THERE is a strong streak
of masochism in every national newspaper. To be read and attacked is basically better than to be unread and revered (e.g.: the old Times): to be thumped by an Archbishop is one step from heaven : while to be clobbered by a Cardinal is enough to provide a momentary paradise for the average circulation manager.
The new-style Times, which is winning new-style readers almost as easily as it is losing Lord Thomson's old-style money, must have been delighted on Monday morning because the previous day Cardinal Heenan had smacked it soundly in public.
My purpose here is not to defend The Times as I have also found some of its Catholic news judgments bizarre to say the least, although I realise that I. too, live in a rather nice but dangerous glass home. I am not disputing the Cardinal's right to attack The Times or any other newspaper but I do believe that his public assaults on it are ill-advised and, what is more, self-defeating.
Last month the Cardinal sent his long letter to the editor protesting over the "overexposure" of Catholics in its columns. I would have called it not "over-exposure." but faulty news judgment. But no matter what we call it I cannot see that the letter did any good. It could in fact have made the editor continue to "over-expose" Catholic news to prove his independence from a prelate's pressure.
But the Cardinal's attack on Sunday was a different matter. He accused a Catholic member of The Times' reporting staff. though he did not name him, of seeking "every opportunity to produce slanted news which is not "trustworthy" and gave the impression that this reporter was responsible for The Times' piece on the resignation of Father Sketchley. The reporter in question, a member of the Ad Hoc London group and the Renewal Movement, has denied that he played any part in the Sketchley story or that he has "slanted" news.
The Cardinal's charges against the reporter are serious because they reflect on his professional integrity and good name. I do not know the reporter involved but I do know the Cardinal well enough to know that he would be the last man to injure intentionally the reputation and livelihood of another individual. If the Cardinal is in error he should at least withdraw the charges.
If the Cardinal had attacked the editor or the proprietor I would not have been compelled to write as I do. But I find something unfair in a cardinal singling out a reporter for special treatment. Editors and proprietors can look after themselves. Reporters are not so nicely placed.
Rosary in lift
THERE are naturally many good stories in the latest volume of Sir Compton Mackenzie's autobiography (My Life and Times, Octave Eight, 1939-1946. Chatto and Windus, 45s) but the one that really appealed to me concerns an episode after a dinner party in a third-floor flat in 1942.
The author and the other guests—Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Woodruff (then editor of the Tablet) and Moura Budberg — unwisely decided that they could all squeeze into a very small lift to take them to the ground floor. Unfortunately the lift jammed for more than an hour just below the second floor. How did the trapped occupants behave? Very true to character if Sir. Compton's memory is reliable : "Larry and Vivien were on one side of the lift, having then been married barely two years : they were quite happy. I seem to remember that Douglas and Mia Woodruff said a rosary together . . ."
Trust the old warrior of the Tablet to get his priorities right and give some real religious uplift to those encased in a downlift.