Nicolosi and the Times, round IV

And now we return (music cue: a swirl of soap organ) to the continuing story of Hollywood screenwriter and Act One educator Barbara Nicolosi and her telephone dialogues with the principalities and powers at The New York Times.

It seems that America’s newspaper of record has discovered that the former nun can sling soundbites with the best of them, when it comes time to write about issues of faith and Hollywood. Thus, reporters keep calling her and Nicolosi — a friend of this blog — keeps posting her notes about these chats at her often riotous blog called Church of the Masses.

In the latest chapter, a Times reporter is looking for Christian responses to the upcoming Hollywood blockbuster (we assume it will be that) based on The Da Vinci Code. The twist here is that Sony is trying to find a way to make this movie less offensive to non-gnostic Roman Catholics and other Christian believers who are not into goddess worship.

So let’s tune back in, as Nicolosi chats up the reporter:

When the journalist called me I asked her, “Is this piece going to be fair, or a typical NY Times Christian-hating kind of thing?” The journalist expressed horror at the suggestion that Christians feel like The Times hates them. “Yeah,” I said wonderingly, “we kind of do.”

I didn’t have a lot of hope for the piece because at one point in our conversation, we had the following exchange . . .

Barb: I heard that the studio execs behind The Da Vinci Code are worried that some Christians are going to put them on a hit list. Someone claimed to have gotten death threats during the making of The Last Temptation of Christ. It’s so ridiculous. We aren’t the ones who throw bombs.

NYTimes Reporter: (paraphrase) Well, there are as many Christians out there throwing bombs as Muslims. Look at all the bombings Christians do of abortion clinics.

I didn’t take it further because, well, it was such an astoundingly bizarre statement that I — for once — was rendered mute. Here’s what I would have said if I could speak at the moment: “HUH!!? ARE YOU FREAKIN’ KIDDING ME?! AS MANY CHRISTIANS THROWING BOMBS AS THE HOURLY SUICIDE BOMBING NUTJOBS WHO THINK KILLING MAKES GOD SMILE?! ARE YOU SMOKING CRACK?!” . . . or something erudite like that.

Actually, Nicolosi does give credit where credit is due. She thinks the piece by reporter Sharon Waxman turned out pretty good — which means accurate and balanced. All kinds of smart people show up in this piece, even Amy “Open Book” Welborn. Bravo.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • http://agrumer.livejournal.com/ Avram

    So what you’re saying here (or what Nicolosi is saying here) is that the mere fact that the reporter might have had a bias didn’t keep her from turning out an unbiased article.

    I say “might have had”, because Nicolosi is only paraphrasing, might not be representing the reporter’s comments accurately, and clearly has a bias of her own (“a typical NY Times Christian-hating kind of thing”).

  • Tom Breen

    “Is this piece going to be fair, or a typical NY Times Christian-hating kind of thing?”

    Yeah, did anyone see the package the Times put together after the death of John Paul II? Nobody hates Christians more than the New York Times, no sir!

    Hyperbole rarely helps a cause.

  • Michael

    Biases are only wrong when they are other people’s biases, Avram. As long as your are bashing the NYT, your biases are A-OK, it appears.

  • AlyD

    Like someone posted on CotM blog, I think anything that forces you to inspect your faith, and the history behind it is a good thing.
    I’ve had some pretty interesting conversations based on this book – some with people that are well versed in church history (and could answer my questions), some with people who haven’t been to church since VBS (in which case, it opened a door to share what I believe and why).
    Not holding this up as the best witnessing tool since The Passion (*smirk*), but it’s not SO MUCH drivel.
    And it IS a page turner.

  • http://www.postwatchblog.com Christopher Fotos

    I say “might have had”, because Nicolosi is only paraphrasing, might not be representing the reporter’s comments accurately, and clearly has a bias of her own (”a typical NY Times Christian-hating kind of thing”).

    Do you read the New York Times? Regularly?

    Or Barb?

  • Stephen A.

    I call these people “Straight Facers” since they can claim that the NYT has NO bias against christianity, and they do it with a straight face.

    It’s astounding when a reporter can make reference to abortion clinic bombings (In which decade was the last one? Does the reporter remember it was universally condemned?) but the comparison alone lets us know how they get ridiculously slanted anti-christian stories.

