News, Myth and Society:
Mother Teresa as Exemplary Model
Comparisons of news and myth seem to have faded from our literature. In the
1970s and 1980s, some of our best thinkers D including Gaye Tuchman, James
Carey, Stuart Hall and many others D used myth as a way to explore the role of
news in society. In the 1990s, however, the explorations seem to have reached a
dead end. Though the early work still makes bibliographic appearances, the
comparisons of news and myth are mostly cited and recited as research relics.
The point is made D news bears interesting similarities to myth D and dropped.
This paper will argue that comparisons of news and myth still have much to
contribute. Indeed, the contributions are now, in particular, sorely needed. The
news media seldom if ever have been more degraded. Their practicioners are held
in the lowest esteem. Their content is constantly questioned, or more likely,
ignored. Their survival, in present forms, is suspect. Scholars and journalists
search with increasing franticness for models that might lead to better
understanding of the news, invigorate its practice and restore its role in
Myth can provide such a model. To consider news as myth D as symbolic
narratives that attempt to organize, portray, represent and explain the world D
brings the scholar and the journalist to the very heart of social life. No
blithe academic gloss, a comparison should demonstrate the complex cultural,
social and political ties that bind news and myth. It should point out how myth
can offer insights into news' social role. Finally, it may even suggest, as
Eliade, Barthes and McLuhan did in the 1950s, that news is myth, that
comparisons of news and myth are necessary because myth has taken modern form in
The purpose of this paper is to begin building a model that restores myth to a
privileged place in studies of news and society. The paper first will review the
rich tradition that gave rise to comparisons of news and myth in the 1950s and
earlier. It will briefly trace the strains of research that emerged from this
tradition, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s. It will offer reasons why this
research seemingly has faltered in our times. And it will propose a perspective
that might recapture and extend the insights provided by links between news and
myth. Finally, the paper will demonstrate the possibilities of the model by
using myth to explore a case of news reporting D New York Times coverage of
Seeing News as Myth
Though they did not specifically address links between news and myth, the
Chicago School of social thought D the University of Chicago scholars writing in
the first decades of the 1900s D provided important conceptual background. Mead,
Dewey, Cooley and Park emphasized the crucial connection between communication
and community, a connection that others explored by seeing news as myth.
Specific comparisons between news and myth came from a varied, eclectic group
of scholars. As in many discussions of news, Roland Barthes provides an
important starting point. In 1957, Barthes published Mythologies, a collection
of semiotic analyses of modern myths in subjects as varied as professional
wrestling, advertisements, and novels. The collection was based on a
consideration of news as myth.
"The starting point of these reflections was usually a feeling of impatience at
the sight of the naturalness with which newspapers, art and common sense
constantly dress up a reality which, even though it is one we live in, is
undoubtedly determined by history," Barthes wrote. News reports, like myth, help
shape D and are shaped by D assumptions and beliefs of a society, Barthes
recognized. "Myth does not deny things," he said. "On the contrary, its function
is to talk about them; simply it purifies them, it makes them innocent, it gives
them a natural and eternal justification."
Also in 1957, the philosopher of religion Mircea Eliade linked media narratives
to myth. He first inquired as to whether myth "may not also survive among our
contemporaries in more or less degraded forms." He answered that "myths and
mythological images are to be found everywhere, laicised, degraded or disguised;
one only needs to be able to recognise them." And, he pointed out in
particular, "the mythical structures of the images and behavior patterns imposed
on collectivities by mass media." The mass media, he said, have become the
repository of countless mythical motifs.
Marshall McLuhan, in a 1959 essay, "Myth and Mass Media," put forth a similar
idea. He wrote that "we live in a postliterate and electronic world, in which we
seek images of collective postures of mind." He said, "In some respects, myth
was the means of access to such collective postures in the past. But our new
technology gives us many new means of access to group-dynamic patterns." In an
evocative passage, McLuhan called the newspaper a modern "Babel of myths" with
each news report offering its own mythic image of the world. "Each [news]
item," he said, "makes its own world, unrelated to any other item save by date
line." And he suggested, "we can regard all media as myths and as the prolific
source of many subordinate myths."
Two Research Traditions
Based in part on these disparate but influential works, writers in the 1970s
and 1980s adopted myth to study the role of news in society. This large body of
research D only briefly touched upon here D might usefully be organized into two
distinct, but sometimes overlapping, traditions. One tradition emphasized social
and cultural links between news and myth. A second tradition emphasized
political and ideological comparisons.
News and Myth as Cultural Forms. As has been often shown, research on news and
society was long dominated by a social science perspective that reduced and
restricted inquiry, often to a single focus on media effects. In attempts to
broaden the discussion, some writers offered myth as a means to explore the
social and cultural dimensions of news.
James Carey exemplifies this work. Combining a McLuhan-like emphasis on
technology with the Chicago-school emphasis on symbolic systems, Carey often has
touched upon myth in his cultural studies of the news. In constructing his
familiar distinction between transmission and ritual views of communication,
Carey considered comparisons of news and myth.
We create, express, and convey our knowledge of and attitudes toward
reality through the construction of a variety of symbol systems: art,
journalism, religion, common sense, mythology. How do we do this? What are
differences between these forms? What are the historical and comparative
variations in them?
Reading a newspaper, for example, Carey said, should be seen "less as sending or
gaining information and more like attending a mass: a situation in which nothing
new is learned but in which a particular view of the world is portrayed and
Carey's later edited collection, Media, Myths, and Narratives: Television and
the Press also contributed to studies of news and myth. Bird and Dardenne in
particular argued persuasively that "news is a particular kind of mythological
narrative with its own symbolic codes that are recognized by its audience."
They saw in myth an avenue to explore the role of news in culture.
News and Myth as Ideological Forms. Other writers have seen in myth an
opportunity to extend inquiry into the ideological role of news. Inspired
particularly by Barthes' work, these writers argue that a primary function of
news, like myth, is to create, shape and sustain social order.
The use of myth to study the relationship between news and ideology has been
central to the work of a number of researchers in British cultural studies.
Stuart Hall found that news, like myth, draws from the prevailing codes of a
culture, reproducing and maintaining the dominant ideology. "Just as the
myth-teller may be unaware of the basic elements out of which his particular
version of the myth is generated," Hall wrote, "so broadcasters may not be aware
of the fact that the frameworks and classifications they were drawing on
reproduced the ideological inventories of their society."
In a similar tradition, John Hartley compared news and myth. He said myth is
"formed and reformed according to the relations between social groups and
forces." And thus, one of the primary functions of news is continuously to
"signify myths through the everyday detail of 'newsworthy' events," Hartley
said. "News is a myth-maker."
