With news reports constantly being questioned and “fake news” abounding on the Internet, it comes as no surprise that the Oxford Dictionaries’ choice for 2016 Word of the Year was “post-truth.”
That’s why the World Communications Day message of Pope Francis—one of the few trusted voices on the world stage right now—hits home.
While the speed and intensity of news these days fuels a “vicious cycle of anxiety” and a “spiral of fear,” Christians should respond with honest stories that identify problems and evil, but also inspire real solutions, the pope said.
“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,” he wrote, in the message released Jan. 24, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of journalists.
In a letter to directors and editors in chief of a variety of media outlets, Msgr. Dario Vigano, prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for Communications, called for a discussion and debate on the pope’s message, especially his call for “constructive forms of communication that reject prejudice toward others and foster a culture of encounter, helping all of us to view the world around us with realism and trust.”
To be clear, the pope is not calling on the media to recount “the world of Heidi” or any other fairy tale, Msgr. Vigano said. Certainly, “trials and suffering are part of real people’s lives,” but the stories of those struggles also should “open spaces of hope.”
We certainly try to do that here at Catholic New York, as a newspaper that aims to promote the teachings of Jesus that’s at the core of our mission.
Reporting the news of the Church, and her interaction with the world, is another important part of our mission, and it’s admittedly a challenge to keep up with the pace of today’s news. Because even though we are, as noted, a newspaper, our website and other online offerings keep us busier than ever.
We agree with the pope that a particular problem today is a trend toward reporting about tragedies and human suffering in a way that almost turns the story into entertainment. We would also add that in the larger media sphere, reporting about the critical subjects of government and politics has followed that trend to an alarming degree.
Pope Francis said in his message that promoting hope and confidence is not to pretend that evil does not exist or to spread misinformation. Rather, he said, it means identifying and reporting ills in a way that does not “generate apathy, fear or the idea that evil has no limits.”
Good advice, as usual, from Pope Francis. We intend to follow it.