Hombre muerde a perro
¿Qué está siendo noticia
para algunos? The Guardian...
The pope draws 1.5 million young people to Madrid – but that's not news?
The media focus on the anti-pope protests, but ignore World Youth Day, perhaps because its attendees aren't cool
If I were a Catholic, I would be feeling rather pissed off with the BBC. The news bulletin in this morning's Today programme carried an report of the pope's visit to Madrid that concentrated entirely on the "thousands" of protestors against the visit. It did not once mention World Youth Day, the extraordinary global Catholic gathering that the pope is also visiting. That has brought something like 1.5 million young people from around the world to the Spanish capital to greet him. Whether or not you approve of this, it is important and – above all – newsworthy simply because it is unexpected and goes against the grain of what the media tell us. So why is it not reported?
One might think this is an instance of consciously anti-Catholic bias and perhaps it is. But I doubt that. In many dealings with BBC radio I have only come across one producer who fitted the Daily Mail stereotype of someone actively biased . I suspect it isn't rooted in theological animus, but something far more cultural. The kind of young people who go on organised pilgrimages to greet the pope are not the kind of people most journalists want to become, or have been. They are quintessentially unfashionable.
Journalists are almost inevitably sensitive to fashion in ideas, in part because their own fates and careers depend so heavily on it. The ability to sense what people are interested in right now is a skill highly valued in the trade. At the same time, the desire to be one of the inner ring, to know things that other people do not, and to be wafted to the front of any queue, is powerful in us, not least because it is doomed to be unsatisfied. In the last analysis the people who know what's going on are those who have the power to change it, and very few journalists ever get that.
Nor is it just the BBC – I see from a quick Googling that Deutsche Welle, the admirable German broadcaster has a story that starts:
"Pope Benedict XVI arrived in the Spanish capital on Thursday to take part in World Youth Day celebrations. But his presence in Madrid, and in particular the taxpayer-funded price tag of the visit, has stirred much anger in a country mired in the economic doldrums.
"Around 5,000 people turned out on Madrid's streets late Wednesday to protest the pope's arrival for the six-day youth festival. The demonstrators included members of secularist, feminist, gay and lesbian, alternative Christian and leftist groups."
Of course this demonstration is news. But the ability of mainstream Christianity to attract a crowd of 1.5 million young people seems to me a damn sight more newsworthy, since we expect people to protest against the pope, and we do not expect them to turn out in large numbers to support or see him.
Numbers don't prove truth, of course. But they are measures of commitment, and of political importance. Three hundred times as many people have travelled to Madrid to see the pope as have travelled to protests against him. Which group is more important to know about?