Others outside British cultural studies also have seen ideological implications
in comparisons of news and myth. In a 1981 essay, "Myth and the Consciousness
Industry," Gaye Tuchman compared news and myth as forms that legitimate
ideology. "As myth, news suggests that social and economic forces (never
analyzed but detailed through the logic of the concrete) are primeval forces
akin to the bureaucratized legitimated institutions designed to cope with them,"
Tuchman said. And, she added, "social and economic forces as legitimated
institutions become actors in a post-industrial passion play."
The Dead Ends
The two research traditions added much to our understanding of news, myth and
society. But they have come to dead ends. The literature shows few recent works
in either tradition. A reason: Both traditions used news and myth to talk about
something else. One used myth to talk about news as an integral cultural form.
The other used myth to talk about news as an ideological force. Perhaps eager to
establish primary points, writers focused on important but isolated links
between news and myth. They overlooked or were uninterested in further links
that, taken together, might lead to a fuller comparison. They failed to mine the
rich, substantive insights that might come from a close examination truly
interested in news as myth.
Another reason for the scholarly dead ends: Perhaps unknowingly, these writers
evoked the almost classic opposition that sees myth as something other cultures
have. The writers sometimes actually stated the opposite. They paid tribute to
the modern role of myth in society. Yet their use of myth was founded on the
opposition: Myth was something others had and news was something we have. Their
myths were useful to gain insights into our news.
By evoking this idea that myth is for others, the research traditions were
untrue to their own roots. Barthes, Eliade, McLuhan and others saw myth as
essential to all societies. When these writers linked news and myth, they did
not leave myth behind to talk about the news. They were paying tribute to the
ability of myth to assert its influence in yet another form.
Myth takes different forms in each society, they knew. Eliade called these
forms "the survivals and camouflages" of myth. Myth usually does not, in
modern societies, take the form of legal or religious code. Myth instead takes a
more fitting form D fragmented, camouflaged, hidden D often in mass-mediated
narratives that do not admit to their own influence or presence.
By retaining a focus on myth, more insights actually can be gained into news.
If myth has taken modern form in news D if news is myth D new avenues can be
taken in pursuit of the social role of news. The role of myth in society has
its own long and distinguished tradition that may thus add to our understanding
The Social Role of Myth
The social role of myth has been the subject of numerous studies for hundreds
of years, from writers as diverse as Freud, Campbell, Cassirer and Levi-Strauss.
Some of myth's greatest scholars, including Malinowski and Eliade, have made the
role of myth one of their primary concerns. Though the literature is voluminous
and wide-ranging, a number of themes occur regularly. In particular, scholars
have identified seven, sometimes overlapping, roles that myth performs for
Myth serves: to offer exemplary models for behavior; to isolate and ostracize
dissent; to promote social order; to reconcile humanity with the vagaries of
fate and death; to survey the world and act as a perceptual warning system; to
mediate conflict, and to represent values and beliefs of the dominant order.
The list is suggestive rather than exhaustive. No list can be complete or
satisfy the many roles that scholars have ascribed to myth. Yet these roles do
indicate the extent to which myth is implicated in social life. Bronislav
Malinowski, in an oft-quoted passage, captures the real ties between myth and
society. He wrote:
Studied alive, myth, as we shall see, is not symbolic, but a direct
expression of its subject matter; it is not an explanation in satisfaction
scientific interest, but a narrative resurrection of a primeval reality,
satisfaction of deep religious wants, moral cravings, social submissions,
practical requirements. Myth fulfills in primitive culture an indispensable
function: it expresses, enhances, and codifies belief; it safeguards and
enforces morality; it vouches for the efficiency of ritual and contains
practical rules for the guidance of man. Myth is thus a vital ingredient of
human civilization; it is not an idle tale, but a hardworked active force;
not an intellectual explanation or an artistic imagery, but a pragmatic
of primitive faith and moral wisdom.
The Social Role of News
If myth has taken modern form in the news, then news may serve the roles that
scholars have ascribed to myth. And those roles point to the large research
agenda that opens up from serious consideration of news as myth. Rather than a
scholarly dead end, the comparison leads to numerous inquiries that probe the
relationship among myth, news and society.
If news is myth, to what extent and in what ways does news offer exemplary
models; isolate dissent; promote social order; reconcile humanity with fate and
death; survey the world as a perceptual warning system; mediate conflict, and
represent dominant values and beliefs?
This essay attempts to demonstrate the possibilities of such inquiries by
taking up a case study. It will focus on one of myth's great roles D to provide
exemplary models. Studies in myth have long affirmed that myth serves to
identify and portray models for behavior within society. As Malinowski noted,
myth "contains practical rules for the guidance of man" and thus supplies people
with "the motive for ritual and moral actions, as well as with indications as to
how to perform them."
Eliade too found that myth was "sacred, exemplary, significant" because it
"supplies models for human behavior and, by that very fact, gives meaning and
value to life." Elsewhere Eliade wrote, "The main function of myth is to
determine the exemplar models of all ritual, and of all significant human acts."
He said, myth thus "provides a model, whenever there is a question of doing
something" [emphasis in original].
Doesn't the news too offer such models? Does the news fulfill this mythic role?
The following study examines those questions in a purposely suggestive case of
news reporting D New York Times coverage of Mother Teresa. To provide background
and context for Times coverage, the following section offers a brief
biographical summary of the woman known as Mother Teresa.
Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu
Mother Teresa has joined an interesting array of cultural figures D including
popes, John Wayne, Dylan, Marilyn Monroe, Madonna, the artist formerly known as
Prince and many others D who have achieved status and fame with names they gave
to themselves. Born in 1910, in the city of Skopje, in what is now Yugoslavia,
Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu was the daughter of an Albanian grocer and his wife. She
grew up immersed in the Roman Catholic faith. At 18 years old, she sailed to
Ireland to join the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary D the Sisters of Loreto
D an order dedicated to missionary work and teaching. Following tradition, she
took on a new name. Her book, A Simple Path, says she chose "Teresa" after St.
Theresa of Lisieux, known as the Little Flower of Jesus.
As Sister Teresa, less than two months after her arrival in Ireland, she was
assigned to India and for 20 years taught the daughters of the affluent citizens
of Calcutta. Her convent was not far from the incredible slums of that city. She
studied nursing and began to minister to the sick and dying. In 1948, she
obtained permission from the Church and Calcutta authorities to move from her
convent into the slum. In 1950, she founded her own order in the city, an order
that offered a combination of health care, food, education and religion.
