Secular media coverage of encyclical hit and miss

by Vinnie Rotondaro

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How is Pope Francis’ encyclical playing out in secular media? Did the leak diminish its ability to make a splash?

On the day of the encyclical’s official release, neither The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today nor the Los Angeles Times chose to include coverage on their front pages.

As of Thursday morning, coverage could be found online, however.

The New York Times led online coverage with news of a shooting in South Carolina — “Suspect Captured in Charleston Massacre; Attack at Black Church Called Hate Crime” — as did most other major newspapers.

Just below, on its home page, the Times included a small flight of stories about the encyclical: “Pope Francis Calls for Swift Action on Climate Change,” “Reactions to Pope Francis’ Encyclical on Climate Change,” and “Pope Aligns Himself With Mainstream Science.”

The Times also ran an annotated version of the encyclical, with commentary.

The Wall Street Journal ran a small news item down low on its home page, “Pope Delivers Strong Message on Climate Change,” as did The Washington Post, “Release of encyclical reveals pope’s deep dive into climate science,” and USA Today, “Pope issues urgent appeal to fight climate change,” and the Los Angeles Times,Pope Francis: 'Unsustainable consumption has led to climate change.”

CNN’s homepage also led with the South Carolina shooting before including multiple stories about the encyclical: “Pope: 'Revolution' needed to combat climate change,” “5 powerful quotes from the Pope’s encyclical,” and “Pope delivers tough message to Big Business.”

FOX News made no mention of the encyclical on its home page. Nor did the New York Post, also owned by Rupert Murdoch. The notoriously rowdy paper had, however, covered the encyclical earlier this week: “Whodunit at Vatican over huge press leak.”

Online magazines were a mixed bag. The New Republic led with the story “Pope Francis's Vision of a Moral Ecology Will Challenge Both Republicans and Democrats.”

The Atlantic home page did not lead with the encyclical, but included the feature, “The Pope’s Moral Case for Stopping Climate Change.”

“In his new encyclical on environmental degradation, Laudato Si,” The Atlantic’s Emma Green wrote, “Pope Francis is not just addressing the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. He’s tagging God into the global conversation on climate change.”

Slate ran nothing about the encyclical on its homepage. Buried in its “Faith-Based” section, a story could be found -- “Christians Fought for the Environment for Decades Before Pope Francis’ Encyclical.”

Politico ran a straightforward news item on the bottom of its webpage, “Pope Francis puts pressure on climate skeptics.”

Nothing yet from Rolling Stone. Nothing from The New Yorker.

In the blogosphere, the liberal ThinkProgress chose not to lead with the encyclical, but did include four stories in its climate section: “The Pope Is The Climate Change Churchill Humanity Desperately Needs,” “The Pope’s Encyclical Isn’t The First Time The Catholic Church Has Spoken Out On The Environment,” “So What Exactly Is The Pope’s New Encyclical On The Environment Anyway?” and “Here’s How Actual Scientists Are Evaluating The Pope’s Big Climate Change Statement.”

The liberal Alternet ran nothing about the encyclical.

The conservative Breitbart News included three stories -- “In tweeting frenzy, pope calls for global conversation on the environment,” “UK’s top Catholic: I’m ‘very proud’ of the pope’s climate change encyclical,” and “No, the pope has not got an advanced chemistry degree — not that it matters anyway” -- and a video piece, “Breitbart’s Delingpole hammers pope’s ‘eco-encyclical.’ ” ran a story, “Pope Francis: Give and Give Until Everyone Is Poor (To Save the Planet).”

Other reports of right-wing reaction are beginning to emerge. Yesterday, the site Right Wing Watch related a bit of vitriol coming from conservative radio host Michael Savage, who called the pope a “Marxist” on his show “The Savage Nation.”

“He is a wolf in pope’s clothing,” Savage said, “he is an eco-wolf in pope’s clothing, he’s a stealth Marxist in religious garb.”

According to The Associated Press, “Congressional Republicans are shrugging off Pope Francis.”

“No, I'm sorry, it's a political issue.” said Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources. “Most people have their minds made up on this issue, so any more rhetoric about the issue doesn’t really add a heck of a lot more to it.”

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