Italian news director: Catholic press should consider countering mass media spin


The role of the Catholic press today might be one of providing a service of "counter-information," said a prominent figure in the Catholic media on Monday. Speaking of the global challenges to the Catholic media today, the director of Italy's most important Catholic newspaper, Avvenire, called for news sources to strongly bear witness to the authenticity of Christianity.

The director of the Italian bishops' Avvenire newspaper, Marco Tarquinio, made an address on the first day of the Catholic Press Congress being hosted by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. He was one of four directors from major Catholic publications to address the assembly during a session on global challenges to Catholic media.

Emphasizing to participants that "the message is everything," he said that all too often the truth of Christianity is recounted in the media only when it enters into crisis or participates in some way in the more general "crisis of the times." In this context, he noted, it is made to appear that the Christian voice enters the debate already on the defensive, engaging in a fight "destined to inevitably conclude with surrender."

Tarquinio underscored that this is not the case. He used the terminology of Benedict XVI, saying that "the destiny of Christian communities, even when they are a minority” is to be “a sign, a sign of contradiction."

The digital age, he said, calls the Catholic press to be present in a new space with a new language, without leaving the "authenticity" of the message behind.

Turning then to the struggle between information and "counter-information" today, he recalled a list of stories that received greater coverage in the Catholic media while being practically ignored by other news sources. The three that he detailed were the "illusory security" of the condom as protection against transmitting AIDS, the plague of pedophilia in all of society and the untold persecution of Christians.

Given the way that these stories are routinely neglected by the world media, he posed the question of whether "today, more than ever, with the style and depth that are proper of Catholic mass media, our role and our duty might not be that of serenely and tenaciously being 'counter-informers'.

"We cannot and we do not want to give in to the logic of the media circus," he said, adding, "(a)nd we're freer than anyone else to do it."

In this light, Tarquinio identified several story lines that the Catholic press must challenge itself to cover. One of these is the need to defend the inviolability of Pope Benedict and to communicate the words of "depth and truth" of his teaching that "the social questions have largely become anthropological question(s)," he said.

Avvenire's director finished his address by pointing to a final area that Catholic media professionals need to cover. “(A)s journalists and Catholics, but also only as lovers of humanity," Catholic media personnel should be able to “recount and bear witness to times when business and 'straw' are made of the values of life," he said. Tarquinio added that they must know how to do so amidst attacks on the role of the family that render social fabric "uncertain," where "the crucial liberty of believing and educating is under discussion and even negated" and where "the future and the common good are humiliated and threatened."

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