|Interview With Talk Show Host Teresa Tomeo
By Carrie Gress
DETROIT, Michigan, 11 MAY 2008 (ZENIT)
Catholic families are beginning to realize there is more to life than
what the secular media promises, says a Catholic talk show host.
Teresa Tomeo has just published "Noise: How Our Media-saturated
Culture Dominates Lives and Dismantles Families."
In this interview with ZENIT, Tomeo discusses her book and how
families can guard against the effects of the ever-encroaching secular
Q: In your book, you discuss how the media is the most dominant force
in American culture today. What do you think are the most damaging
effects it has had on us morally and spiritually?
Tomeo: I think the biggest issue is with the overall desensitization
of the Catholic culture and belief system. As one Catholic author said
on my show recently, the culture has been forming our faith and not the
other way around. Birth control, abortion, cohabitation, pre-marital
sex, have all become the "norm" in society and most of the messages come
from the entertainment media and the news media, which embrace and
promote all of the above.
That combined with very poor catechesis over the past 40-50 years
along with the sexual revolution has led to disaster. The good news is
the Church has
and always has had
the answers in her teachings. And there are some real positive efforts
such as a huge explosion in Catholic media that are making a big
Many Catholics are coming home and realizing that the culture has
been selling them a bill of goods and there is something more to life.
Q: What would your response be to someone who said you were
overstating the case
that the media, including Internet, video games, etc.
is only harmless entertainment?
Tomeo: I would say they are in denial. Many people who make such
statements don't want to take a close look at their own bad media habits
such as too much time on the Internet or cell phone or too much time in
front of the TV. I also hear this a lot from families as I travel across
the United States speaking about this topic
families, namely parents
who don't want to take the time to stop and see what their children are
It takes a lot of time and effort to become a media savvy family, but
we all must do our part.
To give you an example of just what a media-obsessed culture we are,
just nine days after the Pope left the United States the extremely
violent video game "Grand Theft Auto Four; Liberty City" went on sale
around the world. People were lined up for hours waiting to grab their
copy. Now we find out the game has broken sales records
actually beaten the all-time entertainment record in sales. Six million
people purchased the game in its first week on the store shelves.
The Pope mentioned the culture several times in his U.S. visit and in
his address to bishops. He went so far as to say that we can't talk
about protecting our children if we are not willing to take a look at
the big picture, including easy access to pornography and media products
that promote violence.
I would point to Madison Avenue and ask them why it exists if the
media doesn't have an impact? Or how about the Super Bowl where
companies spend millions and millions on 30- and 60-second commercials
to reach a prime audience.
And then I would point them directly to the thousands of studies done
by secular universities as well as professional organizations, such as
the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological
Association and the American Medical Association, just to name a few,
all of whom have been studying media influence for years.
Q: How are children affected by large doses of the media compared to
Tomeo: The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement
nine years ago saying "no TV for children under 2." They also recommend
only two hours a day for young children. That's how concerned the AAP is
about the impact media exposure has on children.
The medical experts say young children have a hard time separating
what they see on TV from reality and it is also important, they explain,
for their attention spans
not to be viewing a lot of fast-paced imagery that today's TV/mass media
are loaded with.
Q: Your book makes a number of suggestions as to how parents can
protect their children
from the negative influences of media. What are some of these?
Tomeo: No. 1 on the list is to keep the TV and the computer in a
central area of the home where the usage can be closely monitored.
Leaving kids alone in their rooms with access to the Internet and to TV
is a recipe for disaster.
Parents should also set guidelines and stick to them and make sure
that meal times are media free
no TV, no iPods or cell phones allowed. Families should also take
advantage of the many tools that are available, such as Internet filters
and TV ratings, as well as helpful media activist groups such as the
well-known Parents TV Council. Their Web site is a wealth of information
for any parent or concerned citizen who wants to make a difference in
their homes and the culture.
I would also recommend reading Pope Benedict's World Communications
Day statements along with Pope John Paul II's message from World
Communications Day 2004. There is a wealth of information and guidance
to be found in these documents and, of course, in all the Catholic
teachings on social communications.
Q: As a former broadcast journalist, you discuss the bias found in
mainstream media. As average readers/listeners, how can we protect
ourselves from the bias in important news stories, for example, when
preparing to vote?
Tomeo: We need to consider the source. Research shows that at least
50% of those working in today's secular media are atheist or agnostic
and only about 12% go to some type of church service. The majority of
them also admit to supporting legalized abortion, as well as other
actions that go directly against Church teaching.
While the media are supposed to be objective and balanced, that often
is not the case. The media tend to preach instead of report by telling
us in the way they cover stories that we need to believe a certain way
and that way is not the way of the Church.
So again, consider the source of the news story and then check
everything against the Catechism and Scripture. Make sure you know what
the Church actually teaches instead of what the media say it teaches.
Read the U.S. bishops' recent document on "Faithful Citizenship." Also
turn to orthodox Catholic sources for issues that concern Catholics and
voting. There are a number of good Catholic Web sites available, such as
Priests for Life, that can help Catholics in the voting process.
Q: Many people feel powerless when it comes to being able to effect
change in what is broadcast. Are there ways that one person can make a
Tomeo: Absolutely. Joining media activist groups is a great way to
make a difference. Parents TV Council has over a million members now and
not only informs its members on what's happening with the media but also
is active with petition drives, awareness campaigns, and congressional
efforts to raise media awareness and protect children and families.
Writing letters or sending e-mails to stations as well as writing
letters to the editor is also very effective. The competition keeps
getting stronger for all media outlets. They need every viewer, listener
and newspaper reader. That's why every voice counts. And just like
voting, one person can indeed make a difference.
* * *
On the net:
"Noise: How Our Media-saturated Culture Dominates Lives and
Dismantles Families": www.teresatomeo.com/store.htm#noise