24 April 2005

The Times' coverage of the Pope; a policy proposal in Science

One of the publications and commentators that I regularly read online is the New York Times' Public Editor, an ombudsperson and "reader's representative". This Sunday's column is on the Times' coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict. It's nice, if not particularly deep; I'm hoping that he discusses soon the more newsworthy issue of the Times' coverage of the Pope. To this end I sent him the following e-mail:
I would love to read your views on the recent coverage of the death and election of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. In particular, I've found it very amusing comparing the Time's coverage of John Paul II, which was relatively glowing, discussing his work against communism and for peace, with that of, say, 365gay.com, an online gay daily newspaper, which uniformly condemned the Pope's homophobia (see, for example, <http://www.365gay.com/newscon05/04/040105popeDies.htm>, their lead story announcing his death). The coverage of Pope Benedict, on the other hand, began with a number of articles describing various reactions from American and international Catholics. He is very conservative (I've seen the word "fascist" attached to his name in a discussion of his recent career as Cardinal Ratzinger), and the Times did not let its readers forget this, nor that many Catholics are concerned that he is too conservative.

It is extremely unlikely that the Pope will live for very many years. Will the Times then remember him as a great man, a well-educated polyglot who travelled the world encouraging Christianity and good spirit, and reaching out to Secularists and Jews, or as a misogynist and homophobe, theologically conservative even for a Catholic leader, who restricted (if there's any room to restrict) the role of women within the Church, and spoke out even more strongly than his predecessor against homosexuality, feminism, and religious tolerance?
We'll see if he picks up the story.

Science Magazine on Friday published a one-page Policy Forum piece (the weekly Policy Forum is, by design, read by congressional staffers) on child sexual abuse. In it the authors outline our society's present failure at addressing issues of child abuse, and suggests, among other things, that the NIH should introduce a new Institute (these come along every five years or so) on Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence.

I'm hoping that Congress follows the suggestions, and more generally that consciousnesses are raised about this public health issue. The article is available through the Science Website, to which many universities subscribe:

Freyd, J.J., Putnam, F.W., Lyon, T.D., Becker-Blease, K. A., Cheit, R.E., Siegel, N.B., & Pezdek, K. (2005). The science of child sexual abuse. Science, 308, 501.

SUMMARY: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/summary/308/5721/501
FULL TEXT: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/308/5721/501
PDF: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/reprint/308/5721/501.pdf

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