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Journalistic incompetence

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Mar 19, 2012

Imagine that there’s a lively public debate about the comparative value of two different automobiles. You’re interested in the debate, so you read a newspaper article about it. But then you notice something remarkable: The newspaper refers to a shock absorber as a “differential stabilizer,” and announces that the Chrysler Corporation is a subsidiary of Mel’s Friendly Auto Sales. Would you keep reading? No, because whoever wrote the article was obviously incompetent to make any judgment about cars.

Now let’s suppose there’s a debate about a lesbian who wants to receive Communion and a priest who doesn’t want to administer Communion, and the Washington Post carries an article that claims to summarize the debate. But as you read, you notice that the reporters refer to a ciborium as an “offering bowl” and says that the Catholic archdiocese in Moscow is a part of a covenanted charismatic community. Can you take that article seriously? No. The reporters evidently don’t know what they’re talking about, and the editors don’t know enough to recognize that they’ve assigned an interesting story to a pair of incompetents.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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