Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Behind the Crozier

Having given my fair share of (gratis) advice on media strategy to friends over the years, a key pillar of the pep-talk holds that one thing that really helps the church -- or its leadership -- get our message out is a consistent state of relations with the press that isn't just a good, but an open one.

(This is the legacy of growing up amid guerrilla warfare... and, at points, being sought out to broker peace... by your father's bosses... at age 12. But that's a story all its own.)

More than building simple trust, honest, open ties between the pressroom and pastoral center yield a rep for that great, hard-earned (but quite worthwhile) accolade that could be termed "credible accessibility." Where it exists, for example, when a reporter's in a tough spot, something that could normally (and, where said said healthy relations don't exist, understandably) be "fudged," misconstrued or glossed over instead gets explained in its proper context by a helpful, authoritative voice.

It pays its dividends... and it ain't rocket science. Sure, it takes a bit of effort from both sides at the outset, but the benefits are worth their weight in gold -- and not just because everybody wins.

While we've (gratefully) seen a greater movement toward this sort of mutual goodwill and collaboration in recent years in this country, the way forward takes a quantum leap on Sunday, as Rhode Island's Providence Journal rolls out its year-in-the-making series on the state's lone ordinary, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence.

For a year, ProJo reporter G. Wayne Miller and a photographer had all-access to the Steeler-loving prelate. The result: a multi-part, multimedia-rich chronicle of A Year in the Life, with mega-pieces budgeted for Days. On. End.

Miller's made a penchant of the format with other leaders in the Ocean State. And while one could hope this isn't the last time we see something of the kind on this beat, the impetus to make it happen, however, rests with the courage and savvy of others, the covering and covered together.

Though going to print for Sunday's editions of the paper, the first part will be run online by the ProJo starting Friday.

In other Tobin Notes, the bishop got a coveted baciamano with B16 on a recent trip to Rome. According to the current edition of the diocesan newspaper, the prelate mentioned the tentative plans for a papal stop in Boston on Benedict's first US trip scheduled for next spring (...a contentious leg which, as reported here last week, a high-level Vatican move is afoot to quash.)

Benedict's reply, relayed by Tobin: "We shall see what is possible."

Um... a little shaky, that.

G. Wayne Miller