous. Another suggested that most readers aren’t smart enough to make their own opinions, and therefore, we should not report on dissenting views.

I did come across one tweet where the person actually read the article: “Grabby headline but the article is more balanced.”

This is not the first time The Tablet has been accused of bias due to reporting news that some would have preferred not to read.

In February, we received many letters about our coverage of the March for Life in Washington, D.C.. President Trump was the first sitting U.S. president to attend the event, and naturally, we reported that fact. A reader said we shouldn’t have included Trump in our story “because he’s evil and dangerous.” We were accused of cozying up to the Republicans. 

Just one week prior, two of our reporters traveled to Iowa to cover the Democratic caucuses. You guessed it. People wrote in saying they were “disgusted to read about this anti-Catholic gathering” in our paper and that we were only there to promote the far-left agenda. 

We have been accused of being “in the payroll of the Democratic Party” and of “taking cues from President Trump and his Attorney General, Bill Barr, in their attempt to gaslight the American people.” It is a miracle that — given the contradictory nature of those accusations — no one has accused us of inconsistency … until now. 

Just this week, we reported on Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez teaming up with a Queens pastor for a parish event. The progressive pro-choice politician and the pastor who organizes pro-life prayer vigils engaging in dialogue. Which “side” were we on this time? As always, we approached the story objectively. One tweet in response to the article read, “Schizophrenia or covering all their bases?”

Perhaps a combination of the agenda-driven journalism we see so much of today and access to social media platforms, where people can hide behind handles, has created a perfect storm that yields anger, bitterness, and blatant disregard for differences in opinions. Instead of engaging in discourse, we see conversations peak with ridicule and attacks on intelligence.

People prefer to get their news from sources who only report what they want to hear or believe. It’s no wonder then, that a newspaper that sticks to offering balanced coverage, or simply poses a question for debate, can so easily be labeled biased. The discussion should come from the mouths of readers, not the minds of editors. 

Our news organization’s mission statement is this: “To give a voice to the people and to the Word of Jesus Christ so that it may inspire, inform, provoke, empower, and entertain our audience.”

We do not promote political passions. We reflect the challenges and hopes of our Catholic community and the complex situation our society is facing today. We hold a mirror to reality. We know that some will blame us for the image they see, while others will smile at it. We invite everyone to participate in respectful and honest dialogue.

So the next time you’re compelled to shoot the messenger, may I first suggest that you take the mirror test?

7 thoughts on “‘Why did The Tablet report that story?’

  1. Excellent presentation of news the way it’s supposed to be reported! You never sensationalize, and you always tell the truth as you’ve been able to extract is from sometime difficult situations. Prayers for you and your team during these troubled and troubling times, for courage, and absolute Trust in the Lord our God Who loves us all and longs to heal us, if we will allow Him in to do so. Thanks!

  2. Your mission statement may be flawed. You are a Church paper. Perhaps the mission statement should “to give a voice to the people of God.” And, perhaps “The word of Jesus Christ” should come first. That may help your sense of well being – and your readers. Peace be with you.

  3. Thank you for your very balanced and necessary common sense point that you expressed here. It is something more people need to see and Idigest

  4. Editor Jorge, KEEP UP the fine work and balanced stories that come forth from THE TABLET. In a world of “fake news’ it is refreshing to read of THE truth!

  5. None is really necessary. But, AOC, the Theologian, spoke for herself in a NYPost editorial report expressing her “form of hatred” for all things Catholic by wanting the statue of St. Damian of Hawaii removed from the United States Capitol Building.

  6. We have to recover our respect for truth.We have to recover our sense that mutual searching and dialogue will bring us closer to truth.However,online platforms of “communication” Facebook,Twitter etc have made it ridiculously easy for people to spout forth passions masqueraded as thoughtful opinions.Words matter.Truth,or the attempt to arrive at Truth matters.What passes for journalism and news today is nothing more than biased opinion expressed in an unconcealed manner.This of course spills over into “popular discourse”.It is high time a separation be made in our televised and printed media between “opinion news” and straight-up news based on objective facts.”Issues” require time,months and years at least,to achieve a consensus based on Truth.For us moderns however,”change” is expected soon if not overnight.Thus the vehemence of the opinions one hears and the intolerance one encounters from folks whose views differ from others or editors etc..The “immediacy” that people expect today in “progress” is leading all of us into a long dark night where civil discourse will amount to nothing more than a vapid miasma of a “road warrior-like” exchange of evil epithets and lies.The corridors of the objective news proponents may rattle with wind blown crumpled pages tossed aside by the politically correct yet they remain solitary bastions against the attacks ongoing on free and truthful speech.

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