Persons, places and things: Catholic journalists and the digital frontier


We’re in a rapidly evolving digital era that can be a little intimidating to journalists like me who entered the field when computers and newspapers were in the early years of their relationship. I remember as a young college graduate attempting to enter the agriculture market report into my computer at the Quad-City Times and watching numbers zipping across the screen, searching for a place to land.


So I felt a little apprehensive attending the 2014 Catholic Media Conference last week in Charlotte, N.C. Most of the workshops and speeches emphasized the importance of social media in helping Catholic journalists to evangelize people who feel at home in the digital world, to help them deepen their relationship with God.

In his June 18 keynote address, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., noted that we are “in the midst of the changing environment of social communication that I am calling the digital frontier — an environment that has been compared in its revolutionary magnitude to the invention of the alphabet and the launching of the printing press — you are being called by the new evangelization not to turn inward but to go out. Pope Francis has given us the call, the reasoning, and the attractive example of authentic and joyful witnessing to the good news of Jesus Christ in and through his Church.”

Archbishop Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, explored specific challenges he believes Catholic journalists face: the call to understand and be true to the sacred trust placed in us by the people of God; the call to resist seeking a purely neutral stance and instead seek a loving one as belonging to Christ and his Church; the call to evangelize the digital frontier in a way that moves from diatribe to dialogue; the call, to the press and bishops alike, to be friends of Jesus and of each other.


Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications at the Vatican, acknowledged in his June 19 talk that we are witnessing profound and rapid changes, making it difficult to know where things are going.

“We can, however, share our experiences and expertise in order to become more attentive, knowledgeable and flexible so as to respond better to our calling as Church communicators, who share the Gospel message through our personal and professional lives.” Archbishop Celli emphasized the importance of dialogue in communication, which aims to foster understanding and mutual respect and draw people to an encounter with Christ.

In a world driven by nonstop communication, we need to take time to listen to our audiences, said Father Eric Sundrup, S.J., who blogs for the Jesuit Post. A panelist for a session titled “How to blog about faith without losing your soul,” he identified one “how-to” as deepening our own relationship with Christ.

“You can’t do that for others if you’re not doing the same thing yourself – listening to God, going deeper into your relationship with God,” the priest said. The first thing he does in the morning is not to pull up Twitter (a social media networking tool), but to pray.

During the conference, Jim Lackey, Web services editor and manager at Catholic News Service in Washington, D.C., received the St. Francis de Sales Award, the highest honor given by the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada. Jim got his start at The Catholic Messenger, where he was diocesan editor for five years before joining CNS in 1979.

He inspires me to move more confidently into the digital frontier –– without abandoning our print edition –– so that my staff and I can help all of our readers to encounter Christ. Now, if only I could keep track of my passwords!

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