“Communicating hope and trust in our time.”

- Pope Francis

Raising the bar of social communications

IN his message for the 51st World Communications Day, which is celebrated annually on Ascension Sunday, Pope Francis has raised the bar of social communications. He enjoined communicators, the Catholic ones obviously, “to engage in constructive forms of communication that reject prejudices towards others and foster a culture of encounter, helping all of us to view the world around us with realism and trust.”

As every journalist will agree, the most difficult and crucial part of telling a story is finding the lead or the “angulo”. It is the perspective upon which the storyteller builds up the story. Without it the story rumbles or beats around the bush hitting nothing. A master storyteller who has mellowed and aged in the craft of lead-making delivers the strongest blow in shaping public opinion or in provoking a continuing public discourse.

Pope Francis is right in saying that “life is not simply a bare succession of events, but a history, a story waiting to be told through the choice of an interpretative lens that can select and gather the most relevant data.” The “interpretative lens” is the perspective upon which the lead of the story is given birth, so to speak, and secured. The Pope continues, “Everything depends on the way we look at things, on the lens we use to view them. If we change that lens, reality itself appears different. So how can we begin to ‘read’ reality through the right lens?”

Normally, the “lens” of a journalist is the truth. But the closest that a journalist can get to the truth is to present a balanced story, which means getting all the viable sides of the story and construct “objectivity” out of them. This is how far the truth is unearthed in mainstream journalism. Which, of course, is not enough because objective truth (or at least how philosophers define “truth”) does not absolutely reside in data or information sources. In the end, truth in the story being told will still be relative no matter how balanced the presentation be.

This is where the logic of Pope Francis comes. For him the “lens” or the mindset of every story is the Gospel, the Good News, Jesus Christ himself. This is not to say that “the Good News–Jesus himself–is not good because it has nothing to do with suffering, but rather because suffering itself becomes part of a bigger picture.” He says, “every new tragedy that occurs in the world’s history can also become a setting for good news, inasmuch as love can find a way to draw near and to raise up sympathetic hearts, resolute faces and hands ready to build anew.”

In the long-standing media landscape where good news do not sell, and where the tragic and sensational easily turns into entertainment, Pope Francis says, “I would like, then, to contribute to the search for an open and creative style of communication that never seeks to glamorize evil but instead concentrate on solutions and to inspire a positive and responsible approach on the part of its recipients. I ask everyone to offer the people of our time storylines that are at the heart of the ‘good news’. He nails it.

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