Monday, July 14, 2008

GetReligion: MSM Falls Down on Job of Reporting Snow's Catholic Faith

Mollie at GetReligion notes something of a double-standard in the way the mainstream press reported the late Tim Russert's devout Catholic faith and their failure to do so with respect to the late Tony Snow:
Tony Snow, journalist and aide to two presidents, died on Saturday at the age of 53. As with the death last month of beloved journalist Tim Russert, friends and fans are grieving the loss. Like Russert, Snow was a devoted family man with a strong Christian faith. I thought most obituaries of Russert did a good job of including religion in their tributes. Let’s look at some of the accounts of Snow’s death.

For context, here’s a bit from an essay Snow wrote for Christianity Today last year. The magazine asked Snow what spiritual lessons he has been learning through his ordeal with colon cancer. His lengthy piece
explains a great deal about how his faith has guided him in life...

Snow was, I believe, a convert to Roman Catholicism and he gave a notable
commencement address at Catholic University of America last year about love.

While the
New York Times and the Washington Post found room to include Snow’s salary at his White House job, neither of them mentioned his strong religious views that were so integral to his outlook on life. The New York Times, along with the Associated Press and Washington Post, made somewhat odd digs in their obituaries about Snow’s supposed problem with facts during his press secretary stint. (He was known for his expertise at explaining the big picture rather than specific policy details.)

Howard Kurtz’s piece this morning in the Washington Post described how Snow won the respect of journalists while serving as press secretary. It’s a nice piece that shows much more personality than much of what has been written but it’s completely silent about Snow’s faith.

People interested in that element should be sure to read William Kristol’s touching and provocative tribute to his friend on the New York Times
editorial page ...

Washington Times did a much better job than their across town competition by quoting people familiar with Snow’s commitment to faith and family. Reporter Jon Ward also dug up that Christianity Today piece from last year ...

Considering all of the material that could be drawn on, it is somewhat surprising that most major coverage failed to mention Snow’s Christian faith.

My Comments:
Is it really all that surprising? Can we not think of anything that might account for the inconsistency in how the media reported on the deaths of 2 of America's finest newsmen who also happened to be animated by their devout Catholic faith?

Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
Catholic Online: Tony Snow Dead at 53, A Tribute

More on Tim Russert's Catholic Faith

God, Politics and the Making of a Joyful Warrior: Tim Russert Was a Catholic in America

Tim Russert, Best and Most Objective Newsman in America (and Devout Catholic), Dead at 58 [UPDATED]

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At 7/14/2008 12:58 PM, Blogger Irenaeus said...

I suppose two things account for it (beyond incompetence and malfeasance):

(1) Snow was a convert and didn't grow up in the Catholic culture many media elites are familiar with -- he didn't go to a Jesuit school, etc etc, like Russert. (Am I wrong?)

(2) Snow simply wasn't as important as Russert, both in fact (Meet the Press being what it was) and in the view of journalists.

At 7/14/2008 1:04 PM, Anonymous Victor said...

Yeah, I don't think it was an ideological thing. If anything else, in a secular liberal environment (e.g., the culture of journalism), it's the conservative who's more likely to be tagged "religious" than the liberal.

At 7/14/2008 1:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I honestly had no idea Snow was Catholic until today. When he was diagnosed, I remember him talking about his faith, but I never heard him talk about being Catholic. At all.

I don't think we can be too hard on the MSM about this. It's still fuzzy, actually, when Snow actually became Catholic. As Irenaus says, the Russert commentary focused a lot of traditional immigrant Catholic culture.

At 7/14/2008 1:37 PM, Blogger Donald R. McClarey said...

An amazing column by Kristol and this portion really hit home for me:

"But underlying these seemingly natural qualities was a kind of choice: the choice of gratitude. Tony thought we should be grateful for what life has given us, not bitter or anxious about what it hasn’t."


At 7/14/2008 2:49 PM, Blogger TS said...

One was pro-life (Snow) and one pro-choice?

I don't know, I'm just asking - I'm thinking that Russert didn't seem to let his Catholicism get in the way of his politics while Snow likely did.

At 7/14/2008 5:22 PM, Blogger Flexo said...

If you look through many of the comments made by Tony Snow, you will definitely see strains of Catholic thought there. He didn't need to announce, "oh, by the way, I'm Catholic."

Some other journalists, on the other hand, were apparently big cultural Catholics, but you would rarely hear any Catholic thought in the things they said.

Folks didn't know Tony Snow was Catholic? I wouldn't have known Russert was Catholic if the MSM hadn't mentioned it. Certainly the Catholic Faith did not often shine through in his remarks.

At 7/14/2008 7:03 PM, Anonymous Alia said...

I hadn't known until Saturday evening when Bill O'Reilly mentioned that Tony Snow was a Catholic convert, but in reading many of the things Tony Snow has said and written about his faith just screamed "Catholic" to me, so it wasn't really a surprise to find out he was one.

At 7/15/2008 7:51 AM, Anonymous IA_ said...

Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord.
Let perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace.

At 7/15/2008 11:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Snow is a Catholic, why is his funeral at an Episcopal Church? I believe he left Catholicisma dn joined the Episcopalians some years ago.

At 7/15/2008 1:07 PM, Anonymous crankycon said...

If Snow is a Catholic, why is his funeral at an Episcopal Church?

I'm not sure where you heard that, but his funeral will actually be at the Basillica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Thursday here in DC. It is open to the public.

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