Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Fake, biased news? Not at Bonner & Prendie

It is one of the very few things in this job I know I can count on.

Every time we run a story about a Catholic school, or the archdiocese, that paints the church in less than a glowing light, I get accused of being anti-Catholic.

No, this isn't fake news. This, according to the readers I talk to, is us (me, actually) for some reason delighting in taking every opportunity to bash the church.

I heard it again and again during the priest abuse scandal, the numerous grand jury reports noting the failings of the church in dealing with it. Any time a story involving a Catholic school makes the front page, I get the same phone calls from people who insist that I did it only to make the church look bad. They say we never publish anything good about the church, and that when similar stories involving public schools hit the paper, they get pushed inside.

So of course I knew what the reaction would be Monday when we devoted our entire front page to what many simply refer to as the "Miracle in Drexel Hill." That would be the gargantuan effort by the faithful of Monsignor Bonner and Archbishop Prendergast to save their schools.

That would be crickets.

Nada. Zip.

Not one phone call or email from those critics who insist I have it on for their beloved church.

I'm not complaining. That goes with the job, too. The truth is no one calls about good news. But write something bad, and the people come out of the woodwork to declare that we are biased. It was five years ago that the Archdiocese's blue ribbon commission delivered what many thought was going to be the death knell for Boner & Prendie. Instead of what most had grudgingly resigned themselves to, that the schools' long tradition of separate schools for boys and girls likely was going to be a thing of the past, instead they were stunned to learn both schools were being targeted for closure. What happened next was fairly extraordinary.

And this newspaper covered every inch of it.

We were there about a month later when word was received that not only had Bonner & Prendie been saved, but three other Catholic high schools as well.

The looks on those kids' faces as they celebrated that day was one of the highlights of my journalism career.

The next day our front page delivered the news of the celebration with a single word: Amen.

The news is not always going to be good.

Just ask the folks at Upper Darby High, who found themselves splashed all over the front page when a student was stopped heading to school with a loaded gun.

Or ask any of the other schools who have been featured in a less-than-flattering way.

But on Monday, when we reviewed the momentous past five years, and the effort to turn Bonner & Prendie around, I didn't receive a single phone call from my critics who insist that I use the newspaper to bash the Catholic church at every turn.

Fake news? Hardly. What we do here every day is not always popular. I happen to make a lot of people made every day. I understand that. What I don't understand is people who insist on calling me "fake," let alone "an enemy of the people."

I love the fact that this newspaper was able to play a role in saving two very important institutions in this county.

That will not stop me from printing negative stories if the circumstances call for it.

That's not being biased. Or fake.

That's being real.

And it's what I do every day.

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