Pew Study: MSM focus on allegations against Pope Benedict

I picked this us from Just B16.

Media dwelt on allegations against the Pope—Pew study

by Carolyn Moynihan 14 Jun 2010

Americans might find it difficult to believe but a Pew Research Center analysis of the media coverage of the recent clergy sexual abuse scandal shows that English-language European newspapers published three times as many articles on the scandal as US papers did.

There is no surprise, though, in another key finding of the study — that Pope Benedict himself was the target of many stories:

In addition, the media scrutiny this year zeroed in on the pope himself. During the six-week period from March 12 through April 27, Pope Benedict XVI was a major focus of more than half the stories on the scandal in the mainstream U.S. media, including print, radio, network television, cable TV and online news sources.

And the effort to sheet responsibility home to the Pope has had its effect:

In a nationwide poll released by the Pew Research Center in April, for example, just 12% of the public said the pope has done a good or excellent job addressing the scandal, down from 39% two years earlier. About seven-in-ten Americans (71%) said Benedict has done a poor or only fair job, up from about half (48%) who felt that way in 2008.

Among other findings:

* From mid-March (when the pope’s role in a decades-old abuse case in Germany came under scrutiny) through late April, clergy sexual abuse was the eighth biggest story in the mainstream media, beating out coverage of nuclear weapons policy and the Tea Party movement. The biggest week of coverage was March 22-28, when news organizations reported on the failure of Vatican officials years ago, including the future pope, to defrock an American priest who had abused nearly 200 deaf boys. The church scandal was the fourth biggest topic in the mainstream news that week.

As we know, the defrocking of priests has been persistently misrepresented in such stories; it has nothing to do with whether priests were removed from active ministry or punished by civil authorities.

* Benedict was by far the biggest newsmaker, featuring in 51.6% of the stories about the scandal in the mainstream media during the six-week period studied. All other individual figures combined, including cardinals, bishops and priests, appeared as lead newsmakers in just 12% of the stories.

This was very much a campaign in the mainstream media:

* The scandal found little traction in new media, however. Across the millions of blogs and Twitter posts tracked in PEJ’s weekly monitoring, the clergy abuse scandal registered as a leading topic in only one of the six weeks analyzed.

* Among the religion blogs published by high-circulation U.S. newspapers, those operated by USA Today and The Washington Post contained the most entries on the clergy abuse scandal – a total of 12 each during the six weeks studied.

The full study can be found at the Pew Center.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Biased Media Coverage, Clerical Sexual Abuse. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. TJerome says:

    As the number of cases goes down dramatically, the number of stories about them go up dramatically. No anti-Catholic bias in the media. No sir. Keep moving.

  2. Edward C. says:

    Something that has regularly perturbed me about the MSM’s coverage (especially Ms. Winfield’s) is this: whenever the Holy Father speaks of the horror of the abuse, the MSM report that “unlike previously, the Pope accepted blame instead of blaming the media.” Please correct me if I am wrong, but I recall clergymen saying that the media were being unfair in their coverage, not that they were fabricating the scandal. *sigh*

    May God bless & preserve our Holy Father!

  3. Oneros says:

    “As we know, the defrocking of priests has been persistently misrepresented in such stories; it has nothing to do with whether priests were removed from active ministry or punished by civil authorities.”

    It does have to do, however, with whether they remain on the payroll and thus feeding off unsuspecting Catholics donations.

  4. Tom in NY says:

    For now, the MSM “campaign” may be slower. The American case on making the Vatican liable has since been argued; that advocate won’t need to leak to the press for a bit.
    Most American dioceses do not have unlimited resources, though the IOR has been investing Il Duce‘s payment for the Papal States. Unless there is another “event” to prepare, these sad (and dated) revelations may be less newsworthy.
    Salutationes omnibus.

  5. Europe didn’t have its big scandal frenzy until this year. The US had ours several years back; this year was just another aftershock for us — and ditto for the new media. It’s not so much that we’re better, as that people hate to rehash old hash.

Comments are closed.