You couldn’t make it up – or perhaps you could?

Coverage of the Holy Father’s recent trip to Germany has been extensive – both here and elsewhere (thanks to Teresa, CP&S’s ‘on the spot’ author).  Milo Yiannopoulos, writing in the Catholic Herald has some words for would-be journalists sent to cover such Papal overseas visits:

By Milo Yiannopoulos Covering the Pope: a guide for journalists

A harassed BBC reporter wonders how she can possibly fit any more Hitler references into her copy

Imagine you’re a newly minted BBC News intern. You bound into the office on your first day, your 2:1 in Media Studies and Digital Production from the University of Salford burning a hole in your pocket.

You’ve made it! You’ve reached the dizzying heights of the state broadcaster’s newsroom. You’re ready to take over the world.

But disaster strikes: your editor hands you the first assignment, and it’s a report on the Catholic Church. Pope Benewhatsit has gone to some place to give some speech about God and stuff.

You’re eager to impress, but totally out of your depth. What are you to do? Who do you turn to?

Well, here at the The Catholic Herald, we understand how peculiar and arcane the world of Catholicism must appear to reporters new to the beat. That’s why we’ve trawled the archives of the major broadcasters and newspapers to bring you the lessons learned by your senior colleagues.

We hope that by sharing these best practice guidelines, we can help reporters to uphold the tradition of fair and balanced reporting on Catholic issues for which the British press is rightly famed. Here, then, are our top tips for success.

For any event at which the Pope appears, always inflate the number of protesters. At World Youth Day in Madrid this year, the number of protesters represented less than 0.04 per cent of the people who turned out in support of the Pope (5,000 people versus 1.5 million people). But that didn’t stop those enterprising minds at the BBC from focusing almost exclusively on the malcontents, ignoring the vast scale and success of a joyful celebration of young Catholics.

Likewise, in another report from the BBC about the Pope’s trip to Germany last week, a couple of hundred protesters were turned into “several thousand”. Words like “several” are useful, because they’re easier to wriggle out of than real numbers.

If in doubt, be vague and waffly about the purpose of any protests – especially if there doesn’t appear to be one. Those nice Christian folk only “turn the other cheek” anyway; not like the protesters, who, if they don’t get due praise and coverage, will bombard your switchboard with anguished complaints and flood the blogosphere with manufactured outrage at your lack of thoroughness.

Any rumour of a potential walk-out from politicians or other religious leaders in response to an appearance by Pope should be reported as fact – in other words, as though it had already happened. Don’t correct your story if it turns out only that a tiny proportion of the loonier fringes of Government failed to show up. That’s just splitting hairs.

Deploy the trinity of divided, divisive and division. These words should be on the tip of your tongue at all times. Remember, the Pope’s opinions are dangerous and alarming: don’t let him get away with expressing an opinion without slathering your copy in withering invective. It’s also useful to mash up different sorts of Christianity: the readers don’t know the difference between Archbishop Rowan Williams and Archbishop Vincent Nichols anyway, and it helps to convey the sense that the Church is fractured and damaged.

In fact, there are lots of adjectives you can use suggestively. Trowel them on. Your journalism professor may have told you to go easy on the descriptive words, but he wasn’t talking about religious affairs. It doesn’t matter if your purple prose makes the headline ungainly, or even if you can’t substantiate the accusations. Take your lead from this Reuters headline.

Mock and undermine the Church’s position on moral issues by referring to Church “policy”, erroneously implying that like, say, a Government’s, these “policies” could be altered at a moment’s notice, if only those guys in frocks really cared about ordinary people.

Be sure to draw attention to ways in which Catholic teaching conflicts with the moral fashions of the day, whether it’s on contraception, climate change or immigration. If you can, try to appropriate the language of the Church and speeches by its bishops and subordinate it to your own politically correct, urban lexicon of equality, fairness and “social justice”. (If you’re lucky enough to be reporting on England and Wales, you’ll find that most of the work is done for you by the right-on members of that Bishops’ Conference. Otherwise, you might have to do some of the work yourself.)

