By the "Journalism in a Fragmented World" Webinar Secretariat

What does it mean to be a journalist today? Indeed, is journalism – particularly “balanced journalism” – even do-able, under present circumstances? To borrow an economic term, we live in a “VUCA” world today, one that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Throw into the mix the fact that now everybody can broadcast through their very own YouTube channels, and technology-enabled social media can cause worse mental illness than Long Covid – and you have journalists confronted with challenges that have no precedent in documented times.

 

The need for impartiality, empathy, integrity, compassion and the courage to “speak to power” were among the topics addressed by Helen Osman to the 25 selected participants at the opening of the Webinar organised by the SIGNIS Asia Journalism Desk (SAJD) in collaboration with Bangkok-based LICAS News Asia. Osman, President of SIGNIS World and Head of SIGNIS World’s Journalism Desk, used the analogy of Oscar Romero, the Patron Saint of SIGNIS, and his call to others to join him in being Microphones of God, to underscore her point: that journalists today need to be the Voice of the Voiceless.

 

Assassinated as he celebrated Mass in 1980, Romero was martyred because he spoke up in defence of the weak and powerless, and successfully used media to amplify his voice, speaking strongly against those who abused their political and economic power. Osman, who has several decades’ worth of Catholic media experience, stressed the importance of embracing the vocation of communication, despite the challenges of trying to achieve balanced reporting. She said, “As journalists, we strive to tell the truth” – but the truth may not always be obvious, as it “often gets trumped by lies and misinformation.”

 

How then should journalists avoid such pitfalls? Research has shown that there are public expectations that journalists should show greater empathy and connection in their reporting. Osman pointed out that each individual, regardless of circumstance, is in fact, a member of a community with innate human dignity, and deserving of respect and honour. “We are only able to build a more just society by working together,” she said. “Progress and well-being only happen when people become a community, working for the common good in a united effort.”

 

Acknowledging that we often think of our understanding of the truth as the version that must be accepted by others, she cautioned against refusing to consider that others may also have the truth, albeit from a different perspective. The fragmented world did not happen on its own; everyone played a part in it. Similarly, everyone now has to rebuild; we can do this by recognising the uniqueness of individuals and creating communities with common good as a core value – thus becoming the true Microphones of God, speaking the real Truth, and ultimately becoming the Voice of the Voiceless.

 


The SIGNIS Asia Journalism Desk is the organiser, in collaboration with LICAS News Asia, of the SIGNIS Asia Journalism Fellowship Programme on the theme “JOURNALISM IN A FRAGMENTED WORLD,” a seven-week programme for lay Catholic and like-minded journalists working in the secular media. Offered virtually, the seven-week webinar brings together 25 selected participants from 14 countries to build capacity and promote exchange among media professionals and journalists who want to use their platform for social change. For further details, visit: https://www.signisasia.net/journalism-in-a-fragmented-world-webinar-2021/