Editor’s note: Among the voices speaking for the importance of the free press is Pope Francis. In a remarkable speech on Nov. 11, he described the critical need for journalism and thanked journalists for reporting on the Roman Catholic Church’s sex-abuse scandals and giving voice to victims. His remarks were given while honoring Vatican reporters Valentina Alazraki, of Mexico’s Noticieros Televisa, and Philip Pullella of Reuters. This excerpt is from a transcription provided by the Holy See Press Office.
With the award given to Valentina and Phil, today I want to pay homage to your entire working community, to tell you that the Pope cares about you, follows you, esteems you and considers you precious.
Journalism does not come about by choosing a profession, but by embarking on a mission, a little like a doctor, who studies and works so that the evil in the world may be healed. Your mission is to explain the world, to make it less obscure, to make those who live in it less afraid of it and look at others with greater awareness, and also with more confidence.
It is not an easy mission. It is complicated to think, to meditate, to study more deeply, to stop and collect ideas and to study the contexts and precedents of a piece of news. The risk, as you well know, is to be overwhelmed by the news instead of being able to make sense of it. This is why I encourage you to preserve and cultivate that sense of mission that is at the origin of your choice. And I will do so with three verbs that I believe characterize good journalism: listen, investigate and report.
To listen is a verb that concerns you as journalists, but it concerns us all as a church, at all times and especially now that the synodal process has begun. For a journalist, listening means having the patience to meet face to face with the people to be interviewed, the protagonists of the stories being told, the sources from which to receive news.
Listening always goes hand in hand with seeing, with being present: certain nuances, sensations, and well-rounded descriptions can only be conveyed to readers, listeners and spectators if the journalist has listened and seen for him- or herself. This means escaping from the tyranny of always being online, on social networks, on the web. The journalism of listening and seeing well requires time. Not everything can be told through email, the telephone, or a screen. As I recalled in this year’s message for Communications Day, we need journalists who are willing to “wear out the soles of their shoes,” to get out of the newsroom, to walk around the city, to meet people, to assess the situations in which we live in our time. Listening is the first word that came to my mind.
The second, to investigate, is a consequence of listening and seeing. Every piece of news, every fact we talk about, every reality we describe needs to be investigated.
At a time when millions of pieces of information are available on the web, and when many people obtain their information and form their opinions on social media, where unfortunately the logic of simplification and opposition sometimes prevails, the most important contribution that good journalism can make is that of in-depth analysis.
Indeed, what more can you offer to those who read or listen to you than what they already find on the web? You can offer the context, the precedents, the keys to interpretation that help to collocate the fact that has happened.
To listen, to investigate, and the third verb, to report: I don’t have to explain it to you, who have become journalists precisely because you are curious about reality and passionate about telling it.
Reporting means not putting oneself in the foreground, nor setting oneself up as a judge, but allowing oneself to be struck and sometimes wounded by the stories we encounter, in order to be able to tell them with humility to our readers.
Reality is a great antidote to many ailments. Reality — what happens, the lives and testimonies of people — deserves to be told. I think of the books you write, Valentina, on women who suffer the tyranny of abuse.
Today we are in great need of journalists and communicators who are passionate about reality, capable of finding the treasures often hidden in the folds of our society and recounting them, allowing us to be impressed, to learn, to broaden our minds, to grasp aspects that we did not know before.
I am grateful to you for your effort to recount reality. The diversity of approaches, of style, of points of view linked to different cultures or religious affiliations is also a wealth of information.
I also thank you for what you tell us about what goes wrong in the Church, for helping us not to sweep it under the carpet, and for the voice you have given to the victims of abuse: thank you for this.
Thank you all for the work you do. Thank you for your search for the truth, because only the truth sets us free. Thank you!