Friday, January 26, 2007

Idiot Media Interactions

Back after a work-imposed hiatus. Plus, some days, there's just so much going on, it's hard to pick a topic.

A couple of quick observations about dealing with the media. The first has to do with Vice-President Cheney's interview with Wolf "Please Don't Bitchslap Me" Blitzer on CNN. Blitzer had the temerity to ask the VP if he wanted to respond to an attack by Focus on the Family which criticized Mary Cheney's decision to have a baby with her partner. Focus on the Family was upset with both the fact that Mary Cheney is gay, and that the child will be born out of wedlock.

Now, this is a perfectly legitimate question. Focus on the Family represents the same conservative evangelicals who claimed that they were the difference between Bush-Cheney winning and losing in 2004. In addition, the VP is part of an administration that tried (and failed) to pass a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman (which, if passed, would have condemned any future children Mary Cheney might have to the status of illegitimacy).

Cheney, in an act of political courage, refused to comment, then blasted Blitzer for presenting a question that was out of line. Blitzer, as he does when any guest begins to scowl, cowered, and immediately moved off the topic. Still, got to give the VP props for controlling the media.

Locally, Bishop Joseph Martino could take some lessons from Vice-President Cheney. In announcing a massive Catholic School restructuring plan, including combining four high schools in Luzerne County, Bishop Martino's words and nonverbal behavior only added fuel to an emotional fire. Nonverbally, he communicated little in the way of empathy in announcing his decision to the press. In addition, he made statements such as "[I said in November] changes would be seismic and transformative. Now you see I have kept my word." The fact that the bishop kept his word about a plan that some critics would call draconian was small comfort to the students' parents.

In addition, the Bishop placed a significant amount of blame on the downturn in local Catholic school enrollments on the historical increase in "relativism" in this country, which has led to fewer Catholic marriages and fewer Cathoic children. What the Bishop failed to note is that the recent horrendous sex scandals in the Church that had gone on for over two decades shook the public trust in the Church, especially its leadership. One other thing the Bishop failed to note is that in an era when public schools have taken a dramatic image beating themselves, why the Diocese did not do a better job of promoting Catholic education as an alternative.

As a result, students are already transferring to public schools, and parents are withholding money from the Sunday collection plates. There's loud grumbling about the Diocese taking a larger percentage of church donations, as well as the Bishop's international travel. There's even a proposal to have a Catholic high school not affiliated with the Diocese.

Certainly, even a terrific public presentation by Bishop Martino would not have overcome the disappointment of the Catholic School community in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties. Unfortunately, his presentation may have made matters worse. No props for controlling the media here.


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