Monday, October 31, 2011

Royal Girls Rule: The Rest of the Story

The coverage of the change in the line of succession to the British throne was a lesson in reporting right out of "Philip's Code," although I grant that few Americans care much about the subject matter.

Most stories I saw or heard zeroed in on the fact that the 16 nations that recognize the British monarch struck "a historic blow for women's rights" when they abolished primogeniture, the male precedence in the order of succession to the throne. Every headline was along the lines of "Girls Rule" or "Girls Get Equal Shot at Crown." That crown won't, however, sit on a Catholic, whether male or female. The Commonwealth countries did allow that the king or queen could marry a Catholic, which was formerly a no-no. Other religions were OK - just not Catholic.

The New York Times' story by John Burns was right on target: the move was a "blow for women's rights," but, seasoned reporter he is, Burns also stressed the religious angle, noting in the opening paragraph that "the possibility of a Catholic monarch will have to wait." The San Francisco Chronicle used Burns' story under a headline that read "Girls rule: Boys lose first dibs on ascending the throne."

My local papers, the Daily Journal and Daily News, made no mention of religion. Both used Associated Press stories by Cassandra Vinograd. What an appropriate first name for a reporter, particularly for this story - a Cassandra is one who can see in to the future but is not believed. My first impression was that this Cassandra could guide the future by simply ignoring one fact and stressing another. Remember what Phil Davis said about the truth being the sum of the facts. True, the AP story emphasized the gender angle, but it also noted the change regarding Catholics, albeit buried. What I can't understand is why my local dailies used the AP story but dropped the Catholic part. I will ask the editors. Stay tuned.