It ain’t news ‘til it happens

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Jun 18, 2019

This isn’t serious complaint. It’s more of a pet peeve. Still…

Here at CWN, I have a firm editorial policy: News isn’t news until it happens. If you have a story about something that is going to happen soon, save it.

Sure, there are exceptions. Sometimes the mere mention of a forthcoming event is itself newsworthy. When Pope Benedict XVI announced his plan to resign, that was certainly news. When a Pope calls a consistory, that’s news. But when someone plans a scholarly conference or an artistic exhibition, that’s not necessarily news. If the event warrants coverage, the story should come after the event. Otherwise you’re not actually reporting on the event; you’re providing advance publicity.

However, the Vatican press office routinely sends out releases about forthcoming events, and holds press conferences to tell reporters what’s going to happen. Thus today there was a press conference to discuss the International Youth Forum text, which will take place later this week. The press conference comes before the event, not during or after.

That’s fair enough, I suppose, since the press office is in the business of generating publicity for Vatican events. But again, if the event warrants coverage, shouldn’t the stories appear after the event?

And today, the Vatican press office provided a “News in Brief” summary, calling attention to:

  • the Time of Creation, to be observed beginning in September;
  • the introduction of a Video-Catechism of the Catholic Church, to be presented next week; and
  • a conference on Veritatis Gaudium, taking place in Naples on Thursday.

Three items, but no news. It ain’t news ‘til it happens.

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 CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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