On the February 1 episode of the Son Rise Morning Show, we discussed the importance of Pope Francis’ message regarding truth in news and journalism for peace.
Pope Francis’s message for World Communications Day (celebrated this year on May 13), bears the title “The truth will set you free” (Jn 8:32). During a week when we turned to news coverage of many events, including President Trump’s State of the Union address,this pastoral message from our Holy Father is more important than ever.
“Fake News” may be a popular term these days but it’s not a new topic. Pope Francis references in his own message that of Pope Paul VI, whose 1972 Message took as its theme Social Communications at the Service of Truth. Now, the incredible proliferation of technology means that more than ever, news spreads immediately and that we’re all involved in that proliferation.
The Holy Father’s message calls us to rediscover the dignity of journalism and our personal responsibility to spread the truth. When we yield to our own pride and selfishness, we can also distort the way we use our ability to communicate.
Just this week, President Trump’s SOTU address was the most tweeted-about State of the Union in Twitter history. Data from Twitter shows 4.5 million tweets sent with #SOTU or #JointAddress during the speech, breaking last year’s record of 3 million.
What, if anything, can be done to stem the tide of fake news? Pope Francis uses the biblical example of what’s perhaps the first account of fake news, Genesis’ story of the temptation in the garden (Genesis 3). He teaches us that “education for truth means teaching people how to discern, evaluate and understand our deepest desires and inclinations, lest we lose sight of what is good and yield to every temptation.” For us, this means employing quick discernment before we fall prey to disseminating “fake news.”
Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook seems to be on the same wavelength as Pope Francis with some reforms he’s making at the mammoth social media site, according to an announcement he made this week on his own Facebook feed. The fact that he’s employing his Facebook timeline to promulgate information is telling about the role of social media these days in how we obtain and share news.
Zuck’s been on a campaign this year to make sure that Facebook is “not only fun, but also good for your well-being and for society.” On January 29, he announced another shift in the algorithm, writing “We’re making a series of updates to show more high quality, trusted news. Last week we made an update to show more news from sources that are broadly trusted across our community. Today our next update is to promote news from local sources.”
A few of the biggest takeawaysI’ve gained from a close reading of the Pope’s message:
* I was very blessed by the closing comments of the message:
I would like, then, to invite everyone to promote a journalism of peace. By that, I do not mean the saccharine kind of journalism that refuses to acknowledge the existence of serious problems or smacks of sentimentalism. On the contrary, I mean a journalism that is truthful and opposed to falsehoods, rhetorical slogans, and sensational headlines. A journalism created by people for people, one that is at the service of all, especially those – and they are the majority in our world – who have no voice. A journalism less concentrated on breaking news than on exploring the underlying causes of conflicts, in order to promote deeper understanding and contribute to their resolution by setting in place virtuous processes. A journalism committed to pointing out alternatives to the escalation of shouting matches and verbal violence. (Pope Francis, World Communications Day 2018 message)
* I appreciate the biblical applications to real life situations
* I also appreciate the reminder to pray before posting or tweeting: sometimes I remind myself to read a post aloud or to do extra fact checking before sharing.
* “Pray you feed” – for peace
Copyright 2018 Lisa Hendey