As Mother Teresa, she became a citizen of India. She directed that the nuns of
the Order of the Missionaries of Charity wear Indian saris as their habits. She
opened centers to serve the poor and sick. She ministered to lepers and
Her work attracted increasing attention and support within the Church. She
received awards from the Vatican and was heralded in the Church press. In 1964,
Pope Paul VI traveled to India to praise her labors. He gave her his limousine,
which she sold through a raffle. The following year, her order was named a
pontifical congregation, reporting directly to the Pope.
She soon found sustained international attention outside the Church. The New
York Times ran an early feature story in 1968. In 1969, Malcolm Muggeridge
narrated a long BBC documentary, "Something Beautiful for God," that led to
increased coverage around the globe. Mother Teresa added fundraising to her
duties, lobbying governments and individuals for support. Her order grew to more
than 1,000 nuns with close to 100 centers. In the 1970s, she was nominated in
succeeding years for the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1979 she won the prize, garnering
more people and support to her order.
In recent years, she has been slowed by illness and age. She has been
hospitalized for long intervals. Her order, which now numbers hundreds of
centers, more than 4,000 nuns and tens of thousands of lay workers, named a
successor in March 1997.
Mother Teresa has not escaped political scrutiny and criticism. Her stance
toward contraception and family planning, in a land grappling with
overpopulation, has earned her enmity and abuse. One publication called her "a
disaster for India."
Christopher Hitchens of The Nation has carried on a long campaign against what
he calls the cult of Mother Teresa. He has called her "a dangerous, sinister
person" while keeping up "an M.T. watch of sorts" on her social and political
activities. He finds her opposition to birth control to be ruinous for
India. He points out her association with wealthy but disreputable benefactors
who have included dictators of Haiti, Albania, and Charles Keating at the height
of his abuse of savings and loans monies. He suggests that she uses her
funds not to help the poor of India but to increase the spread of her order.
Hitchens saves particular scorn for news coverage. He savages "the astonishing,
abject credulity of the media in the face of the M.T. fraud." In interviews,
he charges the news media with laziness and suggests that Mother Teresa is
simply an easy symbol and "handy metaphor" for virtue. In his later columns,
he has prepared readers for "the tsunami of bullshit that will break over them
when 'Mother' gives up the ghost."
Hitchens acknowledges that his antipathy for Mother Teresa derives in part from
his aggressive atheism. But his critique of news coverage is suggestive. In the
context of this study, the issue is framed more broadly. Rather than critique
the news for pliant coverage and worshipful narratives of a cultural figure,
this study is interested in pursuing deeper reasons for such coverage. It argues
that reporting on Mother Teresa, specifically in this case in The New York
Times, fulfills one of myth's crucial roles D to offer exemplary models.
Times Coverage of Mother Teresa
Since the imprimatur of the Nobel Prize for peace in 1979, Mother Teresa's name
and status have become firmly established on the global scene. Even the casual
news reader now recognizes that the words "Mother Teresa" have become a metaphor
for virtuous behavior. Analyzing later coverage of Mother Teresa thus yields few
insights into the news. Reports reaffirm her celebrity and confirm her
The most interesting time period for studies of news on Mother Teresa thus is
before 1980. Analyzing coverage in the decades leading up to her Nobel Peace
Prize can yield insights into the evolution of such metaphoric status, the
creation of models and the possible links between news and myth. This study thus
takes up reporting from 1950, when Sister Teresa first established her order, to
1980, just after Mother Teresa won the Nobel prize. It looks at coverage by The
New York Times, elite and essential for studies of news and society.
The questions: What was the nature of Times reporting on Mother Teresa? To what
extent did that reporting fulfill one of the primary roles of myth D the
portrayal of exemplary social models?
'Reds Still Strong in Calcutta'
India was the focus of much Times coverage in the 1950s and 1960s. In the
framework of the Cold War, which long structured Times foreign correspondence,
the new Indian democracy was seen as a fragile system, threatened by Communism.
For example, a 1957 story in the Sunday magazine looked back at "India's Great
Adventure, Ten Years Later." It portrayed India as struggling against the
Communist threat as well as "the danger of Chinese infiltration." The
country seemed to be a requisite foreign post for future Times leaders. Bylines
from India included A.M Rosenthal, C. L. Sulzberger and Joseph Lelyveld.
Calcutta in particular received much coverage. Its immense poverty left the
city vulnerable to Communism, the Times reported. For example, one report was
headlined, "Reds Still Strong in Calcutta Despite China Border Dispute."
Another said, "Calcutta a City of Frustrations; Hordes Existing in Hovels D
Educated Find No Jobs and Turn Communist."
Mother Teresa appeared in none of this coverage throughout the 1950s and much
of the 1960s. The conventions of the Times' foreign desk were firmly
established. Times correspondents relied for sources almost exclusively upon top
government officials in foreign capitals. Reporters would support or counter
these sources with their own observations of events or brief quotations from
people on the streets. The style was very much that of the expert correspondent
filing informed observations in a report from abroad.
Even in the mid-1960s, as the Times incorporated more feature stories on
ordinary citizens into its foreign correspondence, Mother Teresa made no
appearance. For example, a 1967 story on the destitute homeless of Calcutta D a
topic firmly linked in our time to Mother Teresa D had no mention of her.
'The Good Samaritan of Calcutta'
On April 13, 1968, Mother Teresa was introduced to readers of the Times. In
retrospect, the date itself deserves consideration. The story was published 11
years before the world-wide attention of the Nobel Prize. In the context of
Western news media, the Times found Mother Teresa earlier than most. Though
religious publications and Indian newspapers, such as The Statesman, had been
writing about her work for years, many observers cite Muggeridge's 1969 BBC
documentary as the turning point in international press coverage. The Times
story thus anticipated the intense coverage that Mother Teresa would receive in
the decades ahead. But the story appeared 18 years after Mother Teresa had begun
her order and four years after the Roman Catholic Church, including Pope Paul
VI, had singled her out for international acclaim.
And a close examination of this first Times story on Mother Teresa shows that
her symbolic meaning was already largely in place. Mother Teresa immediately
emerged fully formed as an exemplary model in the Times. Not a "newsmaker" in
any traditional sense, Mother Teresa was reported as a feature story, a subject
chosen precisely because of her exemplary behavior.
"A Calcutta Nun Softens Death for the Poor," by Joseph Lelyveld, ran on page
A2. It was a mid-sized feature, about 19 column inches, accompanied by a 4-inch
deep, 3-column wide photograph of Mother Teresa, clothed in white sari and
robes, facing the camera with a full nursery of children behind. The caption
read, "Mother Teresa, the good Samaritan of Calcutta, talks with a visitor at
The story was a traditional feature, a profile of a religious figure deeply
involved in charitable work. Though the scope of the order's operations were
mentioned, the goal of the piece was to render a personal portrait of Mother
Teresa. It provided brief biography and background. It described her dress and
speech. It quoted her views on death and charity. It lauded her work.
