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Sunday, May 08, 2005

Joey Ratz, Media Critic

The Pope today:

"These important tools of communication can favor reciprocal knowledge and dialogue, or on the contrary, they can fuel prejudice and disdain between individuals and peoples; they can contribute to spreading peace or fomenting violence."

As a result, Benedict called for members of the media to exercise "personal responsibility" to ensure objective reports that respect human dignity and pay attention to the common good.

Note to Benedict: an independent press is important in reaching such goals of objectivity.

With trust in media so low, the NYT is taking steps to try to boost credibility:

In order to build readers' confidence, an internal committee at The New York Times has recommended taking a variety of steps, including having senior editors write more regularly about the workings of the paper, tracking errors in a systematic way and responding more assertively to the paper's critics.

The committee also recommended that the paper "increase our coverage of religion in America" and "cover the country in a fuller way," with more reporting from rural areas and of a broader array of cultural and lifestyle issues. The 16-page report is to be made available today on the Times company's Web site, www.nytco.com.

This added "coverage of religion in America" seems like an overreaction to the "moral values" storyline emerging from the November election. Several news outlets seem to be doing extra-clumsy, fawning portrayals of the hyper-religious segment of the population these days--see ABC's odd series this week on how some say the Bible compels them to spank their kids, do a different kind of cheerleading, and do better in NASCAR competitions. Is this an anthropology class or a news program?

I wonder if the New York Times quite understands that it makes a convenient scapegoat for those wielding power these days, an iconic representation of the "reality-based community" that must be disdained to keep the illusion of hostility toward "real Americans" alive. Good luck with the new PR campaign, though, guys, I'm sure the right-wing bloggers will have nothing but kind responses.