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    AmP Countdown: Time left to demand that Congress make health care reform pro-life: 2009-11-07 18:00:00 GMT-05:00

    Saturday, May 03, 2008

    CNA and (Arch. of DC) Director of Communications Susan Gibbs at loggerheads

    Here's a story of note, one that is sadly unrelated to it's original topic (or maybe it is related).

    Catholic News Agency has been following the story about pro-choice Democrats receiving communion at papal Masses during the pope's visit, and the subsequent response of Cardinal Egan and Archbishop Wuerl.

    But read the last paragraph of the published CNA article:
    When contacted for additional comment by CNA, Susan Gibbs, Director of Communications for the Archdiocese of Washington, said that she would not provide a statement. The reasons she gave for not providing a statement were that she doesn't consider CNA worthy of a statement and that she is "not interested" in providing one.
    Now of course, as cited above, that's quite a statement for an archdiocesan communications director to make.

    But is that the entire story? I think not.

    Tom Lang claims to have sent Susan Gibbs an email, and publishes her response:

    CNA unfortunately did not share with you the entire story. We have had a number of experiences where CNA has printed erroneous and non-sourced information in the past, which is not consistent with standard journalistic practices.

    As I told them when they called (multiple times in one hour, when I was involved with other meetings), until they could account for why false information about the archdiocese (unrelated to politicians) and other concerns were addressed, we could not help them. They actually later told me they recorded our conversation secretly. While I stand by my concerns, the recording actually was illegal and a serious ethics violation under journalistic standards. It is very difficult in today's electronic world for visitors to a website to know whether a site is legitimate and it can be a challenge to verify or correct information. For example, blogs regularly repeat and change information and a lot that is out there is wrong. That misleads people.

    The editor is now trying to address some of the issues I raised, but has not fully yet. We continue to work towards a solution.Thank you.

    Okay, there's a lot in this response. Let's break it down:
    • She claims CNA has "printed erroneous and non-sourced information in the past". Okay, when? Have they done so intentionally, is she claiming?
    • Her sentence beginning "As I told them" is a bit of a jumble (I think it's a fragment). Again, what false information has CNA published?
    • She's claiming they recorder her call, and that such an action is illegal. Is this this case?
    • As for the "difficulties of living in an electronic world", is she claiming that CNA isn't a legitimate site, or people might think it a legitimate site, when it isn't, and in any case, if she's the director of communications, and herself has had a long experience with CNA, how can she claim the question of the website's legitimacy is unclear to her? CNA is not just a blog. And I don't think it's fare to compare it to blogs (which, actually, can often be accurate too).
    • She finally claims that CNA is working to address the background issues. That's good to hear. I'm glad she's decided to not press legal charges for the illegal action CNA supposedly took.

    My take:

    Like most disagreements, there's probably blame on both sides here, I grant that. Could CNA have been too pushy? That's a possibility. Could Susan Gibbs have overreacted? That's also a possibility.

    More importantly: was it needlessly provocative for CNA to publish the supposed contempt shown to them by Susan Gibbs? Yes. Does the reply published above (if it is indeed her, and it seems legitimate), reveal Susan Gibbs is rather unfairly treating CNA? Yes.

    I'm not trying to take sides here. But I would say that I've been reading CNA closely for years and have never caught them twisting facts or being wilfully negligent in their reporting. But it doesn't surprise me that an issue as volitile as this one might cause tempers to flare where otherwise they haven't before.

    But, you know, don't listed to me - I'm just a blogger.

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