Yesterday saw the first ever edition of The Sun newspaper on a Sunday, and with the perhaps surprising addition of new columnist, Dr. John Sentamu. The tabloid isn’t the first place you would imagine the Archbishop of York to be writing, but no doubt it was hoped his Sunday article would add a sense of morality and respectability to the Sunday edition of News Corps finest (if this isn’t an oxymoron too far?).
Dr. Sentamu’s column was titled ‘Celebrating new beginnings’ and he makes it clear that although he is expecting criticism for writing for The Sun, he sees Lent, which starts this week, as a time for new beginnings, and urged the public to give the paper a chance after the phone hacking scandal that ended News Corps previous Sunday publication, The News Of The World.
Dr. Sentamu writes, “I am always one for responding to change positively and embracing new beginnings – seeing the best in all people, especially in adversity.”
In what is an incredibly positive framing of the News Corporation scandals and public outrage, he goes on to say, “Lent is not a time for pointing the finger at others. As Alexander Pope said: “To err is human, to forgive is divine.” We should always remember that when we point the finger at other people, there are three other fingers pointing back at us!” he continues, “We should rejoice in new life, turning our back on what has gone before.”
While going on to explain how Lent is an opportunity for us to achieve new beginnings in our lives that are long lasting and for the better, for many who read Dr. Sentamu’s column, it will be the blatant advertorial feel of the column that will be remembered. The article does at times have the feel of something written by Rupert Murdoch’s ad men, rather than the second most senior cleric in the Church of England.
The article starts with Dr. Sentamu’s obvious joy that everyday of the week is now a Sun-day, “When I think that we can now get the latest news, politics and sports stories seven days a week from our country’s favourite paper, all I can say is “WOW!”” and finishes with the surprising conjoining of God and The Sun, in a line that has the ring of a holy endorsement of the newspaper, ”Embrace every day that God puts before you with confidence. And if you can buy the Sun seven days a week, even better!”
So why has Dr. Sentamu so radically thrown his support behind what many see as not quite a bastion of good moral leadership? Dr. Sentamu made clear via Twitter that it was not the money as all has been donated to a local charity, ”As with all my newspaper articles, all proceeds for writing my column in The Sun will be donated to St Leonard’s Hospice in York.” This is definitely a worthy cause, but is raising money for the end of life care centre the reason?
Perhaps the words of Dr. Sentamu are correct and the tabloid has turned a corner from The News Of The World, and we perhaps should give it a chance, but the none-to-subtle backing of the paper in such a manner by a man many see as a moral authority will no doubt raise eyebrows both within the church and in society in general.
So what do you think? Is Dr. Sentamu wrong to give full backing to a newspaper that rejoices in sensationalism, gossip and breasts? Or is the medium less important than the message, and if by writing for The Sun gets his message out to the widest audience possible is there a problem?