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Groundhog Day and the March for Life

Today is Groundhog Day which calls to mind the great Bill Murray comedy in which his character has to live the same Groundhog Day over and over until he learns a lesson about making choices in his life that will help him become a better human being. I thought of that movie last week as I was reading coverage of the March for Life in the Catholic blogosphere.  It wasn’t that the people at the March needed to make better choices in life.  The hundreds of thousands of them who showed up on a frigid winter day to support the unborn made an excellent choice.

No, the part that reminded me of “Groundhog Day” was the fact that the mainstream media covered the event poorly or not at all – and that the blogosphere responded with its usual (and understandable) outrage.  It’s a response that’s pretty much the same every year – though this time, protests left on a CBS affiliate’s website along with the Washington Post’s made a difference in how the March was covered.  That’s fine as a short-term response.  But if you have to force journalists and their bosses to cover an obvious story with some sense of fairness and balance, it’s a sign that you need journalists and bosses with a wider perspective.

One of the reasons Father James Keller founded The Christophers in 1945 was to encourage people with a solid foundation of Judeo-Christian values to choose careers that can impact society. The media was one of the careers he focused on. Specifically, he wrote, “There is some value, of course…in turning off vulgar, boring or subversive radio and TV programs…But the cure does not lie there, for it is like objecting to bad food without providing anything better…New and better writers can be found.  They will come from among you…the vast group of Americans who constitute the backbone of our nation and of our Christian civilization.”

Though Father Keller was referring to entertainment shows in that passage, the principle holds true for news reporting as well.  The only way you’re going to transform the mainstream media is from the inside.  Just think of the difference it would make in coverage if you had reporters, editors or news executives in positions of influence who were willing to portray pro-lifers honestly and fairly.

The goal shouldn’t be agenda-driven, however; newsrooms are not going to hire you to evangelize the public.  The simple goal should be to share the truth.  It’s an approach the Act One program in Hollywood has been applying to the entertainment industry for more than 10 years by training screenwriters to tell good stories that reflect a Judeo-Christian worldview without being preachy.  The same method should be applied to the fields of mainstream broadcast and print journalism.  Stories there would have the power to change hearts and minds while reaching people who would probably never go near a pro-life web site.

I’m not sure why this hasn’t happened yet. Is it that people with those values don’t choose journalism as a career – or that they can’t get hired because of their views?  Or maybe there’s another problem.  Fell free to leave your thoughts in the comments section.

But something needs to be done. So if your kids, grandkids, nieces or nephews display some media or journalistic talents, encourage them to pursue those as a career – to learn their craft and then take those talents and values into the world.  If they don’t, March for Life coverage 10 years from now could be like “Groundhog Day” all over again.

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About Tony Rossi

After graduating from St. John's University in New York with degrees in Communications and English, Tony Rossi found a job at the Catholic media organization, The Christophers, that allowed him to indulge his interest in religion, media, and pop culture. He served as The Christophers' TV producer for 11 years, and is currently the host and producer of the organization's radio show/podcast Christopher Closeup, writer and editor of their syndicated Light One Candle column, and producer/scriptwriter of the annual Christopher Awards ceremony.