Sunday, January 12, 2014

Don't Worry, It's Nobody You Know

Today Pope Francis announced the names of the 19 men he will create as cardinals on February 22.

(I'm not sure why "create" is the preferred nomenclature here, but it is: you ordain priests, consecrate bishops, create cardinals. It's like how you can only "cast" aspersions. You never see "aspersions" used apart from the verb "cast." Why can't I hurl them or scatter them or drop them or fling them? Anyway....)

American media have reported this story as "Pope names new cardinals, none American." We do tend to be a bit concerned about ourselves, don't we? Comedian Eddie Izzard pointed this out in his impression of American international news: "No Americans were involved in anything today." Though he says the Brits are the same: "Two British people scraped their knees today in Azerbaijan. Four billion other people died, but we don't know them."

Now, it's one thing if an angle in a story positively relates to your hometown or place of origin or someone you know: you then feel a stronger interest in the story. I was really proud when I found out, as a boy, that a man from our tiny little farming community had pitched in the major leagues, played with Willie Mays, and was second in Rookie of the Year voting only to some guy named Jackie Robinson. Wow! A guy from Verboort! How about that?! And just yesterday I saw that an Iraqi priest I had become acquainted with in seminary had been named a bishop. "I thought I recognized that name! I remember eating dinner with him and talking about theology!" Being especially interested in those sorts of connections seem natural to me.

But headlining a story as "No one from 'round these parts was involved" seems to me to be taking the wrong attitude. Yes, it's naturally more interesting if someone you know or are connected to is involved, but that shouldn't be our only reason for taking notice of a story. Isn't it interesting in itself that the pope named some cardinals from places that haven't had cardinals before? That one is the 98-year old former secretary to Blessed Pope John XXIII? That's neat! Tell me more about that. Your article will be far too long if you tell me about all the guys that weren't named cardinals.

This is a relatively minor complaint about the way media tend to report things. But still worth noting, I think.

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