Christ among the Doctors of the Law



Monday, February 21, 2011

Andrew Cuomo and holy Communion: the CNS interview

My email interview with Michael Chapman of Cybercast News (21 Feb 2011)regarding the canonical eligibility of New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo to take holy Communion is now available. The interview accurately reflects my opinions.

For my other comments on Cuomo and holy Communion, see this blog post (4 Jan 2011). For my other comments on Bp. Hubbard (specifically, his approval of needle distribution to drug abusers), are here (2 Feb 2010) and here (10 Feb 2010).

Update, 22 Feb 2011. My interview with Cybercast News interview has been picked up in various places. In condensed form it is now part of a New York Times article by Thomas Kaplan. It’s a pretty good article overall, but I must differ with Kaplan’s reporting in this respect: he says I declined an interview request. That’s not accurate. At all.

The Times cold-called me today about 10 minutes before I was scheduled to teach for two hours and then go to dinner on campus. I estimated I’d be gone about three hours. I said if they would send me some written questions (like Cybercast did) I would reply within 24 hours. When the reporter said he might need my answers sooner, and I said, well, send what you have and I can look at it more promptly, as I would be around this evening. We signed off ambiguous as to whether there would be any follow-up. No big deal, I thought. They either will follow-up, or they won't. In fact, I worked in my office till after 9:30 tonight, but there was no follow-up phone call or email questions. And yet I find myself characterized as having "declined" an interveiw request!

So now I must wonder, exactly what does the New York Times thinks constitutes “declining an interview”? Besides, I guess, not dropping everything and answering questions whenever it’s convenient for the Times to pose them?

Update 24 Feb 2011. A thoughtful post from "Emily" over at AmericanPapist prompts a thoughtful reply. Emily's post is in italics, mine follows in regular print.

Well, What the reporter should have said was, "Mr. Peters was not available for an interview at the time." He was wrong to say "Declined an interview." But, in the reporter's defense, on a story like this he was probably given a very short turn around time and waiting for email answers was not an option. Plus, email answers are rarely as good, conversational, or as easy to follow up on as an interview that takes place via conversation. It behooves Catholics to get comfortable with doing phone interviews, even if that means they run the risk of being misquoted, simply because the ones who give the good, quick, quotes via phone are going to be called by reporters more. And we need more good Catholics like your dad becoming the "go to" guys for reporters. But again, that means dealing with the media on their terms, not ours.

Thoughtful post, Emily. A few thoughts in return.

I have given dozens [correction: hundreds] of live-on-air and over-the-phone-for-print interviews in the course of 25 years. I know how to do them, and I tend to get asked back because I am pretty good at it. Short answers, clearly made points, and letting people take turns. Etc.

I am, BY FAR, most likely to be misquoted in a phone-for-print interview than I am anywhere else. I have almost completely ceased doing them as a result, except for a few trusted journalists. I handle very quickly, however, email questions, and it gives me a record of what I said. And they know I have a record of what I said. They don’t even have to type my answers! But apparently, even so much as trying to arrange for email questions from the New York Times made me the object of distortion. It’s just not worth my time.

We do not have to work with the MSM on their terms. Nor do they have to work on ours. If our goals can be mutually met, fine, but if not, they've got their multi-billion dollar communications corporations, and we’ve got something undreamed of when I was a kid: the Internet. Not too many years ago, no one would have known how the NYT treated an interviewee, because the NYT would never had admitted it, and the little interviewee could not have told his story to much more than the dinner table or water cooler. All that’s over now, as this very blog post shows. The MSM influences information flow, but they no longer control it. Deo gratias!

Bottom line, what and how I communicate is on my conscience, what and how they communicate is on theirs.