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comparing news stories

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Oct 12, 2010

For an interesting perspective how journalists influence each other, read these two stories about the Vatican announcement of the new Pontifical Council for New Evangelization.

First read John Allen’s report in the National Catholic Reporter. Then read the AP wire story. Does is sound familiar?

The two stories should sound similar, of course. They were written about the same event. But it’s particularly interesting to me that the questions John Allen considered most important—the questions he posed to Archbishop Fisichella, as he explains in his own story—are also the questions highlighted in the AP account.

These were important questions. It’s not surprising that two journalists covering the story would agree that they deserved consideration. Once Allen asked the questions, at an open news conference with other journalists in attendance, the archbishop’s answers were in the public domain. It’s only natural that AP reported them.

But there’s another aspect to this matter. Wire-service reporters, who may or may not understand what’s going on inside the Vatican, recognize that Allen is an expert in the field—among English-speaking journalists, it’s safe to say, the expert in the field. So they are likely to pay attention to the question he asks. They’d be foolish if they didn’t. I certainly would.

Thus one journalist’s analysis can influence another journalist’s report. And so it has always been. Reporters tend to read each other’s stories. When they’re together—as they often are—they chat about the news over coffee. Inexperienced reporters pick up tips from their more experienced colleagues; novices take directions from experts. This isn’t plagiarism; it isn’t a scandal; it isn’t even surprising. It’s the way the world works.

During the last several months, I’ve noticed that more and more media outlets are carrying stories about the Church that echo thoughts I have written on this site. I take that as a compliment.

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Show 3 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Paul - Ave Law '07 - Oct. 13, 2010 11:55 AM ET USA

    You're writing too hopefully. In fact, John Allen's piece is at the National Catholic Reporter. :)

  • Posted by: gallardo.vm5565 - Oct. 12, 2010 5:41 PM ET USA

    About time indeed! That's why we come here, to this site.

  • Posted by: mjarman7759049 - Oct. 12, 2010 5:14 PM ET USA

    "During the last several months, I’ve noticed that more and more media outlets are carrying stories about the Church that echo thoughts I have written on this site." All I can say is...About time!

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