The (dis)courtesy of the New York Times

Stewart Cairns/Associated Press

On Monday my father canon lawyer Ed Peters was interviewed by Michael Chapman of Cybercast News on the eligibility of New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo to receive Communion.

Yesterday Thomas Kaplan of the New York Times picked up the story but, inexplicably, wrote “Dr. Peters declined a request for an interview” in the story.

Here’s my father’s version of what actually happened:

The Times cold-called me today about 10 minutes before I was scheduled to teach for two hours and then go to dinner on campus. I estimated I’d be gone about three hours. I said if they would send me some written questions (like Cybercast did) I would reply within 24 hours. When the reporter said he might need my answers sooner, and I said, well, send what you have and I can look at it more promptly, as I would be around this evening. We signed off ambiguous as to whether there would be any follow-up. No big deal, I thought. They either will follow-up, or they won’t. In fact, I worked in my office till after 9:30 tonight, but there was no follow-up phone call or email questions. And yet I find myself characterized as having “declined” an interveiw request!

So now I must wonder, exactly what does the New York Times thinks constitutes “declining an interview”? Besides, I guess, not dropping everything and answering questions whenever it’s convenient for the Times to pose them?

It seems reporters have a tendency of asking my father for an interview – and then deciding they don’t want to hear his answers. That’s what NCReporter did in January.

Anyway, if you actually wait for the response you’ve requested, my father does have quite a lot to say, as this patient reporter found out.

UPDATE: And when you don’t bother to check with my father at all, you are liable to confuse him with the Vatican, or think he is Cuomo’s pastor (seriously).

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17 thoughts on “The (dis)courtesy of the New York Times

  1. eko says:

    I do not know if/or anyone will answer this. This is SUCH a vital question…and bravo to your brave father. But, what about in our own church (parish) — how should we handle someone *prominent* – newly divorced (both Catholic…) married for 15plus years, and I see him partaking of the body and blood of Christ. Is it any of my business whether their marriage was annulled? Or is it just none of my business and between our priest and the family? How do we address this at a local level or do I just not? I am surely NOT without sin, but I try to get to confession every two weeks (tend to be a bit scrupulous).

    Blessings
    ek

    1. John V says:

      Newly divorced and remarried? Newly divorced and living with another woman? Or just newly divorced? Makes a big difference.
      Dr. Peters has actually written an opinion piece arguing that the Church should make declarations of nullity available as public records.

      1. John V says:

        Not sure why that HTML tag didn’t work. Guess you just have to copy this URL and paste it in your browser if you want to read what Dr. Peters has to say:

        http://www.canonlaw.info/cwr.pdf

  2. MPal says:

    Did anyone notice the Poll that is on the link where they refer to Ed Peters as his Pastor?

    Is it just me or does it make no sense?
    Cuomo’s live-in

    Do you think it’s appropriate for Cuomo to take Communion?
    Yes, true Catholics don’t “live in sin.”
    No, that’s an outdated theology.
    I don’t know, I’m not Catholic.

    After reading the question I’d say NO, he shouldn’t receive Communion, but the option for choosing “no” says “that’s an outdated theology”…

    1. John V says:

      I saw it and had the same reaction. In fact, I did a screen print and e-mailed it to Thomas since I couldn’t post a graphic in the comment box. It’s hard to tell if it was intentionally misleading or just plain stupid. (Disclaimer: It was not my intention in that last sentence to malign all pollsters, reporters, editors, New Yorkers, or their families and friends. Only those who are intentionally misleading or just plain stupid.)

  3. Emily says:

    Well…What the reporter should have said was, “Mr. Peters was not available for an interview at the time.” He was wrong to say “Declined an interview.” But, in the reporter’s defense, on a story like this he was probably given a very short turn around time and waiting for email answers was not an option. Plus, email answers are rarely as good, conversational, or as easy to follow up on as an interview that takes place via conversation. It behooves Catholics to get comfortable with doing phone interviews, even if that means they run the risk of being misquoted, simply because the ones who give the good, quick, quotes via phone are going to be called by reporters more. And we need more good Catholics like your dad becoming the “go to” guys for reporters. But again, that means dealing with the media on their terms, not ours.

    1. Ed Peters says:

      Thoughtful post, Emily. A few thoughts in return.

      I have given dozens of live-on-air and over-the-phone-for-print interviews in the course of 20 years. I know how to do them, and I get invited back because I am pretty good at it. Short answers, clearly made points, and letting people take turns. Etc.

      I am FAR more likely to be misquoted in a phone-for-print interview than anywhere else. I have almost completely ceased doing them as a result, except for a few trusted journalists. I handle very quickly, however, email questions, and it gives me a record of what I said. And they know I have a record of what I said. They don’t even have to type my answers! But apparently, even so much as trying to arrange for email questions from the New York Times made me the object of distortion. It’s just not worth my time.

      We do not have to work with the MSM on their terms. Nor do they have to work on ours. If our goals can be mutually met, fine, but if not, we’ve got something undreamed of when I was a kid. The Internet. Not too many years ago, no one would have known how the NYT treated an interviewee, because the NYT would never had admitted it, and the little interviewee could not have told his story to much more than the dinner table or water cooler. All that’s over now, as this very blog post shows. The MS influences information flow, but they no longer control it. Deo gratias.

      Bottom line, what and how I communicate is on my conscience, what and how they communicate is on theirs.

      1. Emily says:

        You’re right, Dr. Peters. It’s totally up to you how to respond, and I certainly understand the concern with being misquoted.My real concern, however, is not how or why you choose to respond to reporters the way you do. It’s the rush to judgment in these comment boxes and the utter lack of charity exercised towards a reporter whom none of us know. Again, the reporter was wrong to say “declined,” (although in his mind that may be how he saw it). But we need to remember that unless he has interviewed you before, he has no reason to know that you’ll be quick in getting back or succinct in your responses. Few people are. Of course, it’s possible that the reporter is uniformly sloppy and a real bad apple. But I don’t know that. None of us commenting here do. What I do know is that there are often real professional reasons why a reporter is hesitant to do an email over interview or doesn’t have the time for one. And, at least, in this case, maybe we could exercise a little more charity to the guy and not automatically assume bad faith on his part. It was good for Thomas to clear up the point, but beyond that, much of the rest of this threat just seems like speculation and unwarranted detraction.

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