If you plan to be the keynote speaker before a group of award-winning journalists, be ready for some challenging and unexpected questions.
That’s what Chris Cillizza discovered April 20 after giving a talk at the 2012 awards conference for the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association, held at the Four Point Sheraton BWI Hotel in Baltimore.
When the well-known Washington Post political blogger opened the floor to questions, one journalist asked how Cillizza’s personal faith influenced his reporting.
Cillizza, a Georgetown graduate, responded initially by speaking more broadly about how today's journalists cover those who take their faith seriously – noting that he didn’t think “liberals in the press” were trying to organize a secret plan hostile to believers.
“But I do think that there is a skepticism that exists about people of deep faith,” he said. “I think it comes out sometimes in the language we (use to) cover them. The thing that bugs me is the whole ‘animal-in-a-cage’ way we can sometimes cover people of faith – like, ‘Hey, look what he says over there! It’s the evangelical voter!’”
Cillizza pointed out that a devout believer is not an uncommon person in America.
Then, realizing he really wasn’t answering the question about how faith might influence his own reporting, Cillizza said he himself is a “person of faith.”
“I was raised Catholic,” he said. “I like to think it doesn’t impact (reporting) all that much in a negative or a positive way. I mean, I am someone who believes, but – (just) like I try not to let what I think of certain politicians impact the way I cover things, I’d put (my faith) in that same basket.”
Cillizza, a regular contributor to MSNBC, said he tries to “make sure I’m giving enough attention and not treating people of faith like ‘other’ in my coverage.”
“I don’t know if that’s my own faith speaking as much as my frustration with the fact that that is sometimes how things get covered – not necessarily by the Post, but in general in national politics,” he said.
Here's how the Catholic Review did in this year's MDDC Press Association's competition. Read "The Fix," Cillizza's political blog, here.
April 26, 2012 10:52
By George Matysek
“More reach than you realize.”
That was one of the slogans the Catholic Review used a few years back as a way of getting people thinking about how the newspaper connects with the wider community.
During a recent talk for a Theology on Tap group at the Greene Turtle in Fells Point, Christopher Gunty, editor/associate publisher of the Catholic Review, told a story that seemed tailor-made for that old slogan.
Recalling his time working as an editor for a Catholic newspaper in another diocese, Gunty recounted how a divorced woman noticed his newspaper sitting on her mother’s coffee table. While waiting for her mother to prepare for a dinner outing, the woman flipped through the issue and came across an article about annulments. It was the second of a three-part series on divorced Catholics.
The woman asked for a copy of the previous week’s issue – taking time to read more about the church’s outreach to the divorced. She had been away from the church for a long time because she was convinced that a divorced person could not receive the sacraments.
The following week, the daughter started her annulment process. She found the kind of healing she needed, Gunty said.
“Einstein’s been quoted as saying that coincidence is God’s way of staying anonymous,” Gunty said. “If it’s just coincidence that we published that when the woman needed to read it most, then God is my assistant editor or vice versa.”
Those who work in the Catholic press never know if what they write is going to touch someone, Gunty said, but experiences like that of the divorced woman “happen all the time.”
These days, one of the slogans of the Catholic Review is, “Wherever your faith takes you.” In an age of Facebook, Twitter, blogs and an endlessly evolving social media landscape, the newspaper is striving to have a presence wherever Catholics may be.
In his talk, Gunty said it is important for Catholic media outlets to build community. That can be a challenge – especially when the English-language edition of the official Vatican newspaper has 85,000 followers on Twitter while Ashton Kutcher has more than 10 million, he said. Yet, it is absolutely necessary.
“Who’ s got the more relevant message?” Gunty wondered. “Whose message do people need to hear?”
With a brand-new website, a revamped print product, accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube and several other new initiatives, the Catholic Review is working to be everywhere it can to inform, inspire and engage.
Check out Gunty’s full Theology on Tap talk below. He addresses the emergence of social media, Church statements on communications and new initiatives at the Catholic Review. He also fields some interesting questions at the end.
April 24, 2012 12:21
By George Matysek