On Saturday night, President Bush spoke at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. He included in his remarks a moving tribute to Michael Kelly, columnist and editor of the Atlantic Monthly, and NBC’s David Bloom, both of whom had died in the war in Iraq.
The president quoted Kelly’s father and the praises of his colleagues, and held Kelly’s intellectual honesty and fearlessness up for the approval of the audience, and the audience clapped.
The president then read from David Bloom’s last e-mail home, in which the rising star of NBC wrote to his wife that he cared not much for his professional achievement compared to his love for three things: Jesus, her and their daughters. The audience again expressed approval of the president’s tribute.
Moving words by a world leader to a moved audience. But I doubt you saw them on your television or read of them in a prominent place in your paper.
I suspect it was Bloom’s reference to Jesus that sealed the decision of the news directors to skip the speech in their broadcasts Sunday. Perhaps some stations did air the speech, but I didn’t see it. My radio audience was just as surprised as I was to hear the tape when I played it on Monday and Tuesday. They too, had been covered by the news blackout.
This is an odd and troubling development. Either news producers do not understand what connects with the American audience, or they are purposefully blocking its transmission. My radio audience self-selects for a center-right talk show, of course, but their reaction to the president’s quiet but absolutely sincere salute to these two journalists tells me that it would be a widely shared reaction. It would have interested at least the 40 percent of America that went to church on this past Sunday, and perhaps closer to the 90 percent of the country that believes in God.
My suspicion is that the news executives who decided not to run it did so out of a personal disapproval of the message, generally, and Bloom’s last letter, specifically. I have worked in newsrooms for a dozen years, and the hostility to religious belief within those quarters is intense and widespread. The president’s remarks did not get much airtime because they were so powerful, not because they were dull.
This is just another example of an alarming development: For many years now, the herd that is the elite media is developing a mindset both hostile to faith and intent on its silencing. Rarely, if ever, do voices from the community of the religious get a decent hearing, and bookers seem to work overtime to elevate the marginal and marginalize the mainstream. When enormously powerful statements are made about faith, such as the president’s remarks or David Bloom’s e-mail, they are shunted aside to the cable channels and they may not even see the light there.
This happens again and again. A couple of months ago, the National Security Adviser gave a wonderful address at the National Day of Prayer which addressed her faith and its origins. I played the entire speech and again my audience loved it.
I doubt you heard or read a word of it. Producers seem to have agreed that it couldn’t be newsworthy because it addressed matters of faith.
This is a pernicious and deeply bigoted approach to the news, but it is not likely to end soon. The rise of talk radio and the Fox News Network are partially tied to the decades of censorship of center-right political views from the news. These outlets are not yet comfortable with faith matters either.
But the audience is there. The first network that begins to honor the sensibilities of the 40 percent of Americans who attend church weekly or the 90 percent plus who believe in God will find its reward in the ratings.
The coverage doesn’t have to be uncritical or even frequent. But it is wrong for news elites to project their tastes and nonbelief onto a vast audience that shares neither.