Tag Archive: media

Riding the 24hr news wave


I spent a very absorbing weekend at Media City here in Manchester, with a group called Catholic Voices.  Originally set up to respond to the opposition to Pope Benedict’s Visit, they are still recruiting teams of very capable speakers – to be wheeled into TV & Radio Studios as the relentless 24hr news schedule rolls remorselessly on and on.  To give you a sense of their great work watch the video clip below.

This weekend was a training weekend, accompanying them as their chaplain, I was both inspired and moved by their generosity and their commitment. It impressed me how much they cared about putting across the faith in the best way.  The training is very professional, they underwent a fairly hostile interview from experienced BBC journalists on both the radio and also on TV.  A brilliant technique they are taught is always to find the positive intention, especially in an ‘opponents’ view point or in their interviewers searching questions.  So when an interview begins with the question ‘ Are you a Bigot or a Dinosaur?’ they are able to gracefully sidestep it and get into the message they want to share.

Seeking the positive intention in a hostile interview or debate reminds me of St Ignatius advice to Spiritual Directors

That both the giver and the maker of the Spiritual Exercises may be of greater help and benefit to each other, it should be presupposed that they ought to be more eager to put a good interpretation on a neighbour’s statement than to condemn it. (Paragraph 22)

25297_WWhen we were in the hothouse of the Jesuit Novitiate this was very useful – and we often used to say to each other – ‘paragraph 22’ – i.e. lay off.

The other thing that impresses me about Catholic Voices is their ability to get across a complicated brief, aided by an excellent book written by one of their founders, Austen Ivereigh. The Book is called How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice.  It is masterful how it deals with complex and damaging assumptions about the Catholic Church, and explores them to give a balanced and clear representation of the issues.

Keep up the good work!!


In the UK there is undoubtedly a wonderful feel-good factor at the end of a horrendously wet summer.  There is a big discussion about what the legacy of the summer should be.  For me the big difference has been how positive the media has been.  Many people have commented on how the newspapers, TV, radio and now the internet should be reflecting news not creating news. The reality is there is a complex relationship between reporting the news and commenting on the news, on reflecting opinion and forming opinion.  With the Jubilee and the Olympics the media ‘got on board’ and have had a huge role in the feel good factor.  For once optimism and hope has replaced cynicism and for me this is the legacy of the Games.  I often have though wouldn’t it be great if we could launch a mainstream, national, good news paper.  Not avoiding what is happening in the world, but at least balancing the bad news with good news.  There is a magazine called ‘The Week’ which gives a summary of the week’s news and how it has been reported.  I enjoy reading it, but my favourite bit is a tiny section inside the front page called ‘It wasn’t all bad’  with an inspiring good news story for the week.  Useful for talks, speeches or homilies!

The channel adopted the BBC News style in 1999

The most powerful news agent in the UK is the BBC.  I am a big fan of the ‘Beeb’ , the quality of its programmes, podcasts are world-class.  So when I have been abroad I often boast about the BBC.  However earlier this year when I was in the Philippines, a very smart and sophisticated young man listened to me politely and then very gently pointed out to me how they consider the BBC to be anti-Christian.  I was shocked but could see the arguments he made,  it was interesting to see how popular Al Jazeera was becoming there.  Mark Thompson, the Jesuit-educated outgoing director general of the BBC  has recently admitted so. In an interview about how the BBC represents religion (click here) he said that at least in the UK, Christianity was treated as being more ‘broad shouldered’ than other religions which are much more identified with ethnic minorities. He makes a compelling point – however I think that sometimes an excellent desire for ‘tolerance’  can be distorted, and much of the liberal-elite group think that dominates the UK establishments is reflected in a prejudice against Christianity.   How the news is reported and commented on is important it should try to represent the whole of the country not just metropolitan elites and their incestuous media cities.   This summer the collective power of the media has played a huge role in the feel-good factor, that should be the real legacy as we head into an autumn of strikes, squabbles and X Factor!

Below is a small excerpt of Mark Thompson’s interview – click here for the full length.


I remember doing my teacher training degree in the UK – and our course was being inspected by the government.  Part of the inspection was to observe us (the student-teachers) teaching in our placements.  I was observed teaching a religion lesson in a totally secular school in South London – where religion was at best a curiosity.  Of a student body of 1200 – the RE department had one teacher!!  Religious Education was tolerated – if not exactly encouraged. The student body generally matched the official apathy of the school – with one or two exceptions.  So my job was to win hearts and minds and stimulate interest.  I decided to teach a lesson on Religion on the Internet – asking the students to find out which ‘celebrity’ had the most listings on Google.  Beckham? No (159million).  Lady Gaga? No (500million). Obama (745million) – The answer was of course Jesus (847million).

I suppose the point is a serious one.  Religious believers (and fanatics! and bigots!) are very quick at adapting new technologies to promote their messages. It is easy to identify key moments in the development of communication technology.  Ancient writings moved from tablets – to scrolls – to books due to the invention of the Codex by Romans.  But it was the Early Christians spreading the Gospels and the Bible that made the Codex popular. Then of course came the Reformation and Gutenberg’s printing press – the innovation of movable type made mass printing of leaflets, pamphlets and of course the Gutenberg Bible feasible. Jump forward a few centuries and Marconi – the inventor of long distance radio – wanted to personally introduce in 1931 the first radio broadcast of a Pope, Pius XI, announcing at the microphone: “With the help of God, who places so many mysterious forces of nature at man’s disposal, I have been able to prepare this instrument which will give to the faithful of the entire world the joy of listening to the voice of the Holy Father”  And then Thomas Doherty claimed in an oft repeated phrase that Golden Age Hollywood was “a Jewish-owned business selling Catholic theology to Protestant America.”

So I guess we shouldn’t be surprised by the proliferation of religious content (of varying quality and accuracy) on the internet.  I particularly enjoy some of the creative video clips – which are great for use in schools / assemblies  / talks or even introducing prayer. One I was sent via twitter today:

See it without the water mark at this external link

You may well have seen this already by the excellent Igniter Media (also check out their Social Media Christmas)

And finally how about this for lapsed Catholics