The lead stated: "If there is a limit to the misery of Calcutta's streets, it
is set by Mother Teresa, an Albanian-born nun whose mission is dedicated to
caring for those who have no other possibility of help." The story then followed
a tour of her order's institutions. The reporter accompanied a group of
"upper-class India women, who had volunteered to help Mother Teresa in her
work." After a brief mention of a crowded nursery, the story quoted its subject.
"The nun, who wears a white cotton sari, remarked: 'This is life. Now we will
see the dying.' The words came briskly, without a trace of melodrama."
A "Home for Dying Destitutes" was next on the tour. "There is only one
criterion for admission," the report stated. "The patients must be so far gone"
that the overcrowded hospitals turn them away. However, the story said, "Mother
Teresa never turns any away, even when she can offer nothing more than a chance
to die with a little dignity and peace. 'The worst thing is to be unwanted,' she
The "upper-class women" provided a neat, dramatic contrast as they viewed the
destitute. "They hovered in the doorway, obviously eager to retreat." Mother
Teresa was serene. "About half of them go back to the streets," Mother Teresa
said. "About half of them go to God. That's a better place, I think."
Other programs run by the order were mentioned in the context of Mother
biography. But Lelyveld steered the report back to its subject: "Despite the
widening scope of her order's activities, Mother Teresa never seems to talk
about institutions, organizations or finances. She talks about people, those she
has salvaged and those she has comforted when salvaging was impossible. In her
talk, which is modest and humorous, they never become cases."
The story gave over its last words to Mother Teresa, framed finally in almost
mystical terms: "After the upper-class women made their exit from the home for
the dying, Mother Teresa looked down the long, narrow room where nothing moved
but the ceiling fans beating the air above the low cots. An outsider could only
dimly comprehend her meaning when she smiled and said, "This is beautiful, this
is very beautiful work."
In this first report then, Mother Teresa was cast as a virtuous, symbolic
figure, "a good Samaritan" who has dedicated her life to the "poorest of the
poor." Exemplary in charity and serenity, she was set apart by the narrative
from others. The upper-class women drew back; Mother Teresa embraced. And the
reporter, "the outsider," could only "dimly comprehend" her mystical words.
It is important to note that the portrayal of the Times here was inextricably
linked to other social forces. The Times did not create or transform Mother
Teresa into a model of social behavior. That creation, that transformation D
shaped by forces that might include the Church, Mother Teresa and the success of
her work D took place before the report, and indeed has led the report to her.
The role of the Times was to identify and proclaim. That role would continue and
expand in the years ahead.
Building a Social Model: Two Themes
In the ten years after this 1968 report and preceding its coverage of the 1979
Nobel Peace Prize, the Times devoted a dozen more pieces to Mother Teresa.
Analysis found these articles embraced one of two themes. A first theme D
particularly in early articles, after the initial feature story D proclaimed
awards and honors bestowed upon Mother Teresa. These stories affirmed and
amplified her increasing global status and were sometimes complemented by other
profiles of her. This theme, of course, would reappear and culminate with
coverage of the Nobel Prize.
A second theme D in reports of her appearances and speeches at international
conferences D bore witness to her extraordinary personal powers. They testified
to her sacrifice and commitment, and heralded the qualities that set her apart
from others. Both approaches, often overlapping and complementary, served to
hold up Mother Teresa as a model for human behavior and will be examined in the
Proclaiming her Honors: 'From Calcutta with Love'
Following the 1968 story, the next stories about Mother Teresa in The New York
Times reported an array of honors. These stories confirmed her growing
international status and affirmed her as a model of virtue. On December 23,
1970, Paul Hofmann reported on Pope Paul VI's address to the College of
Cardinals in Rome. Halfway through the 700-word story, Hofmann reported
that, "The Pontiff announced that a 60-year-old nun who cares for the destitute
and lepers in India, Mother Teresa, was the first winner of the $25,000 Pope
John XXIII Peace Prize, in a new award." His quotation from the Pope depicted
Mother Teresa as a model:
"We hold up to the admiration of all this intrepid messenger of the love of
the Pope said in praise of Mother Teresa. "We do this so that by her example
of those who expend themselves for their brethren may grow and that there may
established in the world the sense of solidarity and human brotherhood."
Though the report on the papal address made only brief mention of Mother
Teresa, the Times highlighted her in an accompanying feature story, "Friend of
the World's Poor." With no byline, but presumably also written by Hofmann,
who penned the lead account, the story was supported by a two-column,
head-and-shoulder photograph of the smiling nun. "Shares the hardships of those
she serves," said the caption.
The feature story was framed as another introduction for Times readers to the
nun, "little known in the Western world." Its lead stated:
When Pope Paul VI decided to found a home for the poor of Rome three years
ago, he sent halfway around the wold and asked a nun in Calcutta to take the
At the time, there were 20,000 nuns in Rome, many of them dedicated to working
with the poor. But none of them was Mother Teresa.
With this introduction, the story continued, "Mother Teresa, little known in
the Western world, is something of a legend in her adopted India where, 22 years
ago, she gave up a teaching career to minister to the unnumbered poor." It said
that "Mother Teresa's mission of love" included 59 centers in Calcutta, 70 more
in other Indian cities as well as centers around the globe.
After reviewing biographical details, the story concluded with a focus on her
order's self-imposed hardships: "Poverty is the lot of the people Teresa serves,
but it is also the lot of the nuns. They eat the same food as the poor, rise at
4:40 A.M. and work until 9 P.M. with only 30 minutes' rest. They rarely change
this routine." The story's final words: "Teresa told one interviewer: 'Our life
of poverty is as necessary as the work itself.'"
Two days later, Christmas, the Times used these two reports to feature Mother
Teresa in an editorial, "From Calcutta with Love." The editorial began:
"Pope Paul gave the first Pope John XXIII award this week to a 60-year-old
Yugoslav-born nun whose pioneering work among the poor in Calcutta has expanded
into 'a universal mission of love.'" It provided details of her ministry and
routine and concluded: "Few have the stamina, let alone the faith to follow
Mother Teresa's self-sacrificing example. Yet all have a stake in her universal
Two weeks later, the Times covered the award ceremony itself. A three-column
photograph showed Mother Teresa at the award ceremony with Pope Paul VI.