    We need to call these people out on the carpet when they make public statements that are nonsense, just like Barbara Nicolosi did in this case.

  • Tom R

    Yes, whenever anyone mentions “Christians bombing abortion clinics/ murdering abortion doctors”, ask them to name three people killed this way. Congratulate them, though, on their solicitude for human life. Ask them whether they signed any petitions to stop Paul Hill going to death row. Normally not, because it’s not really a thought; rather it’s a mantra that’s repeated by rote to fend off opposing arguments without having to think about them. Kind of like “all the starving children in India” when I was a kid in the Seventies.

  • Michael

    I call these people “Straight Facers” since they can claim that the NYT has NO bias against christianity, and they do it with a straight face.

    As opposed to the “Vast NYT Bias Conspirators” who see bias in how advertisments are positioned on the page and who dissect the listings of the Wedding announcement to discover a bias against Christianity.

    (“Too many Congregationalists, not enough Pentocostals”)

    Is there bias in the pages of the NYT? Sure. Is there bias in the pages of every newspaper in the country? Sure. Is the NYT supsicious of Evangelical and Fundamentalist religions? Sure. Should they be, given the political and social power these adherant exert? Sure.

  • http://agrumer.livejournal.com/ Avram

    Christopher, yes, I used to read the NY Times daily. Not as often nowadays. They’re certainly not perfect, and I’ve made plenty of complaints of media bias in my time, but “Christian-hating”? This is the first I’ve heard of Barbara Nicolosi, though.

    Stephen, that wasn’t a public statement. Nicolosi made public a private statement. The public article was, in Nicolosi’s own words “very fair to all of us Christians”, and in tmatt’s words “accurate and balanced”.

    Here’s a question back at you: Even if I were to concede that the NY Times has a bias against those who wish to re-criminalize abortion (and I do not concede such a thing), how would that equate to an anti-Christian bias? Of my Christian friends, most (not all, but most) support abortion rights. Surely there’s far more to Christian belief than one position on a single hot-button issue, isn’t there?

  • Stephen A.

    “As opposed to the “Vast NYT Bias Conspirators” who see bias in how advertisments are positioned on the page and who dissect the listings of the Wedding announcement to discover a bias against Christianity.”

    Does anyone actually do this with ads, or is this a straw man?

    I suppose you’re talking about same-sex wedding announcements. That’s clearly a tip o’ the hat to the Left, but that’s just elite groupthink, not bias. It’s expected.

  • Libertine

    I am astounded that people actually take Barabara Nicolosi seriously. Her blog is a collection of carps and cavils and snarks at artists who possess vastly greater talents than she could ever dream of having. I’m sure Clint Eastwood and Martin Scorsese are just *smarting* at her critiques of Million Dollar Baby and The Aviator. And look at her “Act One” workshop. Screenwriting advice for Christians? More like regurgitated Syd Field (the original screenwriting “guru”) peppered with references to Jesus and Catholicism. Which results in… The Omega Code 5: Revenge of the Anti-Christ!

    The most intriguing question here isn’t the matter of her portrayal by the New York Times, but rather why the Times thought her to be a noteworthy voice in the first place. Is there really a groundswell of Christian screenwriters with the artistic gonads to revolutionize Hollywood? Or is this just the Times mistaking one noisy blogger and her cohort of would-be William Goldbergs and Ernest Lehmans for an aesthetic realignment that hasn’t actually happened?

  • Libertine

    Er, that should be “William Goldman[s],” not “Goldbergs.” My mistake.

  • fra

    Avram,

    “Of my Christian friends, most (not all, but most) support abortion rights.”

    I’m sorry ’bout that.

    “Surely there’s far more to Christian belief than one position on a single hot-button issue”, there we agree, because opposing abortion is not a matter of Christian belief. It’s a matter of the sheer basic humanity and morality. That has nothing to do with being Catholic, being Christian or being religious. In fact, Atheists, who don’t believe in life after death, should be be even more pro-life than any Christian could ever be.

    So, if “the NY Times has a bias against those who wish to re-criminalize abortion” that in fact does not “equate to an anti-Christian bias”. It equates to an anti-human bias.

