By Katleho Khang SNJM

The 52nd World Communications Day provides an important opportunity for Catholic media to reflect on its values and to reaffirm their commitment and mission as agents for communication of the truth.

As journalists, how responsible have we been to the mission of serving the truth? This is important because, as Pope Francis observed in World Communications Day Message for 2018, there is a dangerous spread of fake news that could distort God’s plan and threaten the peaceful fellowship of people.

We know as Catholic media that it is our mission, and not just our job, to counter false information with the truth. Pope Francis prescribes the need for a “careful process of discernment,” sincere listening and openness to genuine dialogue as ways of arriving at the truth.

As Catholic journalists we play an important role in fostering truth, especially considering the great challenges of our time: the economic, political, racial, and xenophobic challenges in South Africa and the world, the massive migration of peoples, issues around climate change and the sophisticated economic manipulations of the market place. The deleterious effect of fake news to these already difficult problems should provoke in us, people vivified by the gospel, a deep desire to combat sensationalism, foster respect for human dignity and curb the malicious use of facts.

The need for valuable content is undeniable and today’s challenges are enormous. By building relationships and collaborating creatively with other media agencies, we can produce high quality and insightful news content. We need to offer narratives that redirect attention away from the ‘noise-filled’ online world that is already too readily served. We have the responsibility to bring our gospel values and the social teachings of the church to bear on contemporary issues.

Catholic media has the opportunity to be an instrument for promoting peace. We can stop fake news by being open to the opinions of other people as we pursue the truth. This process is painful and challenges our conscious and unconscious stereotypes, moving us to personal conversion.

We live in a “microwave era” where most things are instant. In some cases, however, the truth might take some time to emerge and might require critical research and triangulation. We should bear in mind that it is not the speed with which news is reported, but the commitment to the veracity and quality of the message that matters.

If the truth is to set us and our audiences free, we must not be afraid of news content that stimulates critical dialogue in the church and in the world. We must trust that the pursuit of truth imbued with the gospel values of love and compassion will ultimately encourage communion and promote “goodness from whatever instead tends to isolate, divide, and oppose”, as Pope Francis says.

Thus, we all have a responsibility to promote, create, and distribute messages that are always truthful, people-oriented, and for the greater good.