Hofmann's report, "A Nun from India is Extolled by Pope at Peace Prize Rite,"
was a brief seven paragraphs. Its lead emphasized the symbolic status of
Mother Teresa: "Pope Paul VI today praised Mother Teresa, the founder and
Superior General of the India-based Missionaries of Charity, as a symbol of
brotherhood among men." Hofmann noted that Mother Teresa announced she would use
the money to build more housing for lepers.
After this spate of coverage, the next Times item appeared about 10 months
later. It too heralded Mother Teresa's status by making note of a biography of
her life. Malcolm Muggeridge's BBC documentary had been issued in book form. The
November 1971 Times book review began: "Time was when biographies of saints were
staples on the religious market. Malcolm Muggeridge revives the genre for a
Mother Teresa's next mention in the Times was deep in a 1972 report about
relief efforts in Pakistan. The report, briefly citing her as "a Roman Catholic
welfare worker who has gained world reknown," stated that she had opened a
hostel for women in Dacca.
The following year, the Times reported another award. A Reuters dispatch from
London said that, "Mother Teresa traveled from the squalor of Calcutta's poorest
quarters to the ornate splendor of London's Guildhall to be acclaimed today the
first winner of an annual award for progress in religion." The report noted she
intended to spend the $85,000 in support of her order. In 1975, the Times
also made brief mention of Mother Teresa in a story about Andrei Sakharov's
Nobel Peace Prize. She was said to be one of the nominees for the award.
One exception to the Times' early focus on Mother Teresa's honors and awards
was a July 1973 account by Bernard Weinraub on the monsoon season in India.
In this story, the Times returned to Calcutta and reported upon Mother Teresa's
work. The story was anchored by a large two-column photograph of the nun, baby
in arms, "caring for a youngster in her refuge in Calcutta."
The story began: "This is the season of death in Calcutta." After describing
the monsoon's devastation, the story continued: "It is the season when Mother
Theresa's nuns are busiest in their crowded shed where dying derelicts, unwanted
in hospitals, are placed on cots and washed and fed and given a final touch of
dignity." (A number of Times reports through the years spelled the nun's name,
With this exception, early Times reports on Mother Teresa offered her as a
model of exemplary behavior primarily by celebrating her awards and acclaim,
rather than her work and efforts. That is, Mother Teresa was depicted as a model
by the Times. Her symbolic status and social import were already fully formed.
The Times served to identify and amplify that status and import.
Bearing Witness: "Spiritual Parley Hears Living Saint"
A second theme D found primarily in reports of her appearances and speeches at
international conferences D gave witness to her personal powers and
extraordinary character. Though overlapping with the first theme by affirming
her global status, these stories went further by testifying to the qualities
that set Mother Teresa apart as a model.
In October 1975, a United Nations-sponsored conference on world religions was
held in New York. A brief un-bylined report anticipated the conference. Though
"spiritual leaders representing the world's five major religions, Hinduism,
Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Judaism" would be assembling, only two
speakers were mentioned by the Times: Kurt Waldheim, U.N. secretary-general, and
And the Times devoted its most substantial coverage of the conference to the
appearance of Mother Teresa on the final day. A three-column photograph of her,
seated with two others at the conference, topped the front page of a second
section. The story, written by Kenneth A. Briggs, the Times religion
correspondent, was headlined, "Spiritual Parley Hears 'Living Saint.'"
Briggs affirmed Mother Teresa's status by stating that her appearance on the
final day "symbolized her growing world renown." He also extolled her as a
model, saying, "She has been called a 'living saint' and her efforts praised as
a rebuke to the modern feeling of personal powerlessness."
After a two-paragraph summation of the conference, the report turned to a
profile of Mother Teresa. It repeated and extended details of her life and work
routine that had appeared in the previous Times profiles. Briggs also provided
this admittedly apocryphal anecdote:
A story is told of a Hindu priest from the Temple of Kali, in Mother
Teresa's neighborhood, who had, like scores of Calcutta's hospital
been judged a hopeless case and dismissed from an institution to fend for
himself. Grudgingly, he allowed the Missionary Sisters to take him in.
On his death bed, he reportedly said, "For many years I have worshipped
the image of Kali. Today for the first time I have seen the face of the
In May 1976, the Times ran an unaccompanied, three-column photograph of Mother
Teresa receiving an honorary degree at Holy Cross College. Three months
later, the Times reported on Mother Teresa's appearance in Philadelphia at a
Roman Catholic conference. Briggs again began his report by affirming Mother
Teresa's global stature. He said that the emergence of world hunger as a
Catholic priority was dramatized by the presence of Mother Teresa.
Briggs noted that "the appearance of the diminutive nun, dressed in her
conventional white Indian sari with blue border stripes, gripped the audience."
He reported her now cult-like status: "Mother Teresa has become the most
magnetic figure at the congress. Wherever she goes, crowds follow her, hoping to
touch her clothing or hear her speak." And her Christ-like actions, he said,
galvanized the conference. She appeared before the audience, said a prayer over
loaves of bread and then broke one to share with others. "Following her lead,
others on the platform took loaves and distributed them."
Mother Teresa was briefly mentioned in an October 1976 report that the Nobel
Peace Prize would not be awarded that year. The committee had failed to agree
but Mother Teresa was among those under serious consideration, the Times
The next Times account on Mother Teresa offered an exception to the string of
stories on her character and status. Though the 1979 report gave witness to her
work, it touched upon the usually unmentioned subjects of conversion and
evangelical proselytizing. The Times reported on an otherwise obscure bill
introduced in India's Parliament that banned force or inducement to bring about
religious conversions. The story focused on Christian protests to the bill,
"led by Mother Teresa." It reported her complaints that she had been refused
permission to travel to some areas of the country.
A final item in this span of Times coverage bore witness indirectly to the
labors and virtue of Mother Teresa. Furio Colombo, an Italian journalist,
visited the Harlem site of the Sisters of Mother Teresa and wrote about the
experience for the Times op-ed page. He began the trip, he said, with a mood of
adventure. "This was too beautiful, a missionary outpost in New York." He
described his disturbing, shamed transformation in the face of the sacrifice and
labors of the nuns.
In this second theme then, stories gave witness to what the Times saw as the
worthy work and extraordinary character of Mother Teresa. This theme would find
its fullest expression in October 1979 when Mother Teresa won the Nobel Peace
'A Secular Saint': the Nobel Peace Prize
The two themes D proclaiming her awards and bearing witness to her virtue D
culminated in 1979 with reporting on the Nobel Peace Prize. The lead story on
the award was published on the front page with a two-column photograph.
