Accuracy in Media

TV-Turnoff Week was April 25 through May 1. According to the Turnoff TV Network, the week featured events across the U.S. and in several foreign countries. But just before the week began, on the April 24 edition of NBC’s Meet the Press, the Reverend Joseph Fessio urged viewers to turn off their televisions and read books.

Host Tim Russert wasn’t too pleased with the suggestion.

The issue was the future of the Roman Catholic Church under the new pope.

Russert wanted to know if the Catholic Church could alter its teaching on birth control, or use of condoms or on married priests or on female priests. “Well, you put several things in that list, Tim, and the answer is three are false and one is true, and the one that’s possibly true is married priests, but not on condoms, not on contraception and not on the ordination of women.” Russert wanted an explanation. Fessio replied, “You know, Tim, I’d love to-you want to give me an hour to explain that, or maybe two hours?

I mean, this is-we are-we have a difficulty here.  First of all I want to encourage all the listener-watcher-viewers here, for every hour you spend watching television, please spend five hours reading good books, because we really can’t have a serious discussion on these very deep, deep, mysterious issues with a bunch of sound bites.  So all I’m saying is…”

The suggestion that viewers turn off the TV and read a book or two was a bit much for Russert to take. At that point, Russert intervened, saying, “Father, with all respect, I think devoting a full hour to this discussion is a very serious attempt.  And my question was, why would those three issues-the use of condoms, birth control and women as priests-why could they not be altered?  Have they, in fact, become doctrine to the church or have they been taught infallibly by a pope?”

Fessio proceeded to give a rather long explanation, which is not worth recapping here. The point is that he said that TV was prone to “sound bites” and not a serious discussion of the issues.

Speaking of the Catholic Church, Pope John Paul II declared in May 2004 that, “The media can wreak great harm on the family when it offers an inadequate or even distorted vision of life, of the family itself and of religion and morality.” Our guess is that he read books more than he watched TV, if he watched TV at all.

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