Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Hagerty Again

The ombudsman has her response to issues readers raised. Of course, she didn't really respond to most of the issues, but here it is:

'Right-wing Catholics'

On April 30, reporter Barbara Bradley Hagerty reported on the attitude of some Catholics with regard to John Kerry. She interviewed a number of people leaving a Wednesday morning Mass in Washington, D.C. A number of listeners wrote to point out that those attending weekday Mass are often more observant, and therefore often more conservative, than those who only attend on Sunday:

During this report, Ms. Hagerty interviewed three Catholic parishioners who were extremely critical of Mr. Kerry. Ms. Hagerty does not disclose that those three individuals -- Ted Flynn, Phillip Munoz and Carrie Gress -- are right-wing Catholic activists... To make matters worse, Ms. Hagerty was until recently affiliated with... the World Journalism Institute. Although it's since been changed, WJI's mission statement originally included this statement: To accompany reporting with practical commentary on current events and issues from a perspective committed to the final authority of the Bible as the inerrant written word of God...

Barbara Bradley Hagerty has responded to those listeners:

You pointed out something that many people have called me on in that story: namely, that I did not identify the weekday Mass-goers as more conservative than, for example, Sunday Mass-goers. I was remiss on that point, and it's a mistake I'll not make again. The reason I interviewed people on a weekday is that I was assigned the story on Monday night and it was due on Thursday afternoon, so I had no other option... I stood outside the church last Wednesday morning, and asked everyone who would stop to talk with me. I did not know who they were; I had never seen any of these people before. They identified themselves as "policy analyst," "professor," "union official," etc. Mr. Flynn, who seems to be the most controversial, stopped so briefly that I could not even get his profession, so I had no idea what he did.

Bradley Hagerty says her name was used without her permission by the World Journalism Institute. She says she has no affiliation with that group despite attempts by certain blogs to link her.

According to an email she sent to a reader, more precisely Hagerty says she was approached to teach a 3 hour course by WJI, and though she hadn't heard of them she agreed to do it. This was to be in June this year, and once a colleague informed her that her name was listed on their website and she learned about their mission statement, she withdrew.

But, her response ignores many key issues:

1. She only named the job description of one of the people she interviewed - the "union organizer."

2. Her unsourced assertion that "John Kerry's challenge is to persuade voters that this presidential candidate is a good Catholic."

3. Her contrasting of "orthodox Catholics," who follow the "conservative moral teachings of the Vatican" who believe in "absolute truth," with "cafeteria Catholics," despite the fact that both in their own ways are "Cafeteria Catholics." In fact, she had previously done a report about how Catholics and other churchgoers were ignoring the authority of the church when it came to the Iraq war, and having one of those "orthodox Catholics" justify and defend that. Opposing papal authority on left wing issues? Good! Opposing papal authority on right wing ones? Bad!

4. Her statement that "Today the Vatican and some American bishops are cracking down on Catholic politicians on this issue, threatening to bar them from Communion." One Cardinal at the Vatican has made this statement. It isn't an official Vatican position.

5. The fact that Hagerty didn't bring up the existence of prominent pro-choice Republican Catholics for context.

6. The fact that she didn't both to consider why abortion is apparently the only political issue that the Catholic church cares about - or so she would have us believe.

Anyway, here's my original post on this report.

My statement about her WJI affiliation was this:

Hagerty was affiliated with the World Journalism Institute until fellow traveller Jack Kelley got his ass canned by USA Today, and their mission statement came to light.

I don't think there's anything incorrect in that statement, though she claims to have been unaware of what their mission was and unaware that she was listed on their website as someone who was going to be teaching a class -- even though she was in fact going to be teaching a class.