  • http://www.wrandomwramblings.blogspot.com Scott Roche

    So you know more about BN than the NYT and more about screenwriting than BN? Interesting.

  • http://agrumer.livejournal.com/ Avram

    Fra, are you even aware that people who favor abortion rights have their own reasons for doing so, and don’t agree with you? I’m not trying to convince you here, but are you even aware of their arguments? Your “sheer basic humanity and morality” claim implies that your aren’t.

  • CV

    Libertine,
    Spoken like one who probably had a script (justifiably) trashed by Barbara. You seem to doth protest too much, but maybe it’s just me…

    It’s amazing that a reporter who would make a statement like that to a source during the course of an interview would then go on to write a basically fair piece. Barb took the high road (as always) in acknowledging that.

    I’m having a great time watching the uncomfortable squirming related to production of the DVC movie. Obviously a movie based on a blockbuster book, directed by Ron Howard, will have an audience. But why anyone would think that a storyline that says Christianity is based on a big lie would be then be able to pull the “Passion dollars” is beyond me.

  • Michael

    Maybe because DVC (an awful book, btw) has been on the Best Seller list for eons and therefore has a built-in audience that is not dependent on ministers buying out movie theatres for their parishoners.

  • CV

    Michael,
    I think you miss my point. As I said, the DVC movie may indeed have a built-in audience (that would be the many lemmings who bought the book..in more ways than one) but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will pull in many of the much-lusted-after “Passion dollars” with this movie.

    (And BTW, I think those Passion mega-bucks came from a far-wider cross section of believers than those who came because their minister bought out a theater, but that’s another debate.

    People who take Christianity seriously (many of whom have gone to the trouble of educating themselves about their own faith) tend to be bothered and annoyed by those who don’t take it seriously (say for example, authors who write bad fiction implying that Christianity is based on a lie while waving supposedly serious research credentials as a part of their marketing schemes.)

    All I’m saying is, in my view, there may not be the tremendous overlap in the audiences for the TPOTC and the DVC movie that the producers of the latter are probably hoping for.

    I could be wrong.

  • Libertine

    CV,

    Yeah, that makes sense. Given what I write and what I do as a self-avowed libertine, do you think I’d send my scripts to Act One for Barbara’s approval? You might as well accuse a National Review editor of soliciting Maureen Dowd for tips about factual accuracy.

  • Michael

    LOL, LIbertine. The best thing to ever happen to Nicolosi is the NYT. Otherwise, she’s be just another unproduced writer toiling away at some obscure film program that are as numerous in LA as Starbucks.

  • CV

    Wow, a self-avowed libertine. Your mom must be very proud.

    I was being facetious in my earlier comment, but it IS interesting to note that apparently you are a writer of some sort. And you do seem to have rather strong opinions about someone (Barbara N.) whom you claim is simply a meaningless noisy blogger.

    Next time the NYT calls you for a quote about one of those libertine projects of yours (hey there’s an unfilled niche), be sure to let us know, won’t you?

  • http://www.wrandomwramblings.blogspot.com Scott Roche

    “Maybe because DVC (an awful book, btw) has been on the Best Seller list for eons and therefore has a built-in audience”

    substitute “Bible” for “DVC (an awful book, btw)” and you have the reason that the Passion did well. Some ministers did buy out theaters for their churches and all of those seats were full because of excitement not obligation.

  • fra

    Dear Avram,

    I’m quite aware that “pro-choice” people have their reasons and arguments for their view.

    I just don’t think them valid.

    And I think these arguments are

    - either in conflict with what the same people would say on other topics (where they have no problem adhering to “sheer humanity”

    - or they are consistent in their views, which makes them inhumane in everything they say.

    I take it that the vast majority of “pro-choicers” fall into the first category and are not “inhumane monsters”. But if their arguments would be followed consistently, there’d be no “humanity” left.

    My other point:

    Christianity does not have a view on when a new human life begins (the few bible passages are not that precise) except for the view based on the findings of science. And that is: conception, for all we know. (Ensoulement is too “speculative” and too “metaphysical” to be of use here).

    m irreconcilable with their views on other

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