As is customary, the theme for the next World Day of Social Communications is made known on today’s feast of the three archangels (September 29). With the mighty ministrations of heavenly messengers, the theme appears to have a celestial character while it focuses on a profound human need.
That theme – “’The truth will set you free’ (John 8:32): Fake News and Journalism for Peace” – confronts a growing concern in today’s world, namely “an often misleading distortion of facts” that has repercussions for persons and societies. The papal message, which will be published on January 24, 2018 (the memorial of St. Francis de Sales, patron of journalists), promises to offer “a reflection on the causes, the logic and the consequences of disinformation in the media.” For today’s consideration, we wonder how the archangels might play a role in promoting professional journalism?
MICHAEL is the warrior, known for his victory in the apocalyptic battle between good and evil. It may not be a sign of the end times, but disinformation has become a social-political weapon. These days it spreads globally with the ease of digital distribution. But falsehood is not “free speech.” It does not advance human freedom, but instead flows from and/or generates a precarious position-taking with no foundation. This, in turn, leads to a divisiveness that endangers society. St. Michael, we pray, will aid journalists to get the story straight – not as a matter of commercial force or public preference, but in terms of a right understanding of issues and the truth of things.
GABRIEL is the bearer of Good News, known especially for the Annunciation to Mary about the conception and birth of Jesus. With “news” today often supplanted by opinion and commentary, the need for truth has never been greater. Only real truth, found ultimately in the One who is “the way, the truth, and the life,” will set us free. That biblical notion grounds the world day’s theme. According to Pope St. John Paul II, it contains “both a fundamental requirement and a warning: the requirement of an honest relationship with regard to truth as a condition for authentic freedom, and the warning to avoid every kind of illusory freedom, every superficial unilateral freedom, every freedom that fails to enter into the whole truth about man and the world” (Redemptor Hominis, n. 12). St. Gabriel, we pray, will help journalists keep this twofold perspective in all that they communicate.
RAPHAEL is the guide, known for aiding and accompanying Tobit. On the journey that is our constant search for peace, great challenges remain. Along the way, the media play a critical role, as the conduit for our awareness of what is going on around us. The words we read and the images we see can have a profound effect, particular in reports about painful realities of human existence and interaction. New media, in particularly powerful ways, facilitate our perception of the world and factor into our self-understanding and our social relations. St. Raphael, we pray, will remind journalists that they are our companions along the way, and that together we are all responsible for forming a peaceful society.
featured image of “The Three Archangels” by Master of Pratovecchio