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.


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.”