Don’t just seize on perceived tensions, but actively foment discontent by Googling for as many negative stories about the Church as you can find and summarising the grievances quoted in them. Paragraphs 9-18 of your story are the perfect place to really warm to your theme, dredging up whatever ludicrous rants from Johann Hari or childish, abortive stunts by Richard Dawkins come to hand.

If you don’t have time to ponder the meaning of one of the Pope’s more thoughtful addresses, just say it “verged on the academic”. No one will accuse you of failing to bother paying attention because there was a better headline elsewhere. Plus, you can give the impression that the Pope is a boring speaker. Back of the net!

Picking quotes can be tough. The golden rule is never, ever quote from supporters; only protesters. Find the angriest feminist you can find and start her off on a riff about patriarchal hegemony and the all-male priesthood. If you only include negative quotes, it looks like all right-thinking people oppose the Pope’s presence.

Struggling to muster enough fake anger? Try this new tactic, pioneered by the Guardianimply that Catholics and non-Catholics alike are bored rigid with the whole shebang. We understand that, in the case of last week’s German trip, this technique involved waiting until 6 pm when the shops shut, then cornering one of those cat ladies who hang around Mitte selling used copies of the previous day’s paper.

Where possible, use photos of the Pope’s back. These are brilliant because they imply that he’s isolated and unpopular. Don’t be fooled by eyewitness reports that describe him as energetic and surrounded by thousands of well-wishers.

Finally – and this one’s important – make liberal use of Adolf Hitler. Hitler is a staple part of any modern religious affairs correspondent’s diet. No report about Benedict XVI or the Catholic Church is complete without a reference to the Nazis, especially the fact that he was a member of the Hitler Youth.

Don’t bother reading his statements on the subject or asking anyone familiar with the history of the period. You might discover that Joseph Ratzinger was a reluctant young man pressed into the equivalent of military service at a time when barely any young person failed to enroll in some sort of state youth organisation, and where would you be then? No, just remember to mention that he was a member. Bonus points for mentioning Hitler or the Nazis twice in one paragraph.

About the author

Milo Yiannopoulos

Milo Yiannopoulos

Milo Yiannopoulos is a journalist and broadcaster who was named one of the top 100 most influential figures in Britain’s digital economy by Wired magazine.

Contact the author

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15 Responses to You couldn’t make it up – or perhaps you could?

  1. umblepie says:

    Brilliant! Thank you for this. It would be interesting to see if any of the national press pick this up.


  2. Milo, very funny. Perhaps you should write a commentary on how to read/listen/watch such a report. You know the sort of thing: Facts vs. opinion; axes being ground; human experience of truth?


  3. teresa says:

    Well, a good article, but Mr. Yiannopolous himself has been a little careless, I must say, Pope Benedict was at that time a boy of 14, not a young man, when he was, like other boys, enrolled by their teacher into the Hilter Youth. As far as the media coverage is concerned, I can say it is very very friendly in Germany. Nobody has paid any attention to the protesters, everyone was over the moon during the Papal visit, as they say.

    And even the leftist Parliamentarian Gysi said he was impressed by the great intelligence of Pope Benedict, and Mrs. Künast, Green Party, was happy with Pope’s address at the Bundestag.

    The Minister President of Baden-Württemberg Kretschmann himself is a practising Catholic and a member of the Green Party. I really can’t see why the world of journalism wants to paint our complex and multicultural world as split into belligerent ideological parties. In a democratic society cooperation and keeping the balance of different interests are the core words, not fighting. The Church is interwoven into the Democratic society and has a positive role to play, she constitutes a substantial part of our now pluralistic reality. Ideological Fighting is so out.


  4. Toadspittle says:


    If Milos thinks the BBC, or any other gang of crazed anti-Pope malcontents – sends “newly-mined interns” off on overseas jollys – to cover the Pope, or politicians or whatever, he’d better think again.

    These are prized assignments, with hefty expense accounts. “Newly mined interns” are down in the basement, doing research for sombody else, among the file footage.


