The written press, a tool for the mission… (PE nr. 1081)

Freddy Kyombo

Today, the written press is not confined to those who know how to read and write. The news that the written press puts out, be it true or false, is broadcast or shared in many different ways such as informal conversations, radio, television, social networks, etc. It is in fact, the principal source of information in our day whether it is printed on paper, or under the form of articles on the Internet. Articles published in newspapers, reviews and magazines inspire audio-visual communicators and blogs put out by professionals and non-professionals alike.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of the written press?

There are certainly a great many on both sides, but I am only going to refer to those that come to my mind at the present moment. Regarding documentation, the written press in its printed or electronic version can be archived for later consultation. The bigger libraries keep various publications on microfilm which can be viewed later on screens. Most recently, one can subscribe to newspapers on line so that one can consult them when one likes provided there is an internet connection.

The written press has an additional advantage in that it can deal with subjects in depth without using expensive means. The journalist or sometimes an author only needs a message to be communicated and the means to write it…pen and paper, a typewriter for the purists or even a computer. Obviously, when it comes to publishing a newspaper, review or magazine significant expenses are involved. On the other hand, audiovisual productions demand equipment to produce images and sound and a lot of equipment for its transmission. The audiovisual format demands that the subject matter to be broadcast must be relatively short and catchy. In today’s world, one has the impression that images pass at staggering speed especially advertising, ten seconds is already too long! The images are often used to send messages to the subconscious. On the other hand, when reading, one can look at photos or computer graphics in order to tease out the details.

At the present time, on the internet, the written press and audio­visual cohabit together quite well. It is no longer rare to find a written article illustrated by a video sequence. This is a good development because these two forms of the press complement one another. What a video can illustrate in one minute, the article can clarify and provide further information which is not apparent in the pictures and sound.

A major inconvenience that I perceive is that in the age in which we are living, we are becoming more and more conscious of the environment in which we live so there is an ongoing risk of deforestation as we continue to use paper made from trees. The most efficient solution seems to be to make it obligatory to replace the trees that we have taken from nature.

Another drawback, a by-product of the democratic era in which we live, is the ease and the infinite possibilities of broadcasting information by non professionals because of unlimited access to the internet and social media. Today, anybody can publish anything on the internet. There are even sites which offer false newspaper models, in order to publish fake and ridiculous news at the whim of anybody who wishes. That fools many people especially those who believe that everything that is published on the internet is true. Sensationalism is also a sickness which is prevalent in the press whether it is written or on film clips. Even professional journalists fall prey to it in their desire to publish an “exclusive” piece of news. They ignore their duty to look for the truth and they broadcast ‘fake’ news because they have not taken the time to do the necessary cross checking in order to ensure the accuracy of their information.

This means that the readers themselves have to filter the information in order to make a clear distinction between the ‘facts,’ ‘personal opinions’ and ‘rumours.’ Facts, things that actually happened, whose truthfulness is verified by a reliable witness, a photo or an authentic video are the core of journalistic information. ‘Personal opinion,’ to which everybody has a right, is the interpretation that I have or that I broadcast about the precise facts that I know. This only concerns the person who diffuses such information. On the contrary, a ‘rumour’ is an unsubstantiated affirmation of so called information on a ‘hypothetical fact.’ The rumour may seem likely without being the ‘truth.’ Unfortunately, it can replace the ‘truth’ when the real truth is blocked or hidden from the public.

How can one write a successful article for the press?

Start well! It is not a scientific exercise. It means communicating with others and sharing interesting and maybe even useful information. It may be a personal witness or a desire to “give an account of the mission that the Lord has entrusted to me through the Society” The best way to write an coherent article is to reply clearly to questions which we know about already:

  • What is the subject of the article? What are the facts?
  • Who is involved in the situation? Who is it?
  • What is the timescale? Over what period of time do the facts unfold?
  • Why did things happen in such a way? What are the root causes?
  • What was the chain of events that led to the present situation? How did the events unfold?

These are the techniques that the big news agencies use to give the fundamentals of the information that the journalist will carefully elaborate and comment on in their own way but always remaining faithful to the facts.

The written press can surely be used as an efficient tool of the mission. Things such as the daily commentaries on the Word of God, the parish bulletin, a leaflet for animating youth activities are all means which can help to reach people in a very useful way. It is important to avoid being too heavy or too light in one’s communication. After reading the parish newsletter, people should be left with the impression of being well informed and uplifted and to have learnt something new. That means articles that are not too long and that one can read in one go.

Using Social Communications well are an essential partner for the proclamation of the Good News of Salvation in all its forms.

Freddy Kyombo, M.Afr.

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