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breaking the news before it happens

By Diogenes (articles ) | Sep 15, 2010

London’s Daily Mail has outdone itself, with a September 15 report on Pope Benedict’s address to British political leaders in Westminster Hall.

His remarks amount to a criticism of politicians who have allowed equality laws to trump religious beliefs, in some cases preventing Christians displaying their faith at work.

Interesting. Just one problem. The Pope will speak at Westminster Hall on September 17. This report appeared, again, on September 15. The Vatican has not released a text of the Pope’s prepared remarks.

Maybe the Daily Mail reporter had a peek at the papal text—although such leaks have been exceedingly rare during this pontificate. More likely, the reporter extrapolated from a briefing on the purpose of the Pope’s appearance at Westminster Hall. It’s a safe bet that the Pope will indeed urge politicians to respect Christian beliefs. But unless he has read the definitive final text of the Pope’s address—and he does not claim that he has—the reporter has no business talking about the speech in the present tense.

A basic rule of journalism, which I learned from a crusty old editor of CWN: “It ain’t news ‘til it happens.”

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