FaithWorld

from John Lloyd:

In India, a press corps searching for its morality

I was in India last week, where I met three frustrated moralists. One was a journalist, an investigator of some distinction (which, to be fair, can be frustrating anywhere). The other two were regulators of the press and broadcasting, respectively. They have little power and thus little influence over what they see as a scandal: the way the media ignore the "real" India – impoverished, suffering, socially divided – in favor of a glossy India that’s little more than the three “C's” – cinema, celebrity and cricket.

Justice Markandey Katju is one of these frustrated regulators. Katju, a former judge of India’s Supreme Court, is chairman of the Press Council of India, which – very loosely – oversees the press. When I told smart Indian journalists that I would see him, they were amused, and many told me he was “mad”. Justice Katju does thunder, but he’s not crazy: He’s an outspoken moralist, and his thundering says something not just about Indian media but also about India.

Calling Katju "outspoken" would fall too short. He hectors and lectures. In fact, Katju does speak with something of the fervor of the Indian governing class of the pre- and post-independence period, when ideals were at least as important as details and mechanisms. “There was a fashion show recently in Mumbai,” he said, “where there were 512 journalists. 512! The models were wearing clothes made of cotton grown by farmers who are committing suicides in their thousands every year! And is that reported? Maybe one reporter will be sent sometimes.

“The content of Indian journalism is an insult to the poor. Seventy percent of the country who live on $2 a day or less are invisible. The media show the rich and famous. The corporations and the finance houses control the politicians.”

Katju’s tirade isn’t very nuanced. The fashion shows and other beautiful-people events, which now abound, are eagerly covered but often give the proceeds to the poor; while there is one famed reporter, Palagummi Sainath, who writes often in his paper, the Hindu, about rural poverty and has put rural suicides into the consciousness of many. Still, it’s small potatoes.

from John Lloyd:

After the U.S. fades, whither human rights?

The shrinking of U.S. power, now pretty much taken for granted and in some quarters relished, may hurt news coverage of human rights and the uncovering of abuses to them. But not necessarily. Journalism is showing itself to be resilient in adversity, and its core tasks – to illuminate the workings of power and to be diverse in its opinions – could prove to be more than “Western” impositions.

When the British Empire withdrew from its global reach after the World War Two, the space was occupied, rapidly and at times eagerly, by the resurgent United States, at the very peak of its relative wealth and influence in the immediate postwar years. What it brought with it was a culture of journalism that was increasingly self-confident in its global mission: not just to describe the world, but to improve it. Some European journalism had that ambition too, but these were nations exhausted by war. The Americans, at the peak of their influence in the postwar years, had the power, wealth, standing and cocksureness to project their vision of what the world should be.

Now, American power too will shrink, and the end of U.S. hegemony (it was never an empire in the classic sense) will mean that there will be a jostling for power, influence, and above all resources by getting-rich-quick mega-states like China, India and Brazil. They will project their view of what the world should be -- they have already begun, some (China) more confidently than others (India, Brazil).

Ruth Gledhill’s reflections on reporting about religion

gledhillCovering religion is unlike other assignments in journalism, as any reporter on the “Godbeat” can tell you. Ruth Gledhill (photo at right), veteran religion correspondent of The Times in London and fellow blogger (hers is called Articles of Faith), recently gave a short, witty and insightful talk on reporting about faith.

There’s a lot there in only 11minutes and 27 seconds. How about this for an opener: “The only place the press is mentioned in the Bible is in Luke 19 when Zacchaeus the tax collector has to climb a tree to see Jesus because of the crowds. The King James Version renders this: ‘he couldn’t see because of the press’.”

Click here for the audio tape of the talk. And let us know if you sometimes feel like Zacchaeus.

Catholic editor who rapped Berlusconi resigns, but Church may have last laugh

giornaleIn the latest — but most likely not final — round in an incredible case of Italian journalistic pugilism, the editor of a Catholic newspaper sparring publicly for a week with the daily owned by the family of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has resigned.  Dino Boffo’s resignation as head of Avvenire, the daily of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, ended an Italian telenovela that had riveted the media for seven consecutive days and even saw indirect involvement by Pope Benedict. (Photo: Il Giornale fronts charges against Boffo, 3 Sept 2009/Stefano Rellandini)

In his three-and-a half page letter of resignation (here in Italian), which he said was irrevocable, Boffo  said the tussle with the editor Vittorio Feltri of the Milan daily Il Giornale had made his life unbearable. For his good, that of his family and that of the Church, he could not longer stay “at the centre of a storm of gigantic proportions that has invaded newspapers, television, radio, the internet and shows no signs of ending.”

Boffo said his only mistake was not taking his initial judicial problem seriously enough. As noted in my blog post here last Tuesday, Il Giornale editor Vittorio Feltri wrote last week that Boffo accepted a plea bargain in 2002 over a case in which a woman accused him of harassment. Il Giornale claimed that Boffo was having a homosexual relationship with her husband. It said Boffo should not have written editorials criticising Berlusconi’s sexual escapades when he was not exactly an an innocent altar boy himself.

Apostles or Apostates?

MORMON-TEMPLE/Chambers dictionary defines an apostate as “someone who rejects a religion, belief, political affiliation, etc. that they previously held.” So it’s easy to imagine the horror among Mormons if it were applied, even by mistake, by a Mormon-owned newspaper to the second-highest presiding group within the Mormon Church.

But that’s what happened at The Daily Universe, a newspaper at Brigham Young University.A photo caption in Monday’s edition read in part: “Members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostates and other general authorities raise their hands in a sustaining vote…”

Er, make that “Apostles”.

The newspaper scrapped 18,000 copies (the entire printing) of its Monday edition after discovering the typo.