Confessions of a journalist

Sunday, September 17, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:54 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

“Well, tell me this, Amanda, do you have faith?”

My shoulders sink slightly and I close my eyes. I shift the phone to my other ear to buy an extra second of time, then take the plunge.

“Well, yes,” I reply. “I do.”

I’m sure I hear the pastor lean forward in his chair. “And have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?” he asks.

I scan the newsroom, hoping that no one can hear my interview going down the drain.

“I’m a Catholic,” I say.

Now I can hear him grin. “Well, you must have HATED ‘The Da Vinci Code,’” he says in a bright tone that hardly matches the severity of his statement.

“Well, I ... I didn’t really mind it, I guess,” I say, hoping I had not lost whatever professional authority I might have possessed a moment earlier.

He sounds generally disappointed in me. “Oh. Well, there is some great literature about the Catholic faith and ‘The DaVinci Code’ that I think you’ll really enjoy.”

I listen politely, silently beseeching myself to get on with it. Who’s the reporter here, anyway?

These kinds of scenes have occurred throughout my stint as a Missourian Faith reporter. My Catholicism made “The Da Vinci Code” a particularly hot topic with my sources, who also interrogated me about intelligent design, Vatican policy and how often I attended Mass.

I panicked every time a source turned an interview around on me in this way. I felt like my journalistic credibility was being subverted, as if any acknowledgement of my personal conviction would taint my story with bias.

These stories were not about me or my beliefs. My job was to observe and report my findings, no matter what I thought about them. I felt like the mere admission of my personal feelings was a breach of ethics and talking about them unlocked the invisible gate that kept them out of my stories.

My Catholic faith plays a big part in my life, but it doesn’t belong in the newspaper. Every day, reporters are forced to put their own thoughts and beliefs aside in order to tell stories fairly. I think this is the way it should be. If reporters keep their thoughts and opinions out of their stories, it doesn’t make them any less Catholic, Protestant, or Democratic or Republican.

It makes them better journalists.

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