WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Editorial: in search of truth in reporting

As we celebrate 250 issues of Wel-com on Communications Sunday it is timely to reflect on the role of the Catholic media in presenting news and comment with the compassion of Jesus.
I recall a speech from a former Zealandia editor Mike Fitzsimons last year which encapsulated some of the goals of sound religious journalism.
His thesis was ‘to disturb the comfortable or comfort the disturbed’.
He maintained that, as well as reflecting the beauty of our world, an authentic media should be striving to give a rounded view. This means lifting a few stones and peering underneath at what is often most disturbing.
For example, we have already read a great deal about the build-up to World Youth Day in highly positive terms showing the church’s support for young people. But we have not seen so much analysis of the reported budget blowout. The authentic reporter would also be reporting on this.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported on March 5 that a confidential memo to diocesan priests had disclosed a 50 percent increase in budget from the initially projected $100 million to $150 million.
Most of this will provide accommodation, meals and care for more than 200,000 pilgrims and pay for the staging of major events including the opening and closing Masses. 
The SMH report says registration fees will meet about half the costs and the church will contribute about $15 million, not, it says, from any parish levies.
The pay-off would seem to be in many thousands of young people increasing their adherence to the church. But at what cost?
The question must also be asked about who will benefit. Wel-com ran a story a while ago about the Catholic Women’s League in Pahiatua raising money for a youth gathering  in the Solomons because the diocese there could not afford to send even one person to World Youth Day.
A friend in Scotland told me recently that his diocese had decided against sending anyone because of the huge hike in airfares around the time of WYD.
These are important questions for another perspective on this momentous event.
Journalists bring different perspectives to their reporting. It is the task of the journalist in pursuit of authenticity to try to present an event from as many different perspectives as possible, recognising the different questions that strike various people.
As we approach a parliamentary election the media should be assessing the government’s performance to see how it has treated those on the margins of society whom Jesus sought to comfort.
The policies of other parties should also come under robust scrutiny.
The church has given us a great blueprint in Catholic social teaching for such an assessment. Journalists should be informed of this teaching so that they can analyse policies and report on them from the perspective of society’s outcasts.
Once journalists are certain that they are raising questions from a number of perspectives, they can heed the example of the newly elected superior general of the Society of Jesus, Fr Adolfo Nicolás. He recently told journalists in Rome eager to report on a perceived rift between the Jesuits and the pope, that when he was ready to make a statement he would consider some sage advice.
I hope to follow the principles of Ghandi, who said that when we speak, it first must be true, because if it is not true it is not interesting; second, it must be charitable, and do good; and third, it must do good for others. Thus, news that, although true, does not do good but creates misunderstandings will not be interesting, and if it does not help people I think it is worthless.