John Allen Jr.: The dirty little secret about media coverage

(Crux) Some years ago, I attended a presentation by the late Rev. Raymond Brown, a Sulpician priest and one of America’s great Catholic Biblical scholars, in which he commented on the obvious differences between the Acts of the Apostles and St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians in their accounts of the Council of Jerusalem.

Brown joked that every now and then, he had the good luck to miss a faculty meeting at the Union Theological Seminary where he taught. When he would ask colleagues afterwards what happened, he said, he was always struck by the contrasts in their recollections.

“One would tell me, you should have been there because I really told so-and-so off,” Brown said. “When I asked someone else about it, they’d say, ‘Oh, did that person speak? I don’t really remember’.”

His point was that without any intent to deceive, the priorities and interests people bring to an experience inevitably color the way they recall it, which helps explain the otherwise puzzling contrasts between two Biblical versions of the same event.

That exegetical insight comes to mind amid coverage of the 2015 Synod of Bishops in Rome, because it captures the most frustrating aspect for journalists trying to cover it.

The dirty little secret is that we’re not really covering the synod at all. For the most part, we’re covering people telling us about the synod, which is an entirely different enterprise. [More]