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Friday, December 23, 2016

Journalism Training Workshop for Catholic Writers

By Eva Siruno


Kota Kinabalu- “ Eight years to wait for this third Journalism Training Workshop is long enough, so make full use of your time to learn and make Catholic news writing inspired by the Holy Spirit even better ”, Msgr Primus Jouil, Vicar-General and Editor of Catholic Sabah in his welcoming address.

37 participants, 4 of which came from as far as Sandakan and Telupid to attend  the Workshop at Stella Maris Church Catechetical Centre on 10th & 11th December 2016. Indeed, a very rare opportunity which has drawn all high calibre professionals in SOCCOM to facilitate and share their voluntary service and years of experience in the field of journalism.
“SOCCOM or Social Communication, is more than just socializing; it is a beautiful gift from God” said Fr Thomas Madanan, Spiritual Adviser of SOCCOM ADKK. It was set up in April 2001 as required by the Vatican Council in its document Inter Mirifica or “among the beautiful”. He said that its main task is the formation of a right conscience in the faithful in their use of the media, encouraged and regulated at the Catholic domain.(IM#21)

He reiterated that Catholics have the obligation to sustain and assist Catholic newspapers, periodicals, film projects, radio and television stations and programmes (IM#17). Also to pray for its success and to contribute in cash and in kind toward it.(IM#18)
Why write for Catholic media? In Sabah, this serves as an avenue where we can share our faith stories as people of God in this part of the world. This is where the two voices could be heard: that of the pope and bishops (magisterium) which hopefully understood and obeyed and that of every individual Catholic’s concerns, aspirations and hopes.
Furthermore, this can also assist fellow Catholics to widen their horizons from narrow parochial interests to a much broader perspective. If you do not write, how will your children and grandchildren, your fellow Catholics know what God has done for you and for other parishes? It is tantamount to stealing God’s glory” he concluded.
“Dog bites man is not a news but man bites dog is news”, mused by Datuk Joseph Joseph Leong, Chairman of SOCCOM ADKK. Every day the secular news is mostly bad news at the front headlines. For us we look and share good news which has three qualities: current, latest and important.
He likened news writing as “making a cake” whereby one has to get the best ingredients in order to produce a cake. These ingredients in news writing are the 5 W’s and one H. And let the Code of Ethics in Catholic Journalism guide you: to refrain from libellous, conflict driven, obscene and violent reporting. Respect the dignity of the person. Aim to sustain and not to destroy.” he said.
Ruben Sario, a successful journalist who has been in the media since 1987 and member of SOCCOM ADKK said “News is a fact and not an opinion. It depends fully on the facts in your hand. Practise, experience and confidence comes from years of training; so do not be afraid to try.”
Make it a habit to read a lot. Free resources are available for you to read in the net. Never be discouraged if your article is edited.
A picture with no action is like eating an instant noodle with no flavour. We need not please everyone when we edit a picture as we need to focus on the subject matter. More can be done to create an action in the photo that portrays emotion such as joy, sadness, reverence, gratitude etc. Despite being computer savvy and holding the “smartest” phone in your hand, be courteous when you are taking pictures. The work of a journalist is never easy; when approaching people, have the person know your purpose.
He generously imparted priceless knowledge on how to conduct an interview, caption and tips on photos for publication.
“We, in the Catholic faith, when approached by secular media must seek advice from the parish priest or from any SOCCOM members.  As Catholics we must protect our faith and our church”,  he said

Patricia Regis and Irene Obon, Members of SOCCOM KK continued “As this is a Catholic media, one has to be a Catholic writer to reflect your Catholic values and upbringing in your writing. As Catholics, tell your story on the point of view of the Catholic faith; you are “Pro- Life” not adhering to abortion. You could represent the church not only by writing for your group but a piece of the picture of your church.
Report the truth about news and events in your parish by covering the activities of 9 Commissions found in your diocese: Family Life, Women Apostolate, Education, Liturgical, Youth, Catechetical, Social Communication and Human Development. Check parish records, parish events, programmes and activities of the year and check Diocesan website for information. Important information like marriages, baptism, and death census is much needed by the newspaper. This is why if you do not  write and document them, how will others know?
Get permission and respect the right of privacy of the person .Be responsible in taking and sending pictures. The gift of discernment and wisdom from God is an important gift in journalism; and the Holy Bible is the perfect reference.
Agnes Chai, Associate Editor of Catholic Sabah mentioned that the ” Code of Ethics is a good guide that points out what can and cannot go into prints. Catholic Sabah reflects what is happening both in the church, local and universal. It aims to connect Catholics to one another and to other churches.
It is aimed at providing Catholic formation;  imparts good news that is relevant, important and has an effect in the lives of the faithful. Another purpose is to circulate the messages and instructions from the bishops to promote unity and loyalty, and to reach out directly to the people in a regular basis. Catholic Sabah reminds the Catholics that they are part of one large family which includes brothers and sisters from other parishes, dioceses and the whole Catholic world. This is where you are very important as contributors.
She remembered how, as a Sandakan born, her feeling of excitement of having to read news updates from home has really changed her”
Sr Anna , Editor of KK diocese.net told the participants when writing “Their formal titles should be treated as job descriptions. The word” Datuk” should not be used in news stories except  in quoted matters in place of or in combination with their formal title .Therefore religious and clergy conferred Datuk, the religious title takes precedence and so it is with Academic doctorates. Words like prelate, pontiff rector, pastor are to be written in lower case.”

Archbishop John Wong of Kota Kinabalu, in his homily and closing speech echoed the words of Joseph Leong on his definition of communication with an addition of one more-Accuracy.
“Accuracy” explained Archbishop Wong “is when our report is guided by the Holy Spirit. Unless you have a good relationship with him all else have lesser weight.”
In conjunction with the Advent Season he said “JOY means Jesus Others and You. Serve Jesus first then only You are sent to obtain genuine Joy. If Jesus is whom you serve even when you feel difficulty, you feel an inner peace and joy. The Catholic news somehow has inspired many Catholics to return to the church”.
And during the awarding of certificates, he finally commended everyone to “Seek therefore the help and intercession of St Francis de Sales , The Patron Saint of  Writers.”

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