Cathnews bias

Cathnews bias

Kate Edwards is one of the most prolific bloggers in the Australian Catholic sphere, and I wholeheartedly recommend her blog, Australia Incognita.

Kate is currently waging a campaign to reform Cathnews. I had no intention of weighing in on this debate, but circumstances demand I take a public position.

Chris Kenny recently wrote on how groupthink has overwhelmed the ABC. He argues that ABC journalists frequent a circle of “academics, public servants and hipsters of the inner city,” for whom the ABC is never progressive enough. Against this measure, ABC journalists can sincerely believe themselves to be balanced: ‘If Andrew Bolt thinks we’re too far left, and Tom Horton, Associate professor of journalism, thinks we’re too far right, then we must be doing something right.’

I think the same thing can be attributed to the thinking at Cathnews. ‘If Kate Edwards thinks we’re too far left, and Brian Coyne thinks we’re too far right, we must be doing something right.’

Well, yes. And no. What this shows is that people can sincerely aspire towards balance, without achieving it. If the ABC was truly balanced, it would broadcast as many outspoken conservative voices as it does outspoken progressive voices. And Cathnews would be more balanced if voices like Joan Chittester’s were balanced by voices like Michael Voris’. If one of these is too outrageous for Cathnews, then both should be. If one of these can be legitimately broadcast by Cathnews, then both should be.

In conclusion, and for the record:

  • I agree with Kate that Cathnews is biased. Its editorial voice can be compared to those of the National Catholic Reporter and The Tablet, which are both progressivist.
  • In my dealings with Christine Hogan, Communications Manager at Church Resources, she has always displayed good will and professionalism. I know some people have complaints against her, but my bet is those grievances have everything to do with the incivility and anger which the Internet fosters, and nothing to do with Christine herself.
  • I have no grievance against Cathnews, and I like its service. I have acknowledged on previous occasions that a mention in Michael Mullins’ BlogWatcher column is something of a double-edged sword — a gift of extra readers, with an unwanted spike in abusive e-mails. I certainly don’t blame Cathnews for that! There are a few times when Michael has misrepresented me, but not willfully. The fault was my own. If I expressed myself more clearly, misunderstanding could not occur.

The debate about the debate

The debate about the debate

It’s not as compelling as the debate itself of course, but the ensuing discussion about Monday’s Q & A is nonetheless quite interesting.

I made a rare visit to the Catholica forum board on Tuesday, to gauge the reaction of Catholics who don’t think like me. I didn’t perservere with the whole thread, but the first few posts credited Pell for not embarrassing the cause. In Catholica land, that’s high praise indeed!

In contrast, a similar discussion on Fr Z’s blog was critical of Pell, especially for his claims about Adam and Eve. Fr Z himself posted the video without comment, though he does defend the Cardinal’s claim that atheists can go to Heaven.

Andrew Bolt, as is his wont, turned to the data. In his blog on Tuesday, he awarded the debate to Pell, on the basis that Pell’s citations were vindicated, while Dawkins’ were not. Quadrant, too, refutes Dawkins’ assertion that Hitler was a Catholic.

In his newspaper column yesterday, Bolt (a self-described agnostic) developed Pell’s argument that Christianity restrains the pursuit of power while atheism gives it license. But he also unearthed an admission from Dawkins himself that Hitler was no Christian. (An online subscription is normally required to access News Limited columns, but if you arrive at an article via Google, you can read it in full.)

Most interesting of all was Greg Sheridan’s analysis. Here’s how he starts:

There were times in Monday night’s great debate . . . when you felt the boxing authorities would step in and call a halt to the bout. Dawkins was so obviously boxing above his weight division, was so completely outclassed in all aspects of the encounter, that you felt the event promoters were being cruel to him.

Sheridan’s piece most closely accords with my own analysis. Dawkins landed very few blows; he really was outclassed. Pell landed several, though it must be admitted he also clobbered himself a few times, without any help from Dawkins. Still, I’d argue that Pell won emphatically.

Not everyone agrees. The Age’s Karl Quinn declared it a draw (a judgement apparently lost on his sub-editor). Others insist that Dawkins won hands down. Which goes to show, I think, that one’s pre-established position on the question of God determines how one judged the debate.