----- Original Message -----
Sent: Wednesday, July 20, 2005 5:24 PM
Subject: [Chicago Newspapers] 7/20/2005 05:22:22 PM

In response to your attack on me [June 17, "Seminary selectivity"], Cardinal George delivered those remarks during a press conference on the first day of the bishop's meeting. He was on a panel with two other bishops' responding to questions from reporters around the country. The comments were also reported by NPR religion reporter Jason De Rose. I beg to differ with your opinion that this does not justify a lead paragraph, since it was a turnaround from statements he has made in the past on homosexuals in the seminary.

As to your characterization of my analysis being like a cartoon, i can only say that I was given 800 words to write on this complex issue AND the day's events at the bishop's meeting. This is a daily newspapers, not The New Yorker.  If you are indeed a former reporter, you should understand the nature of this business and fitting complex issues into small space. If you are not a former reporter, you have not right to criticize.
Posted by Margaret Ramirez to Chicago Newspapers at 7/20/2005 05:22:22 PM

She has a point: I came on too hard and apologize.  Must remember there's a human being behind that story I do not like.  It's good she responded because (a) the critic deserves a sharp reponse now and then and (b) I am moved further to correct errors I have seen:

* She says George spoke in a press conference.  It would have been good to tell us that; it was therefore a public statement, not given in interview, or something said in floor debate during the meeting. 

* The no-gays statement, run also by NPR, she says deserved to be her lead and the story's headline.  But George spoke of being "part of a gay subculture," not of being homosexual.  There's a difference.  If Ramirez doesn't think so, she should know that George does.  It's all part of the church's hate-sin-love-sinner approach, not to mention the fair presumption that tendencies do not always lead to activity.  If George mentions the gay-culture habituee in one breath with one "who has lived promiscuously as a heterosexual," moreover, we may be doubly convinced.

This is what was wrong with Ramirez's lead and the copy editor's headline.  Neither seems to have caught George's meaning.  Furthermore, does she think George had earlier said gay-subculture participants should be admitted?  I hope not.  His statement in any case represented no change.  It's too bad Ramirez and her editors, such as they are, thought it did.

I likened her analysis to a cartoon, citing her use of unsupported generalities, one after another.  She responds citing deadline pressures, which are as real as the day is long, to be sure.  It takes practice to do it right, something you'd think she had enough of to be writing for a 600,000-plus-circulation newspaper with national-coverage intentions.  But (again) does she have editors working her copy over?  Is there a city desk at Chi Trib, copy deskers who walk over to her desk or into her cubicle and ask what she has in mind by such and such?  One wonders.

As for my being a former reporter, yes, Margaret, there was a Bowman byline, with subtitle Daily News Religion Writer, or Editor if the story was big enough and they wanted to doll me up a bit more than usual.  And there were bishops' press conferences and deadlines and calling stories in or faxing them with a suitcase-size new-fangled machine into which you fitted a hotel-room telephone which magically reproduced copy in a wire room sometimes hundreds of miles away!  Amazing!

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