Diocesan newspapers are fond of accusing the mainstream news media of bias, and at times they are right. But what about the diocesan papers?I'd like to ask if your diocesan newspaper is reporting fairly on the presidential campaign. Or has it strongly suggested through its choice of stories, headlines, photos, story placement, editorials and columns that one candidate is preferred?The question is prompted by a Sept. 29 Catholic News Service story that leads my local Catholic paper, Brooklyn's Tablet, this weekend under the headline Dems May Be `Party of Death.' The story quotes Raymond L. Burke, former archbishop of St. Louis and now prefect of the Vatican court, as saying that "At this point the Democratic Party risks transforming itself definitely into a `party of death' because of its choices on bioethical questions as Ramesh Ponnuru wrote in his book, `The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts and the Disregard for Human Life.'"It's a valid news story, for sure, but it violates the most basic rule for fairness in journalism: Get the other side of the story. The CNS story has no comment whatsoever from the Democratic Party (or, in standard journalistic procedure, a sentence saying that it declined comment) or anyone else who might disagree with the archbishop. Nor did The Tablet insert such a comment in its lead story.Did your diocesan paper play this story this weekend? And how is your paper handling the campaign in general this year? It won't make an endorsement in the campaign, of course, since this would risk loss of non-profit status. But has it in effect endorsed a candidate?
Paul Moses, a contributing writer at Commonweal, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015). Follow him on Twitter @PaulBMoses.