On the Media

By Kathryn Jean Lopez Published on March 20, 2023

As I write, I’m about to speak for the second time in a week about the media. I almost turned down both invitations to speak at two very different conferences, because, despite working in the press, I don’t think much about the media. But early on in my life as an opinion journalist, I realized criticizing the mainstream media — “the liberal media” — could be something of an easy parlor game among conservatives. The media tends to be more secular and liberal than my own outlook. Why complain? Why not engage instead?

What People Want From the Media

The first of the conferences looked at truth in a post-truth society. It was explicitly a Catholic gathering, and an audience member credited Father Mike Schmitz for his excellent use of media with his “The Bible in a Year” podcast, which records a priest reading parts of the Bible daily. It is one of the most popular podcasts in America. I once asked Schmitz if he was worried about losing his humility in the wake of such success. He reminded me he was simply reading the Bible. For years, he had a podcast where he gave his opinions on various subjects — it wasn’t as popular as Scripture. There’s a humility check. And it says something about what people want: something certain; something hopeful; something transcendent.

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As I’m writing this, the second conference hasn’t happened yet. It’s on a Catholic campus, but not necessarily with a Catholic audience. The questions there will be about religion and democracy. I don’t know if people will agree, but I keep thinking of Alexis de Tocqueville and what he wrote in Democracy in America. We need people who believe in a merciful God so that there is some mercy in the midst of our angry chaos. Our country needs the inspiration that Jesus’ message and the people who believe in it can provide.

Using Media For the Good

Using religion for political purposes is one of the great malpractices of history. God does not belong to a political party; he is much greater than that. And therein lies our hope. Politics, a human creation, is doomed to always fall short. But that’s not the sum total of our existence.

One of my hopes going forward is that after the Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, we can have a coming together. The initial media response involved a lot of shrill anger. But nine months in, I wonder if we and the media now have the opportunity to highlight how we can best help women and families. Think of the newspaper spots that highlight children in need of adoption — there’s some good there.

I’m still not entirely sure what I’m going to say to my audience of media practitioners and academics about the media and religion. But in practice, I’m grateful to you readers who put up with me! I not only obviously have a strong point of view — I do think there is something refreshingly honest about opinion journalism — but I bring my faith into much of what I write. National Review magazine founder William F. Buckley Jr. gave me the idea to do that.

As then-editor of the National Review’s website in 2008, I announced Buckley’s death, and in response received countless tributes about readers’ experiences with him. My favorite email was from a medical doctor who said that Buckley was the father figure in his life — he watched Buckley on his PBS “Firing Line” show weekly and his mother encouraged him to learn confidence from him.

Writing about religion, or from a religious perspective, doesn’t mean that you are any better than anyone else. It generally means you know there is more to life than your own actions and ideas.

We all have our criticisms and preferences when it comes to media. But at its best, it offers us relationships and inspiration. Amazing! May we always use it for the good.


Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review magazine and author of the new book A Year With the Mystics: Visionary Wisdom for Daily Living. She is also chair of Cardinal Dolan’s pro-life commission in New York, and is on the board of the University of Mary She can be contacted at [email protected]

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