AP not sweating details on stories

A reader passed along this gem from the Associated Press that begins:

SAN FRANCISCO DE YARE, Venezuela — The descendants of African slaves donned masks and bright red costumes as they danced through the streets of this small Venezuelan town on Thursday for its annual commemoration of Corpus Cristi.

Young men beat drums and shook maracas as the “devils” paraded through the streets and people gathered to celebrate Corpus Cristi, a Roman Catholic holiday celebrating the transformation of the body and blood of Christ into bread and wine.

Um, come again? A “Roman Catholic holiday celebrating the transformation of the body and blood of Christ into bread and wine?” I’m actually of the mindset that 100 percent of educated people should have a passing knowledge of what the Eucharist means to traditional Christians. But even if you think that’s too much to expect, I’m sure we all agree that reporters and editors on stories about the Eucharist should have a passing knowledge of it, right?

The error is repeated throughout a 16-photo slideshow over at Huffington Post. Each caption includes the error, including this one:

Men dressed as a dancing devils perform on the streets in San Francisco de Yare, Venezuela, Thursday, May 30, 2013. The descendants of African slaves donned colorful masks and bright red costumes as they danced through the streets of this small Venezuelan town on Thursday for its annual commemoration of Corpus Christi, a Roman Catholic holiday celebrating the transformation of the body and blood of Christ into bread and wine. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

I’m going to go ahead and let (HuffPo commenter) MirrorMonkey take it from here:

What incompetents who humorously claim to be “professional journalists” wrote this gross public display of doltish ignorance?

Corpus Christi is certainly not a “Catholic holiday celebrating the transformation of the body and blood of Christ into bread and wine.” It is instead a Catholic solemnity that commemorates exactly the opposite: namely, how in the Eucharist, mere bread and wine are transformed into the true Body and Blood of Christ. Reversing it, as the writer did, is as clueless as saying that a wedding ceremony celebrates the transformation of a married couple into two unmarried people who will live apart.

Furthermore, in a Corpus Christi procession, priests don’t ” carry sacramental bread.” If it were believed to be mere bread, there would be no point in carrying it and honoring it at all. Instead, Catholics believe that regardless of any appearances of bread (that is, the “accidents”), the reality of the Eucharist is that it isn’t bread at all, but is really and truly the Body of Jesus Christ. The priests therefore carry what they believe to be Jesus Christ through the streets — which is why the feast is called (doh!) Corpus Christi, or the Body of Christi.

I know that reporters today are not expected to know anything about the subjects of their stories, but it is unfortunate that the total lack of basic cultural knowledge is now tolerated among those who are supposed to be their editors as well.

Reporters writing about Corpus Christi festivals might consult this page or this one or this one.

Image of Venezuelan Corpus Cristi festival via cla78/Shutterstock.com.

Print Friendly

  • Thinkling

    The main issue here is egregious. But the repetition points out another malaise of our journalistic time: wikipediitus. The bane of automated copy-and-paste claims another set of journalistic reputations.

  • boinkie

    they also got the “devil” part mixed up: From UNESCO:Groups of adults, young men and children disguised as masked devils
    dance backwards in penitence as an official of the Catholic Church
    carries forth the Blessed Sacrament. String and percussion instruments
    provide musical accompaniment and worshippers carry maracas to ward off
    evil spirits. At the climax of the celebration the devils surrender to
    the Sacrament, symbolizing the triumph of good over evil.

    • MollieZHemingway

      OK, now I’m wondering if anything in the story is accurate.

  • dominoe4

    Oh, our ‘press’ gets a lot wrong…a LOT!! They profess to be ‘informing’ us…but these are not the best and the brightest by any means. I’m reminded of the reporter who supported raising an Occupational Privilege Tax. Besides the fact that a ‘public watchdog’ should always be cynical and on the People’s side when it comes to tax increases…the dolt didn’t even get her ‘advocacy’ position across accurately. Calling an increase of a 10% tax to 15%, an increase of ‘only 5%’…except it’s not…that’s a 50% increase. But these are the same people who call a fetus a ‘parasitic uterine infection’…so, what can you expect?

  • n_coast

    The first sentence of the AP story seems kind of strange. Is this about people in South America whose ancestors were slaves in Africa?

  • FW Ken

    I don’t really have a journalism comment, but I really needed a good laugh this morning and you gave it to me when I read this. Thank you.

    On the other hand, that might be a journalism related comment. ;-)

  • lavallette

    When it comes to religion always double check against primary sources everything that MSM journos write or comment on. They have no clue but it does not stop them passing themselves off as experts or deliberately picking and choosing to convey the religious message in the most negative possible light. The latest “mass media” misrepresentation is Pope Francis’s statement concerning Atheists and Redemption. They did not publish what he said but a sensational interpretation of their own.

  • DeaconJohnMBresnahan

    What is more saddening is many times a reporter who makes an utterly ignorant comment about the Catholic Faith will, when challernged, defend his ignorance with the comment “But I was brought up Catholic”–as if that gave permission for him to not be a professional and double check his facts.
    Also, it would be nice to hear or read accurate information about how the Catholic teaching on the Eucharist is basically affirmed in the Bible and that is why the ancient Orthodox Churches of the East- with ancient Rome- believe in the same doctrine of the Eucharist (even though the Orthodox don’t usually use the Latin technical term “transubstantiation” to describe that doctrine.)
    Indeed, there are people who consume news with the hope that they will learn a little accurate historical depth about topics currently under discussion.

  • John Pack Lambert

    I also have to wonder why the particular ancestry of those involves matters at all. Corpus Christi is a celebration that began and is still held in Europe, it is not the result of pre-Christian borrowings in other places.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X