Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Scandalous Media Office

Amy Welborn suggests that there are serious problems with the Vatican PR machine, always it is on the defensive she suggests. One of the reasons is of course the need for secrecy, even so I find it shocking that I cannot find any explanation of the events surrounding this weekends events on the Bishops of England and Wales Website, see if you can. I am criticising the Bishops, I am criticising the very expensive Media Office.
Again and again I have English journalists ringing me, a parish priest with a blog, for background information because the Bishops Media Office are unavailable, or not able to speak to them or simply don't know. I think it is a scandal, especially as most of the negative news stories seemed to have originated in the English Media.
Could it be better not to have a Media Office?


Anonymous said...

Father,kill two birds with one stone,become the Media Office for the Church and with the vast budget you receive you will then be able to restore your church.You would do a lot better than the present shower.

Anonymous said...

Yes, in these days of 'instant communication' I would have hoped to see a good explanation on the weekend's news on the E & W Bishops' website to which informed journalists would be expected to turn. It should have been put there promptly particularly as everyone else could see that the newspapers would have a field-day with anti-catholic comments.

I know it was the weekend but it was not as if the news was unexpected and in my humble opinion the Media office should have had a statement prepared.

I hate to think how much the Media Office costs. I personally rarely consult the website - when I want up to date news on Church affairs then to the blogs I go!

Consulting Zenit at the weekend it was noticeable that the English version (unlike the French version) was late in getting the news of the FSSPX out. Long after the blogs.

When the name of the successor to Cardinal Cormac is finally announced don't expect to see it first on the E & W website ! Consult the blogs !

Francis said...

Fr. Ray,

Actually, don't complain.

I know it's a nuisance for you personally if journalists are phoning in and are competing for your time and attention, but it puts you in the position of being the Church's spokesman.

I would far rather the media spoke with you than with some full-timer in London who "doesn't have a problem" with secularism.

Do you remember the "Yes Minister" joke about something being "officially unofficial but unofficially official"? By default, your press briefings fall into this category!

Anonymous said...

As a former religious affairs reporter and producer and being a member of the church, it has always mystified me why the Media Office ever existed and why there used to be collections for 'Communications Sunday'. The Media Office is worse than useless and it would be no loss if it closes.

Even today, far more reliable information comes from these blogs.

Volpius Leonius said...

Well it would certainly be better to not have a media office than to have one that isn't performing at all. Are Bishops not able to talk to the media for themselves?

nickbris said...

The British Press only prints garbage & salacious gossip,it is better to IGNORE it.They just twist peoples words and make mischief.

This is why Tony Benn tapes every word he utters to anybody.

Anonymous said...

I, too, am often saddened by the lack of media savvy in the Church. We often do things which bemuse, even scandalise people looking in from the 'outside' (but then, so did the Lord...) However, shouldn't we view getting the Church's REAL message across as a true apostolate, rather than something which compromises our integrity? We're missing a trick here.

Anonymous said...

The bishops have got something out rather late in the day, 24 hours after the Italian and Dutch bishops. The statements are in two separate press releases on the website and are now running in the media.

But there is no denying someone fell down on this very controversial issue. And it’s no good saying that we should just ignore what the media says. For every misrepresentation or lie about the Catholic Church left unchallenged another two will spring up.

I don’t think in this instance one can accuse the media of being salacious about a man who is seen as a reinstated (no-one was around to explain) English Catholic bishop who denies the murders of thousands of Jews in the gas chambers.

The job of a press office is to be pro-active in meeting and talking with journalists outside of news events so that when controversy strikes, as it always will, the headlines might be strong, but not sensational because even journalists are reluctant to turn over those they know, like and respect.

It is also the job of a press office to be available 24/7 on rota, when necessary.

There should be at least one director (in this case a bishop) available to field media requests for a comment worked out in advance, especially when it has been flagged well ahead that a big news story is about to break.

The bishops ought to be media trained (another press office responsibility) which includes learning to recognise and to side-step any media grenades which might roll their way.

However, a press office is only as strong as its CEO and directors and if they don't want to engage then a press office is effectively emasculated.

So we are back to the question: How strongly do the bishops of E&W support HH? Or was this just another example of not seeing it coming? They were warned.

Father and other priests are placed in a very difficult position when they are asked to comment as the voice of the Church. Reporters on deadline who have been ordered to get a quote will have tried the official channels and will be desperate by the time they get to the priest bloggers. No insult intended there, Father.

The difficulty arises because priests won't know what the "line" is (ie the collective view of the E&W bishops) if, indeed, there is one. But it's a pound to a penny that a priest who tries to be helpful could well risk being told afterwards by those who kept their heads down: "You shouldn't have said that."

If I had a pound for every time I've seen that played out in a weak organisation, I'd be rich.

Anonymous said...

A poster on 'Holy Smoke' has commented that the website of the bishops of England and Wales have finally put up the news.

He/she mentions that the bishops 'acknowledge' the lifting of the excommunications - no mention of welcoming the prodigal sons.

Francis said...

Fr. Ray,

Looking now at the press release that has finally emerged, I'm wondering if the delay was caused, not by ineptitude or inertia at the Media Office, but by disagreement over the line to take.

This is guesswork on my part, but when I saw the word "acknowledge" I felt sure that Roget's Thesaurus must have been extensively thumbed to find a neutral word that could embrace a situation where a couple of bishops "welcomed" the news, others "deplored" it and most "wished it would go away."

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