Course looks to raise up next generation of Catholic journalists

  • August 25, 2023

A small team of Catholic journalists, most of them members of the Catholic Media Association, have launched a 12-week course aimed at raising up new journalists for the Catholic press.

“Telling Truth in Charity: Introduction to Catholic Journalism” will be offered online from Sept. 25 to Dec. 11. The weekly classes will provide basic skills training in interviewing, writing and copyediting. More specific to Catholic journalism, participants will also learn about Church teaching on social communications, theological reflections on journalism, ethics and the characteristics of the Catholic journalist.

The first iteration of the non-credit course offered earlier this year ran for eight weeks, from February to April. It was expanded to 12 weeks based on feedback provided by the first cohort of 12 students from across Canada and the U.S.

The fall session is limited to 20 participants; 12 students had registered by mid-July.

The course was designed in response to the need for writers for the relaunch of Canadian Catholic News (CCN) as a public-facing news website.

CCN was founded more than 25 years ago as a news cooperative to facilitate content sharing among Catholic newspapers in Canada. Members — about 15 news media at its height — also funded a reporter on Parliament Hill.

With the decline of Catholic newspapers in the country over the past decade, CCN had gone mostly dormant, until last summer when a few journalists, gathered under the leadership of Canada’s two leading Catholic newspapers, to discern a way forward.

The renewed CCN will provide news on the Catholic Church in Canada, issues of interest to the Catholic community and Catholic perspective on current events. A beta version of the new CCN website is up. The official relaunch is scheduled for the end of September.

“We realize we need to tell some stories across Canada that are not being told right now. And one of the things we are lacking is journalists who can tell those stories — Catholic journalists,” said Paul Schratz, editor of The B.C. Catholic in Vancouver.

“It’s a little difficult right now trying to find people who could tell those stories, so we determined that we needed to have a course, a basic Catholic course, to train journalists in truth-based journalism.

“We didn’t assume anything,” he said of the course design. “We opened it up and we brought in students, people who were interested in writing, people who are currently working in communications for the Church, and it was a great success.

“I was very impressed,” he said. “I didn’t know what to expect going in, but the reaction to the course by others, by the students was very positive.”

Anna Farrow, a freelance journalist for the Catholic press in Montreal, said the fellowship with other Catholic writers, the course’s focus on the pursuit of truth and the reflections and personal experiences shared by the instructors, all veteran journalists, were “most helpful.”

Farrow’s daughter Celia, who is writing a book of poetry and recently graduated with a master’s in English, took the course out of curiosity. While only tinkering with the idea of writing for the Catholic press, Celia said she found the course thought-provoking and said it expanded her understanding of Catholic journalism, which she had never before considered as a “lens … to point people to the greater reality and to encourage them on their path of seeking out God.”

Christine Mores, who works in communications for St. Augustine’s Seminary in Toronto, signed up for the course “to meet passionate Catholic journalists” and to reflect on “the important role” Catholic journalism plays “in informing and educating Catholics about the Church’s teachings” and providing “a forum for discussion and debate on issues of importance to Catholics.”

“I found the section on media ethics extremely important, not just for journalists, but for everyone,” she said. “This section filled me with hope.”

Peter Stockland, editor of The Catholic Register in Toronto, said he hopes course graduates will start pitching stories to Catholic outlets.

“I hope they will become part of what a few years ago we called ‘evangelizing culture’ through the craft of journalism. I hope their faith will deepen and strengthen through its centrality to journalistic work,” he said.

Stockland, who taught journalism at Concordia University in Montreal for several years, said “the dimension of faith makes an infinite difference” in journalism.

“To do something, to do it well, is meaningful,” he said. “To do something because, through it, you are living out love of God and neighbour is the meaning of the Catholic faith.”

The course is offered through the St. Monica Institute of the Archdiocese of Toronto. The cost is $75 CAD. For information or to register: https://tinyurl.com/introtocatholicjournalism

Visit the CCN beta site: https://canadiancatholicnews.ca

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