The mainstream media greeted the release of the St. Andrew's Draft of the proposed Anglican Covenant with a yawn. Coverage in the United Kingdom was light, coverage in the United States nonexistant.
The Telegraph and The Bahama Journal, hometown paper of Covenant Design Team leader Archbishop Drexel Gomez, seem to be the only mainstream outlets with stories available through various Web feeds, and the T'graph story runs a whopping 221 words.
The media's lack of interest in the ongoing struggle for control of the Anglican Communion has both an upside and a downside for the Episcopal Church.
The upside is that those attempting to force the Church out of the Communion or undermine its legitimacy depend on maintaining an atmosphere of crisis to justify their actions and achieve their ends. In the absence of a steady drumbeat of stories proclaiming the Church's imminent expulsion from the Communion or destruction through infighting, the claims of crisis begin to lose their legitimacy, as do the actions taken in response to the alleged crisis. Additionally, media reports are often simultaneously predictive as well as descriptive. Reports on a given trend have the potential to accelerate that trend. ("Hey, everybody's going to the Latin Mass now. I better check that out.") When the media stops telling the world that you are on the march, your parade can slow down in a hurry. If you doubt this consider how fiercely surrogates for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama argued to have their candidate declared the "winner" of the dead heat on Super Tuesday.
The downside of the media's loss of interest in Anglican infighting is that reporters may never get around to some necessary self-correction. The Episcopal Church does not face imminent expulsion from the Communion. Rather, all but one of its bishops have been invited to the Lambeth Conference and two of its members serve on the Covenant Design Team. Yet the impression lingers from earlier coverage that our membership in the Communion is tenuous.
The schism that was once predicted to tear the Communion in two now appears of interest to only four or five provinces, two of which are quite small. Yet the impression lingers from earlier coverage that north-south split is in the offing persist from earlier coverage.
Even if every dioceses and every parish that is rumored to be considering leaving the Episcopal Church were to do so, the Church would be unlikely to lose more than a tenth of its current membership. And many of those dioceses and parishes previously rumored to be on their way out the door have recently changed their minds. Yet the impression lingers from earlier coverage that the Church is being torn in half.
Much of the American reporting on the struggle within the Communion assumed that the story would end with either the break-up of the Episcopal Church or its expulsion from the Communion. There is no other way to explain the level attention paid to a Church with only 2.2 million members. The struggle isn't over, but these outcomes are less likely today than they were when the story began. Indeed, those outcomes are less likely than a variety of less newsworthy alternative scenarios--including the possibility that the Communion will muddle on in more or less its current fashion or endure a possibly short-lived Nigerian-led schism that will have limited effect in the United States.
Perhaps, at some point, the media will embrace one of those scenarios as the master narrative and the nature of its coverage will change. Or perhaps the story will simply fade away.