By KATHLEEN SCHMUGGE
LEXINGTON — The first Catholic communication ministry was instituted when Jesus said to his apostles, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the good news to all creations.” Since those ancient days, technology has greatly simplified the task, eliminating many of the past difficulties.
However, the call of Jesus remains a challenge, and his message is unchanged. People like Vicky Reese, the communications director at Corpus Christi Church, have been committed to taking advantage of the many technological advances and to help others do the same.
Hosted by Corpus Christi, Reese organized a workshop March 13 for Catholic churches in the Columbia area. Representatives from the secular papers, The State and Lexington’s Dispatch News, were joined by Charleston diocesan director of Communications and Information, Mary Jeffcoat, and editor of The New Catholic Miscellany, Jordan McMorrough. Almost 50 members from five different parishes in the area received useful information, ranging from how to effectively communicate with the media to writing a press release.
Peter Buttress, a special correspondent for The State and freelance writer, led the first workshop. He gave valuable advice on getting a press release published. He instructed, “Make sure it is complete, answering the five W’s: who, what, when, where and why.” He also stressed the importance of being available for questions and honoring the paper’s deadlines.
James Jordan, news editor for the Dispatch News, spoke on developing a good relationship with the media that involves understanding and patience. “Once they know who you are, they will depend on you and come to you when they need a local ‘Catholic perspective’ on an issue,” he said.
Next to speak was Carol Wier, currently the main writer for The State’s religion section. She was candid in conveying realistic expectations for church coverage. “On the religion page we need diversity and must rotate between churches and religions, so do not expect your church to be featured every week.” She said events that provide a good photo opportunity involve different cultural groups or ecumenical events. “Be available so that when you get a call about a particular event, you can sell the story to us,” she added.
The emphasis changed from the secular to the religious as Jordan McMorrough, editor of the diocesan paper, spoke to the church representatives. “At the paper, we support the teaching of the office of the bishop. Unlike the secular press, we use the framework of faith which allows us to go into greater depth of a religious topic,” he said, adding, “Inspirational material is our niche.”
Mary Jeffcoat, director of communications, conducted the last session. After asking for the expectations of the participants, she answered questions and gave general information regarding bulletins, newsletters, flyers, and the diocesan paper. After praising the Internet as a new and exciting form of communication, she cautioned that there will always be a need for face to face contact, especially for the poor who may not have access to the conventional source of information.