Speed is not everything

KNA: from the language of the Church to the language of journalism

SIR Europe’s survey into European Catholic journalistic agencies began with Austrian agency Kathpress (click here). For the current issue, Sarah Numico met in the seat of Berlin the chief editor of Katholische Nachrichten-Agentur (KNA, Catholic news agency), Ludwig Ring-Eiffel.What is contribution of your agency vis a vis Germany’s media landscape?"KNA plays two roles. First of all, it’s the most important communication tool for the Church ad intra, for the bishops, dioceses, and religious bodies. There is no other such tool. Its second function is to communicate the contents, messages and events of the Church to the whole world. This was the reason for its establishment as a news agency 60 years ago. Journalist reports related to the life of the Church are based on KNA news, which provides them with a clear picture of events. In our reports we daily translate ecclesial language into journalistic language. Thus our major task is to provide in-depth analyses, explanation and rendering of the news. We work at a very fast pace and we are viewed as an important, authoritative and reliable source, marked by a language easily understandable by our colleagues and which is not Church language, effective inside but not outside the Church".Don’t you risk delays?"Naturally, speed is not our primary goal. Other news agencies are faster and journalists are aware of it. But despite a few minutes’ delay, the news we provide is more substantial and detailed. It isn’t a mere dispatch. This makes up for our delay". How did the new technologies impact your work? "For many years we kept Twitter at a distance. We didn’t trust this new communication tool. It was too fast, and beyond our control. But when the Pope opened a Twitter account we realized that we could no longer avoid it. We had to be part of it too. We use it mostly as a source. We gradually learnt to identify the reliable sources and it became an important channel. Another innovation in Germany is the cooperation with katholisch.de, the official portal of the German Catholic Church. The KNA editorial office in Bonn cooperates with the portal on an ongoing basis, and we use this cannel for new forms of communication, whereby – along with written reports and pictures – we provide audiovisuals, graphs, podcasts etc. We have also set up a platform for the exchange of content between KNA and all diocesan papers. It has been a long process, owing to legal issues (notably copyright), but now it’s very efficient". How can Church media contribute to the new evangelization? "I think that news agencies are not intended as tools for evangelization. However, they can contribute by laying the grounds for evangelization. This is what we do by combating prejudice, providing reliable news, and distancing ourselves from sensationalism, which our news agency seeks to curb. But we are not the ones who nurture the seeds. That is the job of the pastors and bishops. We are the second pulpit. In fact, our commitment is to provide a service in support of the Church’s primary mission. Our task is to report the facts, on the basis of our ethical and professional criteria, and not as a means of propaganda". How can the Churches truly contribute to the life and the construction of Europe? "Many Countries no longer accept that the Church considers herself the soul of Europe. In a pluralist, relativistic and agnostic society this goal no longer makes sense. To say that the Church should be the soul of Europe is no longer realistic. We must set a different goal, a more humble word. We could strive to be the conscience of Europe, those who cherish the vast majority of cultural, philosophical, moral heritage of the continent. Embodying this role would be already a great achievement". Do you think that Catholic news agencies could work together? "I think that the personal exchange between us is lacking. This is true for all of us working in news agencies. I also think that agencies should cultivate a more open relationship with their bishops. The fact that KNA doesn’t have a direct communication channel with the bishops, enabling mutual discussions, is a problem. The director of the Evangelical press in Germany (EPD) holds annual meetings with the Assembly of the Evangelical Church. The cooperation between the laity and the bishops could be greatly improved. I’m lacking information from some European countries (Poland, Spain, France, etc.) owing to language problems and because in some Countries information structures are missing".

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