Religion and Ethics Newsweekly

By Schroth, Raymond | National Catholic Reporter, February 27, 1998 | Go to article overview

Religion and Ethics Newsweekly


Schroth, Raymond, National Catholic Reporter


Religion and journalism -- except for some very big stories like the Second Vatican Council, the death and election of a pope or the death of a popular saint -- are not, by nature, made for each other. News is change. It's the odd and the strange. It's conflict, celebrity -- whatever touches a large readership or audience with immediacy and emotion.

In Joseph Pulitzer's definition, news is "that which is talked about." So if an editor overhears three guys in gray suits on the commuter train gossiping about a politician and the item has not appeared in his paper, he's going to get his news editor on the cell phone.

The religious establishment prefers to mute its conflicts. Religion, which sees itself as the custodian of eternal truths, tends to resist change. Religious oddities -- like stigmata, Marian apparitions and visionaries -- can be an embarrassment to sophisticated churchmen who have made their peace with the Enlightenment. Meanwhile, the hierarchy feels more comfortable if it can govern in secret, make its decisions free from the intrusion of cameras, reporters' questions and public opinion. As a result -- except for when the religious and secular worlds intersect when the pope meets Castro or a bishop sires a child and the mother shows up on the chancery step -- religion is dull.

Finally, the journalistic mind is inherently secular -- skeptical, anti-authoritarian (though quite respectful of power) and it treats mystery as something to be exposed rather than held in awe. Indeed, as A.M. Rosenthal has written, this professional secular skepticism can add up to bad journalism when the media miss a big story. In November, for example, eight million Americans gathered in about 50,000 Protestant and Catholic churches around the country to pray for persecuted Christians around the world, but the secular press focused instead on one Chinese dissident getting out of jail.

All of which makes PBS's decision -- with an extremely generous $5 million grant from the Lilly Endowment -- to float 39 nights of a weekly religious half-hour news and analysis program, "Religion and Ethics Newsweekly," a timely and relatively bold experiment.

PBS does not describe the series as an experiment but as filling a need: After all, the Princeton Religion Research Center finds that more than 90 percent of Americans say they believe in God, 70 percent claim religious affiliation and 40 percent went to church last week. It does not follow from this, however, that TV viewers -- even the PBS audience -- want regular, intelligent discussion of religious faith.

The show's anchor, veteran NBC Moscow correspondent Bob Abernethy, is a member of the United Church of Christ who took a sabbatical in 1984 to study theology and social ethics at Yale Divinity School. He's convinced that, with the end of the Cold War, Americans are on a new search for meaning. That means the new religious revival -- which his program defines very broadly -- is news in the old-fashioned sense of change and "that which is talked about."

Based on my notes on about 10 programs between September and February, "Religion and Ethics Newsweekly" is doing well what it set out to do. "It is not stealth evangelism," Abernethy told the Christian Science Monitor (Sept. 22, 1997). And to demonstrate that this show has real reporting, they have called into service experienced network correspondents such as Herbert Kaplow and Jed Duvall to don their trench coats and cover church news with the same seriousness they brought to big stories like national politics, the civil rights movement or Vietnam.

Modeled in structure on the "Lehrer News Hour," the "Newsweekly" presents a broad range of religious events -- a news summary at the beginning an "indepth" report or two, and a quick "Washington Week in Review"-style round-table discussion of a controversy. Although Abernethy himself is on a "spiritual journey," his private quest does not leak into the stories -- except perhaps in the premise that much of America is on that journey as well. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Religion and Ethics Newsweekly
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.