Religion mixing with your cheerios
Each morning, the average American can find themselves eating their breakfast and turning on the television to become immediately informed of the happenings around the world. From sports to weather to politics, if something is happening, Americans tune into their televisions and find out. Yet, not every American is pleased with what they see. This is a lesson Father Edward Beck learned the somewhat hard way, saying “people do not like religion mixing with their Cheerios.”
On Thursday, November 2, Father Edward Beck, a graduate of Assumption College, Class of 1980, returned to his alma mater to present, “Religion, Church, and the Media: A Delicate Balance,” a presentation on his role as a religion and faith commentator in mainstream media.
The La Maison Auditorium was filled with students and professors, past and present, who came to listen as Father Beck reflected on his experiences behind the camera. During this presentation, Beck discussed his ten-plus year career working as a religious commentator for networks includingABC News, Fox News, CBS and CNN, along with sharing anecdotes about his journey and lessons he has learned along the way.
In attendance were several of Beck’s previous Assumption professors, one of them being Dr. Paul Douillard of philosophy. Douillard reminisced about their time together, saying “I conducted an independent study with him during his senior year and he was memorable…a good student.”
Even President Cesareo stopped by for the presentation. The president was interested in seeing how Beck “intersects his religious vocation and his faith commitment to the work that he does,” calling Beck’s work “a great service to the church and to society.”
Father Beck’s career in the media began after his “friendly banter” with Chris Cuomo on Good Morning America caught the eye of a CBS News executive. This led to an exclusive contract with CBS, where Father Beck became a recurring religious commentator for the network.
CBS was where Beck learned the ultimate lesson that “religion and morning television were not always a happy marriage.” Beck’s presence on morning programming was met with criticism, with viewers asking questions such as, “Why did they pick a Catholic priest? Why not a rabbi?”
In later years, Father Beck’s work at different news stations, such as Fox News, reiterated this lesson. With personalities like Bill O’Reilly telling him how to say things, along with Fox News hiring correspondents with opposing viewpoints to “fight” Beck, Beck came to the conclusion that there is “delicate dance as a Catholic priest to be called about for some balance and detailed analysis when all some news organizations seem to want are some news bites that fit their ideology.”
Luckily, Father Beck reconnected with banter buddy, Chris Cuomo, who was leaving Good Morning America to join CNN. Together, they left network TV to join the 24-hour news station, where the concept of “morning cheerios” and religious discussion would not come into as much contact. Here, Beck was given more room to breathe in terms of religious discussion, with CNN allowing him to have “free rein on commentary.”
A true test of his career came when after the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. Beck traveled to Rome to report on the conclave, along with many high profile journalists such as Cuomo and Anderson Cooper. Although Beck had leverage over the other media personalities, being that he was a priest, he still felt pressure to make sure that he said the right thing, such as deciding which Francis did Pope Francis name himself after. This experience taught Beck that when it comes to working in the media, “you have to be able to think on your feet.”
When looking back at his career, Beck recognizes the challenges he has faced, which caught the attention of many audience members. Senior Binta Paye said, “It was interesting to hear Father Beck talk about the challenges that arise when you mix religion with media. From that, he proved that if you’re passionate about something, and you believe it’s right, go forth with it anyway.”
If his career in media has taught him anything, it is that “nothing is fair and balanced about news,” but his job as a religion and faith commentator is to inform viewers of the happenings in an “informative and accessible way.”
Even though Father Beck and Cheerios are not on American’s similar radars in the morning anymore, Father Beck’s career in media has taught him that “nothing is fair and balanced about news,” but his job as a religion and faith commentator is to inform viewers of the happenings in a balanced way.
Erin Keating, a junior, studies English. She is a staff writer for Le Provocateur.