Listening to one end of a telephone conversation is fascinating sometimes. When you have known the person speaking for long enough, you can piece together the unheard segments of the exchange.
So it was when the best beloved was talking this evening.
“Which newspaper did you were say you were from?
“And who gave you my name?”
“I’m happy to do an interview, I don’t think a photograph will be possible.”
“Why? Because my teenage children would not want to be in a photograph”.
“Well, if it’s a picture driven piece, you would need to try someone else”.
“No. I can’t think of anyone you might contact”.
“Yes. I think it would be best if you did”.
The receiver was placed down firmly. “Picture driven piece, indeed. What nonsense they talk”
Another journalist had fallen foul of the solid East Belfast defence that the Best Beloved puts around the family. It is not their vocation and it is no business of any colour supplement hack as to what it’s like to be clergy kids.
Twenty years ago we were constantly fed the line that we needed to be nice to the media, that we somehow needed the media. Twenty years on, it is clear that the media are almost entirely irrelevant to the realities of working in a parish. Large numbers of people neither read a newspaper nor watch the news, and those who do rarely absorb much of what is carried.
The media are in the business of selling copies, they will never let in the truth get in the way of a good story. Being a Christian is about the truth, at whatever the cost.
The world views are so different that sometimes that one wonders if the same country is being described. The media have carried the line about the collapse of the Irish Catholic Church for so long, that they have begun to believe it themselves, yet anyone who lived anywhere other than the most urban areas could have told them that the truth was quite different. When surveys last autumn showed 90% of over 50s went to Mass weekly, it contradicted everything we had been told.
The world is not as is described by our newspapers. Some parts may correspond to their perception of reality, lots don’t. They don’t set the agenda for our society, now matter how pompous their columnists might be; people live their own lives. They aren’t even that important for a big section of the population – what difference do most of their news stories make anyway?
The stuff we are fed is more opinion than truth, and what element of truth is carried is rarely more than a small part of the big picture. We get bad news, not news that is sad, but news that is poorly investigated and poorly reported.
It’s enough to make a wee girl from East Belfast hang up the phone.