Correspondent Frank J. Prial in Stockholm placed prominently, in the second
paragraph, her modest response to the news: "'I am unworthy,' Mother Teresa said
in Calcutta on hearing that she had been selected."
Words from the Nobel committee's announcement followed in the fourth paragraph:
"This year, the world has turned its attention to the plight of children and
refugees, and these are precisely the categories for whom Mother Teresa has for
many years worked so selflessly." Other testimony was provided by President
Jimmy Carter, himself a candidate for the award.
Inside the paper was a package of stories on Mother Teresa that included
another photograph, a five-paragraph Reuters report of her response to the news,
a local story on reactions from Mother Teresa's nuns in the South Bronx, and a
profile, "Stubborn Fighter for the Poorest of the Poor." The profile, by
Judith Cummings, called her "a stubborn fighter" and said she was "regarded
almost as a saint in India, where her admirers stretch across all religious,
caste and ethnic barriers."
A Times editorial the following day lauded the choice of Mother Teresa.
Entitled "A Secular Saint," the editorial directly offered Mother Teresa as a
model "for us all." It began:
How typical of Mother Teresa that she should remark, "I am unworthy" when
told she had just won the Nobel Peace Prize. Her comment was not a casual
expression of blushing modesty, only a re-statement of her lifelong
that helping the helpless D indeed, helping those beyond help D "is the
duty of us all."
The editorial recounted the global reach of the Missionaries of Charity and
said, "Even before the Nobel award, its work has received international acclaim,
and Mother Teresa, whose radiant, lined face resembles a Byzantine mosaic, has
become a secular saint." It concluded: "She may not have furthered world peace
in the conventional sense, but she brought love D and peace D individually to
thousands of those the world has forsaken."
Intensified coverage of Mother Teresa continued in the wake of the Nobel Prize
announcement. A brief note on October 22 said she would travel to Oslo to accept
personally the award. Three days later, the Times returned to Calcutta for
another profile. The story, by the Times New Delhi bureau chief Michael T.
Kaufman, recounted a day with Mother Teresa. It began with her 5:30 a.m.
devotions and noted a reverential scene:
Beyond the doorway, in a corridor, a Hindu woman in an expensive sari also
knelt with her offering of flower petals. She comes every day, bringing
and waiting for an opportunity to touch Mother Teresa's feet in a Bengali
Following Mother Teresa to a nursery, the reporter noted that the children are
given food, clothing, and "as in all Mother Teresa's facilities, given love."
The story concluded with another reverential observation as the day closed.
"Soon it would be 4:30, the time when prayers end the day as it began, with
thanks to God and a commitment to others."
Kaufman's profile was prelude to a larger effort by him, a December cover story
for the Sunday magazine, timed to appear the day before the awarding of the
Nobel Prize in Oslo. "The World of Mother Teresa," said the cover,
illustrated with a close-up photograph of the Mother with a baby in arms.
Inside, the cover headline was repeated with a subhead: "In the sprawling slums
of India, 1979's Nobel Peace Prize winner nurtures the poorest of the poor and
envelops them with love." A photograph showed the nun leaning over a young
person sprawled on a sidewalk. Its caption: "Because of her compassionate
concern for the destitute, Mother Teresa has come to be known as 'the saint of
The profile began with a physical description of the woman, "remarkable in her
ordinariness." She could be, Kaufman said, "one of the Slavic ladies who clean
the offices of Manhattan late at night." But, he added, "when she smiles and
laughs, which she does often, there comes the hint of special qualities. The
human clay molds itself in unambiguous joy. The lines of her face become
exclamation marks. As with all her emotions, she communicates pleasure purely."
Writing in the first person, Kaufman pursued the reasons for Mother Teresa's
huge success, her "world-wide empire of love and charity." As a non-believer, he
said, he began the story rejecting the idea that "she is an actual saint and
that her achievements can be understood only as true miracles." However, he was
deeply moved by his time with Mother Teresa.
In one passage, he wrote: "Her eyes look at me with genuine fondness. I feel
she has time for me and cares about me, and not necessarily because of either my
business or hers." He continued, "Perhaps it is a trick, but it works, and I
know better now what the crippled man had meant when he explained his presence
at her darshan by saying that Mother loves him." He found that the source of her
success "rests in her own rare character, her strong pure passions and, yes, in
her faith in God and love of Jesus." The cover story concluded:
I had not wanted to write as personally as I have about the woman many in
India call simply Mother. It has proved unavoidable. By culture, I am
by choice, a skeptic and by journalistic adaptation, suspicious. For 20
have instinctively looked for the warts and wens and clay feet of
subjects. Seldom have I been disappointed D almost never. With Mother it is
different. I cannot accept her holiness, but her humaneness is exceptional.
The following day, the Times ran a three-column photograph atop page A2 of
Mother Teresa at a church. The caption noted she was in Oslo to receive the
Nobel prize. For the award ceremony itself, the Times relied upon an Associated
Press account. The lead called her "Calcutta's Saint of the Gutters" and
said she accepted the prize "in the name of the poor, the sick and the unwanted
children." The story pointed out that "though she usually steers clears of
controversy, Mother Teresa chose to press her longstanding opposition to
But the primary depiction was Mother Teresa as a model not just for individuals
but for nations. From the presentation of Professor John Sanness, chairman of
the Norwegian Nobel Committee, the report chose words of emulation. It said
Sanness "urged that rich nations, in assisting poorer nations, emulate Mother
Teresa's spirit and respect for individual human dignity." It quoted Sanness:
"All aid given by the rich countries must be given in the spirit of Mother
In its three-month coverage of the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize, the two themes that
had marked Times coverage of Mother Teresa for more than ten years could be
clearly seen. The Times proclaimed the honors bestowed upon Mother Teresa and
gave testimony to her virtue and worthiness.
Mother Teresa as Exemplary Model
The purpose of this study was to revisit the literature on news and myth, and
explore the ways in which myth can add to our understanding of news. Through a
suggestive case of reporting D New York Times coverage of Mother Teresa D the
study hoped to demonstrate the possibilities evoked by Barthes, Eliade, McLuhan
and others: that news is myth, that comparisons of news and myth are needed
because myth has taken modern form in the news.
The analysis did affirm, as expected, that the Times depicted Mother Teresa as
an exemplary model. Indeed, she immediately emerged in the pages of the Times as
an exemplar of virtue. Through more than a decade of reporting, she did not
"make news," except when she received honors and awards. She was first and
always a subject for profile, a feature story, constructed around her exemplary
Though the nature of Times coverage was unsurprising, the reasons for such
coverage are less clear. On one level, the study affirms the complex social
forces at work in news portrayals. Mother Teresa first appeared in the Times
fully formed as a model. Sources and forces outside the Times D including the
success of Mother Teresa's missionary order, her own clear sense of identity,
the sway of the Roman Catholic Church, and others D all had some influence in
shaping the Times portrayal.
