Saturday, 2 April 2011

Media training day

On Friday 1st April, the five London based interns took part in an engaging, entertaining and enlightening day of media training. 

The day started with Mass in the chapel in Eccleston Square celebrated by Monsignor Andrew Faley.

The first session was presented by Maggie Doherty and Alexander DesForges who run the Catholic Communications Network (CCN). As well as leading the CCN team, Alexander is also Archbishop Vincent Nichols’ Press Secretary. Maggie, who has a background in PR, is a senior member of the CCN team as well as Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor's Press Secretary. They explained the role of the CCN particularly in relation to the massive media operation that was the Papal Visit. They described their day-to-day work and told us that the current hot issues are the Ordinariate, the new translation of the Missal and World Youth Day in Madrid. As Public Affairs and Parliamentary interns we are frequently asked to use various forms of traditional media, new media and social media in order to get a message across, Alexander gave us some tips on how to be effective communicators in these mediums. He also highlighted one of the most successful messages that the Church put across during the Papal Visit that was often quoted in the mainstream media that religion is not a problem to be solved but a gift to be rediscovered.

After a quick break for coffee, Jack Valero told us about his highly successful Catholic media organisation, Catholic Voices, which he set up in advance of the Papal Visit. Described as a revival of apologetics for the 24 hour media era, Valero's Catholic Voices has a refreshingly positive approach to the most controversial issues associated with the Catholic Church and the Church's teaching. He asked us to pick one of these 'neuralgic' issues and come up with a short speech to portray the Church's point of view in a positive way. Most importantly he told us to know our faith inside-out so we could take part in informed debates about the contentious issues. 

Following that, we went up to the Bishops' Conference radio studio for an experience of radio interviews. We are arranging to have some practical experience with them soon - so watch this space to hear about that! 

After lunch we heard from political communications expert and Professor in the subject from Madrid, Karen Sanders. We talked about the functions of the media and their power of agenda-setting and framing stories. In the context of our own work, she reminded us that politicians need the media in democratic societies, she describes this symbiotic relationship between politicians and journalists in her work as a 'tense tango'. I particularly enjoyed this part of the day because my dissertation was on the subject of the influence of political public relations in modern democratic societies. This time last year when I was writing my dissertation there was very little research and literature on this specific area, but in the last twelve months, Karen told us, there has been more work done on it and a couple of books published including one of her own! At the end of her session, she split us into two groups to write the ten commandments of a media relations office, we then compared these to those written by Christopher Meyer, who was John Major's Press Secretary. 

Social media was the subject of the final session of the day. The Pope has described facebook as 'a truly human form of communication' but has also warned young people about the possible pitfalls of using social networks. We talked about the strengths and weaknesses of using social media tools such as facebook, blogs, twitter, youtube, flickr and so on both in a professional capacity and in our personal lives. We also discussed how the internship could benefit from a better social media profile. If you have any ideas, please comment on this post and let us know!

We are tremendously grateful to Maggie Doherty for organising the training day for us and to the speakers for making time to talk to us. We all learnt a lot and I can't wait to put everything I learnt into action as soon as possible. We gained so much knowledge and practical tips; I hope it will come in use in our current jobs as well as in the future. 

This has been one of so many great opportunities that the Catholic Parliamentary Internship has given us.  Next week we are going to a conference hosted by the Catholic Bishops' Conference on the Catholic Church's presence in our society today as it looks to foster a culture of greater social responsibility.

Naomi Brandon
Public Affairs intern at CESEW 

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