News Analysis

Meanwhile: Media struggles to report on Notre-Dame

(Etienne Loraillère ن/Twitter)

There was some bleak amusement to be had in the media’s struggles as it reported on the Notre-Dame fire. Some news sources seemed surprised that a cathedral might be a sacred site: “Tourist mecca Notre-Dame also revered as place of worship,” was the flat-footed headline on an Associated Press report.

Another venerable publication to commit a howler was the New York Times, which claimed that Fr Jean-Marc Fournier, chaplain to the fire brigade, had carried “a statue of Jesus” out of the burning cathedral. A correction was later added: it wasn’t a statue the priest had rescued, but the Blessed Sacrament.

The London Times, meanwhile, referred to the Blessed Sacrament as one of “Notre-Dame’s most important relics”, along with the Crown of Thorns – itself described rather loosely as one of the “medieval relics” within the cathedral.

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The satirical website The Onion, meanwhile, took advantage of France’s reputation for melancholy existentialism. “Paris Vows To Rebuild Notre-Dame Despite Cosmic Absurdity Of Seeking Inherent Meaning In Fleeting Creations Of Man,” the site reported.

It “quoted” President Emmanuel Macron as saying the rebuilt cathedral would “serve as but a momentary impediment to the corrosive sands of time.”