Catholic Culture News
Catholic Culture News

Times Take Two

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Dec 13, 2004

You can tell a lot about where a journalist is coming from by "asymmetry of identifiers." An identifier is a kind of tag that pigeon-holes a person, publication, or institution on the basis of ideology. A journalist writing for the public-at-large is ordinarily supposed to be evenhanded in applying identifiers. For example, if you tag Rep. Chris King, as "the right-wing congressman from New York"-- fine. But then it's only fair to identify, say, Maxine Waters, as "the left-wing congresswoman from California."

But when it happens that a group on one side of an ideological divide is labeled and the other not, the journalist has signaled that -- perhaps inadvertently -- he is writing only for those of his own persuasion. It's always "the other guys" who get the tags.

Now note that in the New York Times article mentioned below, reference is made to Phil Lawler as "editor of the conservative Catholic World Report," while Fr. James Martin, S.J., is identified as "associate editor of America, a Catholic magazine." See the point? According to the style-sheet of the New York Times, a bishop with more T-cells than teeth is "a conservative Catholic bishop"; all the rest are known as "Catholic bishops" or simply "bishops."

The same article, regrettably, identifies the Society of Jesus as "the largest Catholic order in the world." Public health officials take note.

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