On another level, the analysis certainly supports Hitchens' claim that Mother
Teresa has been the subject of uncritical, laudatory coverage. Some observers
and journalists indeed might wince at the plainly reverential reporting and the
unrestrained embrace of Mother Teresa as a "living saint." This study, however,
looks for deeper causes than the laziness of the news media.
On a still broader level then, the analysis finds the model of news as myth.
The question is simple but basic: Why would the Times write about Mother Teresa?
It seems natural that the Times would do so. But Barthes showed long ago that
"naturalness" is one of the key characteristics of news as myth. Because the
news seems natural, myth can remain partially hidden from view. Mother Teresa
did not "make news" in any conventional sense. The Times offered tributes to a
saintly character, portrayals of a worthy life. The stories depicted Mother
Teresa as an exemplary model.
Because Mother Teresa is a particularly illustrative example, the mythic aspect
of coverage is not difficult to identify. The mother archetype D the caring,
compassionate, maternal figure D has been well established. Eliade, for one, has
written extensively of the myths surrounding terra mater D Mother Earth. "Like
all myths," he said, "this one is also exemplary D that is, it serves as a
pattern and model to a great many human activities." Not simply constituting
models for questions of human origins, myths of the mother "also constitute
examples to be followed whenever it is a case of creating something, or of
restoring or regenerating a human being."
The Times embraced the myth of the mother. Mother Teresa was portrayed in
pictures and words as an ideal maternal figure. The first Times photograph of
her was taken at a nursery. The magazine cover photo and others showed her with
a babe in arms. "With Mother it is different," the Times correspondent wrote. Of
one Hindu man, a reporter wrote, "Mother loves him." Another cited the dying
words of a Hindu priest: "I have seen the face of the divine mother."
The woman was not simply a mother figure. She was an exemplary mother, a saint.
Numerous stories referred to her directly as a saint. She was called a "secular
saint," a "living saint" and a "saint of the gutters." And she was a model.
Heralding her awards and honors, proclaiming her virtue, the Times held up
Mother Teresa as a model for all people, "for all nations."
Year after year, the theme was presented with little change. Again, Barthes
understood the process. As he wrote long ago, "Myths are nothing but this
ceaseless, untiring solicitation, this insidious and inflexible demand that all
men recognize themselves in this image, eternal yet bearing a date, which was
built of them one day as if for all time."
The Human Interest Story as Exemplary Model
Is Mother Teresa too illustrative, too convenient a case study? The analysis
suggests precisely otherwise. By breaking down Times coverage of Mother Teresa,
the components of the reporting are shown to be quite conventional. The Times
identified a figure already heralded in her own community. It profiled her good
works. It reported honors and awards. It offered testimony to virtue and
character. Similar principles can be found every day in the news feature or
human interest story.
In his classic study, Deciding What's News, Gans found that editors and
reporters chose subjects for human interest stories "because they expect the
audiences to 'identify' with a victim or hero." Murray Edelman too
recognized the social-political dimensions of the human interest story. He
noted: "As if to paper over their inattention to daily life, the media devote
considerable attention to one kind of public event that they present as a
private one: the human interest story." He argued that, "Human interest stories
are political events because they reinforce the view that individual action is
crucial: that biography is the paramount component of historical accounts."
Often in these stories, an individual who has performed unique or virtuous
service to the community is identified as a subject. The story reports the good
works of this person, justifying its choice of subject with mention of honors or
awards. The story offers testimony of others. And in so doing, the story holds
up this individual as an exemplary model for behavior. From this perspective,
the myth invoked by Times coverage of Mother Teresa is the myth invoked each day
in the human interest story.
Eliade said, "the foremost function of myth is to reveal the exemplary models
for all human rites and all significant human activities D diet or marriage,
work or education, art or wisdom." Reporting of Mother Teresa D as well as
basic reporting of the human interest story D may be one way that news fulfills
such a mythic role. Perhaps further comparisons of news and myth D true
comparisons that embrace seriously the possibility that myth has taken modern
form in the news D can inform our understanding of news and society.
 John Dewey, The Public and Its Problems (New York: Henry Holt, 1927);
George Herbert Mead, Mind, Self, and Society (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 1934); also see Daniel J. Czitrom, Media and the American Mind: From
Morse to McLuhan (Chapel Hill; University of North Carolina Press, 1982).
 Roland Barthes, Mythologies, trans. Annette Lavers (London: Jonathan Cape,
1972), pp. 11, 143.
 Mircea Eliade, Myths, Dreams and Mysteries, trans. Philip Mairet (New York:
Harper & Brothers, 1960), pp. 27, 33.
 Mircea Eliade, Myth and Reality, trans. Willard R. Trask (New York: Harper
& Row, 1963), p. 184.
 Marshall McLuhan, "Myth and Mass Media," in Henry A. Murray, ed., Myth and
Mythmaking (New York: George Braziller, 1960) pp. 293, 298; originally published
in Daedalus 88:339-48 (1959).
 McLuhan, "Myth and Mass Media," pp. 291, 295.
 The literature of those who have explored news and myth as forms of culture
is large. Two recent insightful studies that include a discussion of previous
work: Christopher P. Campbell, Race, Myth and the News (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage,
1995); Richard Campbell, 60 Minutes and the News: A Mythology for Middle America
(Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1991).
 James W. Carey, "A Cultural Approach to Communication," Communication
 Carey, "A Cultural Approach," p. 8.
 James W. Carey, ed., Media, Myths, and Narratives: Television and the
Press (Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1988).
 S. Elizabeth Bird and Robert W. Dardenne, "Myth, Chronicle, and Story," in
James W. Carey, ed., Media, Myths, and Narratives: Television and the Press
(Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1988), pp. 70-71.
 Among many who have studied ideological implications of news and myth are:
Myles Breen and Farrell Corcoran, "Myth in the Television Discourse,"
Communication Monographs 49:127-36 (June 1982); Graham Knight and Tony Dean,
"Myth and the Structure of News," Journal of Communication 32:144-58 (Spring
1982); Tom Koch, News as Myth (New York: Greenwood Press, 1990); John Lawrence
and Bernard Timberg "News and Mythic Selectivity," Journal of American Culture
2:321-30 (Summer 1979).
 Stuart Hall, "The Rediscovery of 'Ideology': Return of the Repressed in
Media Studies," in Michael Gurevitch et al. eds., Culture, Society, and the
Media (London: Methuen, 1982), p.
