Having been to Jason Pitzl-Water’s talks I’m quite aware that there are times when you shouldn’t speak to the media. If you don’t have a genuine need, why risk having your words twisted? Even so, I agreed to do an interview that I feel may have been a mistake. I have a great deal of respect and love for Elizabeth Scalia, managing editor of our Catholic portal and famously known as The Anchoress. When she asked me to be on a cable show she is a frequent guest host on, I said “Of course!”
Maybe that wasn’t the wisest thing to do. I don’t know. I know the producer told me “‘Pagans, Wicca, Santeria & Voodoo’ is the topic for this half hour show.” That didn’t exactly jive with the topic I heard announced once we started recording. As the host announced the topic warning bells started to sound in my head. I had visions of a Jerry Springer Halloween special, complete with antagonistic Christians and Pagans getting in catfights and eerie warnings of the dangers of occultists. I felt they wanted an “occult expert” rather than an actual Pagan, and in those few seconds decided that wasn’t going to be how this was going down.
So because of that I feel I was a bit rude, because I insisted on saying something meaningful, and a bit flustered, stuttering and off-kilter, because I didn’t expect the attitude, ignorance or topic I was surprised with. I didn’t represent Paganism to the best of my ability, and looking back, probably shouldn’t have agreed to come on the show. I should have said Pagans as a rule don’t teach minors, and if they do it’s only with parents present. I should have emphasized community and service more. I shouldn’t have let them get so personal with their questions. I should have emphasized that Pagans leave Christianity because they find the doctrine faulty and irrelevant, not only because they feel alienated or disconnected.
I’m also a bit concerned that they edited out some parts of the interview, especially where the Msgr. Harrington and I had some interesting exchanges regarding whether Pagans were “making it all up.” I know editing happens and I don’t feel I was edited to look bad, but that some of the more interesting exchanges were removed. What I said really didn’t jive with some folks on the show and some of that discomfort has been removed.
I let the producer know I felt I’d been misled and he reassured me that they appreciated my perspective: “There are many Santeria, Voodoo and Pagans in NYC who are much more stereotyped looking and acting (very showy) than you are and I wanted to present someone who is intelligent, knowledgeable and respectable– who has your religious beliefs, which are much different than Catholicism.”
As nice as that is, and as supportive as the feedback from the Pagan community, I think going on this show was a bad idea. I didn’t need to go on the show and there wasn’t much benefit to my community for doing an awkward interview on a small local cable show for Catholics. This experience will make me much more cautious in the future about agreeing to interviews, and much more conscientious when conducting interviews. I never want to make some feel as uncomfortable as I felt in this interview. I need to be better prepared for interviews and exhibit more goodwill in my interactions.
In the end though, two things stand out: maybe this experience stands as a good warning for the Pagan community regarding interacting with the media, and that I’m still thankful to Elizabeth Scalia for being a good friend and co-worker before, during and after this interview.
Here’s the interview in question. No idea why it cuts off so abruptly.