Reporters are often accused of “pack journalism” when they essentially write the same story from an event. So what should we call it when they write different reports about the same thing? That happened on Friday when Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams issued his Advent message. This was the long-awaited statement of his views on the crisis tearing away at the Anglican Communion. It turned out to be a grab-bag with something for everyone.
Jim Naughton over at The Lead blog on Episcopal Café noticed the problem and highlighted it in a quick review of the stories about the Advent message. The list shows how the same text can spawn different articles. For example, our story’s lead went for a broad overview, the AP story stressed a U.S. angle and the British papers highlighted details of the Anglican disputes.
“Reporters had their hands full yesterday trying to figure out how to pull a “lede” out of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s letter about the state of the Anglican Communion,” Naughton wrote. “He dumped cold water on everybody, so how to determine which side was wetter?”
Naughton, a veteran journalist who is spokesman for the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, added: “One thing I’ve picked up in conversations with reporters is how weary they are of covering this story, and what a difficult time they have in determining the significance of any given event. Many of them fervently wish the story would go away.”
This story is difficult to cover and some journalists might wish it would go away. But there’s no sign it will. The Lambeth Conference, a 10-yearly meeting of Anglican bishops from around the world, is coming up next July. We can probably expect more disputes over openly gay clergy and blessings for same-sex couples, more defections from the Episcopal Church and more warning declarations from the Global South as it approaches. If that weren’t enough, Gene Robinson, the openly gay Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire, plans to marry his partner only a few weeks before Lambeth begins. “I always wanted to be a June bride,” the University of Miami news service reported him as saying last month.