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Did Francis tell priests to ‘bless everyone’ or wed same sex couples?

In Journalism 101, they teach something called ‘leading questions.’ Now, the simplest definition of a leading question is one that prompts the person asked to give the answer the journalist wants.

We are informed that our rapidly mushrooming radio stations are using this trick too – leading callers by the nose to certain narratives, like sheep to the slaughter.

It is a subtle trick that we use to trap our sources into telling us what we want to hear, into filling gaps of stories pre-written in our newsrooms.

Filling gaps is good but only when we are filling truth gaps, fact gaps, information gaps. When it comes down to filling gaps in pre-written stories; when it comes down to tricking our sources to confirm certain prejudices; into ‘filling the dots’ in narratives that are variants of truth; into tricking others to be innocent ‘sources’ to new spins that we give to certain stories, then it becomes witchcraft.

Sadly, this is happening in our newsrooms, right from the briefs that our journalists – especially the greenhorns whose biggest nightmare is always “What question do I ask my source?” – to the editorial meetings where headlines are sometimes ‘cooked.’

The greenhorns are easy targets for ‘older’ armchair journalists who, either too lazy or too lethargic to go on the beat, want to use the greenhorns to write the stories for them. So, these old geezers throw a few leading questions that the greenhorns eagerly scribble down.

“Go ask him what he feels about the recent directive by Pope Francis that priests should not refuse to bless gay couples.”

And so the fellow sits inside this press conference, patiently waits until everyone else has asked all the ‘serious questions’, before tentatively raising a trembling hand to ask: “I wanted to ask (this wanting to ask business is so Kenyanese) what you feel about the recent declaration by the Pope legalising same-sex marriage….”

Now, one quick way of getting your target in a leading question is packing it with a few untruths or half-truths, especially ones quoting a very credible authority such as the Pope, and citing the authority in a way that your target is caught by surprise, like, wait the Pope ‘declared’ that? And I do not know that the Pope said that? I cannot admit that I do not know that the Pope said that, so here I go:

“That is unacceptable, that would split the church… I cannot bless same sex marriages, heck, I cannot bless same-look marriages…….it is satanic, I am satanic myself, but not that satanic……”

Back at the news desk, the wolf asks the lamb: Did you ask him the question that I sent you to ask him?

And the lamb says: Yes I did, he said: That is unacceptable,that would split the church…. I cannot bless same sex marriages, heck, I cannot bless same-look marriages…….it is satanic, I am satanic myself, but not that satanic……blah, blah.”

And the wolf furiously bangs on the computer keyboard, pausing only to ask: How did he look when he said this and that? Did he shout? Was he frowning?

The next day, we have a big story: Catholic priests defy Pope Francis on same sex unions…. church split down the middle over Pope Francis directive……priests threaten to create breakaway church.

Juicy story, and of course the wolf gets the byline, the poor lamb that was used to plant the question settles for a small line at the bottom of the story that reads “additional reporting by Miss Lamb.”

This is not ethics. This is not professionalism. This is not the truth. For the Pope said: Bless anyone who comes to you asking for a blessing irrespective of what they do with whatever part of their anatomy that lies below their belts or who they do it with.

He did not say: “Wed same sex couples, in fact say the part “you can kiss the bride” especially louder if the two fellows you are confirming as wedded are same-sex.”

There are some who will say that blessing someone and presiding over a marriage are one and the same. But in media ethics, truth does not have more than one version.

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