The Church and Mass Media: From Confrontation to Cooperation
How we broke stereotypes and learned to be friends with journalists
LVIV – On March 5-6, 2010, at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, a specialized training seminar “External Communication for Religious Organizations” was held by the Religious Information Service of Ukraine (RISU).
The practical course gathered representatives of the Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant communities from the Kyiv, Odesa, Sumy, Kirovohrad, Ternopil, Ivano-Frankivsk, and Lviv Oblasts. All together, over 30 people took part in the two-day seminar. The participants were mainly journalists representing publishing houses, magazines, press services of churches, and Christian radios, as well as priests, religious studies experts, and seminarians. The course was conducted by practicing journalists and specialists in the fields of secular and religious PR.
The program of the two-day seminar included lectures, training sessions, and discussions of such topics as religious stereotypes in the society, the church’s image in mass media, and PR technologies used by religious organizations in Ukraine and the world.
The seminar was composed of a theoretical and a practical part. During the first part the main religious stereotypes about the Orthodox, Catholics, and Protestants were reviewed. “First before building communication, we must break down our own stereotypes and prejudices regarding our brothers and sisters from different Christian confessions. How can we demand understanding from secular journalists if we often ourselves don’t understand one another,” stated the speakers at the beginning of the seminar.
Another block was dedicated to understanding religious PR by reviewing and discussing examples how churches in different countries use modern communicative technologies to spread the Gospel.
The seminar continued with an overview of how the church is presented in secular mass media and the reasons behind the misunderstanding between journalists and religious organizations.
How to communicate with journalists correctly, how to prepare a press release in order for it to appear in the newspapers, how to organize events for journalists, monitoring, study of the target audience, advertisement – these and other questions constituted the core of the seminar.
Let us remind that “External communication for religious organizations” is a new training project of the PR School of RISU. Its main purpose is to help churches and religious organizations establish cooperation with secular and religious mass media and teach them to create a quality media product and present it to the general public. RISU has cooperated through the PR School with Catholic and Protestant Churches and their press services for a year. Similar training courses were conducted in Kyiv, Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk, Ternopil, and Khmelnytskyi, as well as in the Zaporizhzhia, Zhytomyr, and Kherson Oblasts.