 John Hartley, Understanding News (London: Methuen, 1982), pp. 29-30.
 Gaye Tuchman, "Myth and the Consciousness Industry," in Elihu Katz and
Tamas Szecsko, eds., Mass Media and Social Change (Beverly Hills: Sage, 1981),
 Eliade, Myth and Reality, p. 162.
 Bronislav Malinowski, "Myth in Primitive Psychology," in Magic, Science
and Religion (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1954), p. 101.
 Malinowski, "Myth in Primitive Psychology," pp. 101, 108.
 Eliade, Myth and Reality, pp. 1-2.
 Mircea Eliade, Patterns in Comparative Religion, trans. Rosemary Sheed
(New York: Sheed & Ward, 1958), pp. 410-11.
 Mother Teresa, A Simple Path (New York: Ballantine Books, 1995), pp.
xx-xxi. Other biographical details are taken from this book and Robert Serrou,
Teresa of Calcutta (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1980).
 Muggeridge's BBC documentary has been published as Something Beautiful for
God (New York: Harper & Row, 1971).
 "Mother Teresa A disaster for India," Free Inquiry 13:44 (Winter 1992).
 Christopher Hitchens, "Minority Report: Mother Teresa of Calcutta," The
Nation, April 13, 1992, p. 474.
 Christopher Hitchens, The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and
Practice (New York: Verso, 1995); Hitchens also helped produce a British
television documentary on Mother Teresa, "Hell's Angel."
 Hitchens, "Minority Report: Mother Teresa of Calcutta," p. 474.
 Matt Cherry, "An Interview with Christopher Hitchens on Mother Teresa,"
Free Inquiry 16:53 (Fall 1996).
 Christopher Hitchens, "Minority Report: Mother Teresa on a Roll," The
Nation, March 17, 1997, p. 8.
 The method for compiling early Times coverage of Mother Teresa bears
mention. Electronic databases begin searches in the mid-1970s or later. The New
York Times annual index was used for this study. However, the index is not
wholly reliable, particularly if individuals are not at that time well known.
Searches thus were also done under listings for "India," "Calcutta," "Roman
Catholic Church," and "Missionary." Even the spelling of names must be
scrutinized. In various years, Mother Teresa appeared under "Theresa" and
"Teresa" as well as "Mother."
 A.M. Rosenthal, "India's Great Adventure, Ten Years Later," The New York
Times Magazine, August 11, 1957, p. 9.
 Paul Grimes, "Reds Still Strong in Calcutta Despite China Border
Dispute," The New York Times, December 28, 1959, p. 3.
 Paul Grimes, "Calcutta a City of Frustrations," The New York Times,
December 27, 1959, p. 13.
 Joseph Lelyveld, "Sidewalk is Home for Kishan Babu Family in Calcutta,"
The New York Times, September 8, 1967, p. 3.
 Serrou, Teresa of Calcutta, pp. 84-85; Hitchens, "Mother Teresa on a
Roll," p. 8.
 Paul Hofmann, "Pope Deplores Criticism By Intellectual in Church," The New
York Times, December 23, 1970, p. 3.
 "Friend of the World's Poor," The New York Times, December 23, 1970, p. 3.
 "From Calcutta with Love," The New York Times, December 25, 1970, p. 28
 Paul Hofmann, "A Nun from India is Extolled by Pope at Peace Prize Rite,"
The New York Times, January 7, 1971, p. 14.
 Francis Sweeney, a review of Malcolm Muggeridge, Something Beautiful for
God, The New York Times, November 14, 1971, sec. 7, p. 26.
 Tillman Durdin, "Bengalis in Dacca Coping with Problems," The New York
Times, February 3, 1972, p. 2.
 "Mother Teresa Is Given $85,000 Prize in London," The New York Times,
April 26, 1973, p. 51.
 "Sakharov Named Winner of '75 Nobel Peace Prize," The New York Times,
October 10, 1975, pp. 1, 12.
 Bernard Weinraub, "Monsoon is Season of Death in the Slums of Calcutta,"
The New York Times, July 24, 1973, p. 2.
 "Religions of World Conferring Here," The New York Times, October 20,
1975, p. 42.
 Kenneth A. Briggs, "Spiritual Parley Hears 'Living Saint,'" The New York
Times, October 25, 1975, pp. 31, 36.
 "Receives Honorary Degree," The New York Times, May 22, 1976, p. 19.
 Kenneth A. Briggs, "Catholic Hunger Fight Dramatized," The New York Times,
August 3, 1976, p. 14.
 Bernard Weinraub, "No 1976 Nobel Peace Prize Award," The New York Times,
October 16, 1976, p. 2.
 Kasturi Rangan, "Christians in India Condemn Bill Barring Conversion
'Inducement,'" The New York Times, April 15, 1979, p. A12.
 Furio Colombo, "Message for the Pope," The New York Times, October 2,
1979, p. A23.
 Frank J. Prial, "Mother Teresa of Calcutta Wins Peace Prize," The New York
Times, October 18, 1979, p. A1.
 "She Calls Prize 'Gift for the Poor,'" The New York Times, October 18,
1979, p. A14; David Vidal, "Nuns in South Bronx Shun Fame," The New York Times,
October 18, 1979, p. A14; Judith Cummings, "Stubborn fighter for the Poorest of
the Poor," The New York Times, October 18, 1979, p. A14.
 "A Secular Saint," The New York Times, October 19, 1979, p. A34.
 "Mother Teresa Will Go to Oslo for Nobel Peace Prize," The New York Times,
October 22, 1979, p. B4.
 Michael T. Kaufman, "A Day with Mother Teresa: Kindness Is Her Key Theme,"
The New York Times, October 25, 1979, p. A2.
 Michael T. Kaufman, "The World of Mother Teresa," The New York Times
Magazine, December 9, 1979, pp. 42-111.
 "In Oslo, to Accept Nobel Peace Prize," The New York Times, December 10,
1979, p. A2.
 "Mother Teresa, Receiving Nobel, Assails Abortion," The New York Times,
December 11, 1979, p. A3.
 Eliade, Myths, Deams and Mysteries, p. 161.
 Barthes, "Myth Today," p. 155.
 The classic text: Helen M. Hughes, News and the Human Interest Story
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1940).
 Herbert J. Gans, Deciding What's News (New York: Pantheon, 1979), p. 156.
 Murray Edelman, Constructing the Political Spectacle (Chicago: University
of Chicago Press, 1988), p. 99.
 Eliade, Myth and Reality, p. 8.