Here and there in the discussion of religion “in” the news, there arises a trickier matter, which is the religion of the newsroom, and of the priesthood in the press. A particularly telling example began with this passage from a 1999 New York Times Magazine article about anti-abortion extremism: “It is a shared if unspoken premise of the world that most of us inhabit that absolutes do not exist and that people who claim to have found them are crazy,” wrote David Samuels.
This remarkable credo was more than a statement of one journalist’s convictions, saidWilliam Proctor, a Harvard Law School graduate and former legal affairs reporter forThe New York Daily News. Surely, the “world that most of us inhabit” cited by Samuels is, in fact, the culture of The New York Times and the faithful who draw inspiration from its sacred pages.
Yet here is the part that intrigued me:
But critics are wrong if they claim that The New York Times is a bastion of secularism, he stressed. In its own way, the newspaper is crusading to reform society and even to convert wayward “fundamentalists.” Thus, when listing the “deadly sins” that are opposed by theTimes, he deliberately did not claim that it rejects religious faith. Instead, he said the world’s most influential newspaper condemns “the sin of religious certainty.”
In other words, it’s against newsroom religion to be an absolutist and in this sense, the Isaiah Berlin sense, the press is a liberal institution put in the uncomfortable position of being “closed” to other traditions and their truth claims — specifically, the orthodox faiths.