This phrase caught my eye when I read about the new head of the cable news network:
Mr. Thompson, a British-born Catholic who is a big fan of classical music, opera and television, has mostly stayed out of the media limelight since he left The [New York] Times.
It’s not often that you see that description used to identify the head of a television network. I was curious to learn more about Mark Thompson’s background. Encyclopedia Britannica notes:
Thompson attended Stonyhurst College, a prestigious Jesuit Roman Catholic school in Lancashire. After graduating (1979) from Merton College, Oxford, he joined the BBC as a production trainee. For the next 33 years he worked solely in broadcasting. By the age of 30 he had become editor of BBC television’s flagship nightly Nine O’Clock News. He went on to become one of the BBC’s most senior managers, rising to controller of the BBC2 channel in 1996 and to director of national and regional broadcasting in 1999.
… After leaving the BBC in 2012, Thompson joined The New York Times Co. as CEO and president. Although his selection surprised many—he was not a newspaper journalist and had never worked in the private sector—his ability to develop new technology was seen as highly advantageous as the company faced financial stringency and rapidly changing audience habits. Under his oversight, the company experienced a dramatic turnaround, backed by a dramatic increase in online subscriptions as it adopted a digital-centric focus. Thompson stepped down in 2020, and the following year he became chairman of the board of directors at Ancestry, a genealogy company.
A short item in Christianity Today from 2012 (when he joined the Times) adds:
Mark Thompson … describes himself as “a critical realist in religious matters”–and now some are anxious to see how those beliefs will play out in his new role at the Times. Thompson’s role focuses on business decisions, not editorial ones, for the NYT.
In an interview last year, Thompson told Oxford University professor Timothy Garton Ash that he believes “the truths of the Christian faith are objective truths, rather than being entirely subjective.”
In one interview, he talked about the free speech and the opera Jerry Springer:
I’m a practicing Catholic and I would probably describe myself as a critical realist in religious matters but I’m a realist and I believe, as it were, that the truths of the Christian faith are objective truths, rather than being entirely subjective. I’m not, as it were, a cupid-like figure. I was not in any way offended by the piece even though as it happens I feel myself to be quite personally sensitive to a mockery of religious images. For example, I’ve never watched The Last Temptation of Christ. I tend to avoid films or books, which I think might upset me.
Q: Has the BBC shown The Last Temptation of Christ?
A: It has been shown in the UK, I can’t remember which broadcaster showed it. To repeat, I’m not against it being broadcast. The fact that I personally might decide not to watch a programme does not mean I don’t think it should be broadcast. Indeed I would always urge people if somebody thinks that they’re going to find a programme offensive, the best advice you can give them is don’t watch it. And the Life of Brian I never watched. That hasn’t been shown by the BBC and I would certainly defend our right to show it. And if I had to watch it for professional reasons I would but, as it happens, I’ve chosen not to watch it.