  5. Toadspittle says:

    Who did The Catholic Herald send to cover the Pope in Germany? Milos? We should be told…


  6. Gertrude says:

    Dear Teresa, I am sure the Holy Father’s visit to Germany was hugely successful, as it was here last year. The point the author is making though is a valid one. The BBC (which is our national broadcasting company) are considered to be politically to the left, and religiously – anti-catholic. There have been many instances when their reporting of Catholic topics has been – well – lopsided, and generally not sympathetic, or, at times, even fair or accurately reported. It was against this background that the article was written.

    Toad dear: I am sure you are absolutely right regarding new interns, and I appreciate your comment as you are in a position to know these things ;-). Perhaps the articlewas written a little tongue-in-cheek specifically to ‘have a dig’ at the Beeb? As for who went to Germany on behalf of the Catholic Herald, I really don’t know, but I would suspect Anna Arco (though I’m probably wrong). Btw – big expence accounts eh? How do you get chosen?


  7. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    It’s rather revealing to see who likes to have a go at the Beeb. For all its faults, it does not resemble the unpleasant nonsense in the article. And as has been said before, there are those who need to feel ‘got at’,and discriminated against.

    Perhaps some would prefer Murdoch?


  8. Toadspittle says:


    Kindly thought, Gertrude. Big expense accounts because foreign travel, hotels etc is naturally costly.
    As to: … “There have been many instances when their reporting of Catholic topics has been – well – lopsided, and generally not sympathetic, or, at times, even fair or accurately reported, “

    You can believe Toad when he tells you that those words go FOR VIRTUALLY ANY STORY that one is on the wrong end of, be it religion, politics, economics, domestic violence, or even sport. You ( well I) have frequently heard people say, “God knows what game the Mirror was reporting on last night – I was there myself, and it was nothing like what they wrote – Arsenal were robbed, they are so biased in favour of United!”

    Thankless job, being a hack.
    Ask Milo.


  9. rebrites says:

    I was a religion reporter for secular media for more than a decade. I never worked for the BBC, but I worked alongside their reporters a time or two on papal travel stories, etc., way back in the JP2 days. I have no remembrance of any one of them remotely resembling the horrors this “writer” refers to. If anyone is going into the fray with a preconceived agenda, over-the-top references to Hitler, divisiveness, protests, etc., it is this same Mr. Y. I think there is something more to his pique than this story reveals.

    Perhaps Our Milo really wanted that BBC assignment himself, and it went to someone else? Someone younger, promising, a little less peevish and a bit more open-minded?


  10. Robert John Bennett says:

    As one person has already noted in these comments, the coverage of the Pope’s visit was extremely friendly and even supportive here in Germany. Even some of the extreme left-wing politicians were friendly. When the Pope arrived at the Bundestag for his address there, German public television covered the event live, including his meeting with one of the young female leaders of Die Linke (the political successor to the former East German communist party, the SED). She was shown, astonishingly, not only smiling broadly and shaking and holding his hand, but also repeatedly bowing to him, as though he were a royal personage and this was the most thrilling moment of her life.

    I didn’t watch any of the BBC coverage, but from what I’ve seen of other BBC reporting on religion in general and the Catholic Church in particular, the tone Milo Yiannopoulos’ quite brilliant article rings true.


  11. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    My goodness – an “extreme left-wing politician” was friendly. Smiling broadly too, astonishingly. These fanatical die-hards melt so easily in front of a bit of religion. Bowing, though, is perhaps politeness gone too far for an extremist. ………..

    Milo is an objective reporter it seems in his “brilliant article” sez JRB – just to complete today’s list of marvels and astonishments.


  12. toadspittle says:

    Goodness, we had some fun back then, didn’t we?
    I suppose Wall Eyed Mr Whippy is dead now.
    Lovely name.
    …Hindu, I believe.


  13. toadspittle says:

    “Remember, the Pope’s opinions are dangerous and alarming “

    Ah! 2011! Another, more innocent, world – wasn’t it?
    Of course, we were all much younger then.
    I was only 70, myself. Just a kid with a dream, really.


  14. Tom Fisher says:

    Good God. Look who wrote the article. Wonder what he’s done since?


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