The month of May is a special month, for various reasons. Last Sunday, western countries celebrated Mother’s Day. The Church has long associated the month with the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Marian devotions are held in churches and chapels.
May is also the month when the world and the Church brings its focus to the essential vocation of communications.
May 3 was World Press Freedom Day, and the theme was Information as a Public Good. Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO describes the theme as underlining “the indisputable importance of verified and reliable information. It calls attention to the essential role of free and professional journalists in producing and disseminating this information, by tackling misinformation and other harmful content”.
This misinformation or ‘fake news’, a term popularised by the former US President, has become for those who work in the media one of the major barriers to providing that which we all seek: Truth.
As creators, users and consumers, it has become difficult to sift the truth from the untruth. The speed at which news spreads today is almost instantaneous. Conversely, lies, rumours and falsehood spread just as fast if not faster, such is the human psyche to accept bad news rather than seek all avenues of real truth.
The poignant example of the sensationalism and misinformation related to the COVID-19 vaccine not only here in Trinidad and Tobago but around the world, is a case in point. Governments and their health authorities have been confronting questions on the efficacy of vaccines made available to help save lives.
In his message for World Communications Day being marked this Sunday, Pope Francis challenges journalists, media practitioners and communication professionals to not only seek truth but strive “to be clear and honest, in the press, on the internet, in the Church’s daily preaching and in political or social communication”. He goes on, “All of us are responsible for the communications we make, for the information we share, for the control that we can exert over fake news by exposing it.”
Come and See is the theme of this year’s message, and in these pandemic times, it may seem a somewhat curious suggestion. But to seek truth means at times witnessing life in-person, to “spend time with people, to listen to their stories and to confront reality”.
This paper celebrated its 129th anniversary of establishment on May 6. The past year has been an uncertain one financially. It has meant taking tough decisions like changing the day we print to ensure copies are available in public outlets and not be limited to parish sales and boosting our social media presence to ensure the Catholic digital community is reached.
Today, we can take solace in a quote from St Francis de Sales, patron saint of journalists. “True progress quietly and persistently moves along without notice.”