Idol word haunts copy desk

olnmI am still catching up after the Tennessee tour, so here is another quick post saved from earlier in the week.

I need to offer a mega-hat tip to Amy Wellborn on this next one, pointing to the blog of her husband, Michael Dubruiel. It seems that someone at the Herald News copy desk in suburban Chicago messed up — big time.

If you click here, you will see the story and a repaired headline that says:

A visit from Our Lady

* Virgin Mary: Local parish is host to 33-foot statue for 2 weeks

The story is a pretty plain description of strange goings-on among the exotic local Catholic natives. Nothing really spectacular.

Our Lady of the New Millennium, a 33-foot, 8,400-pound statue of the Virgin Mary[,] began a two-week stay at St. Mary Immaculate parish. … The statue, commissioned in 1984 by Carl Demma, who has since passed away, is meant to be a statue of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The statue was completed in 1999 and by Oct. 2003 had visited over 170 parishes.

There’s one strange phrase there: “is meant to be.” But what caught the eye of Welborn and Dubruiel was the original headline for this story, which now exists only in Catholic bloggerland. Hang on, because it was a doozy.

A visit from Our Lady

Statue of Virgin Mary: Local parish is host to 33-foot idol for 2 weeks

Dubruiel thought this failed the “objective reporting” test, for reasons that are rather obvious. But just in case readers missed it, he added:

Notice how the statue is referred to as an “idol”. If you have a second you might want to drop the suburban Chicago news an email that’ll point out that Catholics do not worship statues or idols but God alone!

Actually I am sure — as a former headline writer — that the red telephone at the copy desk rang a few times and the headline was changed rather quickly.

GetReligion readers will notice that Dubruiel assumed this was a case of media bias. In this case, I believe someone simply messed up.

That said, I can find no indication that the newspaper humbled itself and published a correction. The editors simply replaced the headline. However, that word “idol” was a real slap in the face for the traditional Catholics who would been drawn to this story. A correction would have been nice. Did I miss one somewhere?

P.S. Welborn’s blog is a great place to keep up on an interesting Holy Grail trial involving everyone’s favorite gnostic Catholic theologian — Dan “DaVinci Code” Brown. Click here for more details.

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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://beaconforlife.blogs.com/pastoral_coach Hector

    Why would they say “is meant to be”? That seems strange…

  • http://mindismapping.blogspot.com Jadon

    Hector,

    I think they mean “intentionally represents”.

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    I concluded long ago that “idol”, like “cult”, having no neutral denotative meaning, is hopelessly self-referential– or what Ayn Rand called an “anti-concept”, invoked only to make someone or something disreputable by association.

  • Stephen A.

    What Will said.

    Catholics must pull out hair when they see this old “idol” chestnut brought up again. I only read mention of it when I read a “Chick” publication, and only then, for laughs.

    http://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/0071/0071_01.asp


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