Thinking Anglicans

Keeping the media at arm's length

Pat Ashworth writes on the Church Times blog about this.

See The Lambeth Conference: Keeping the media at arm’s length.

…Our morning press briefings bristle with tension and frustration. The Church House communications team are brilliant: they go the extra mile for us every time and are taking all the flak for whatever higher authority has decreed that we cannot have a list of the 670 bishops who are said to be present. Lawyers and privacy laws have been mentioned. Today we are told there will be a list, but that bishops can decline to be on it. So our readers worldwide – whose Church this is – cannot know whether their bishop turned up or not…

…It’s the story of our lives, speaking to somebody afterwards, if they’ll speak to you at all. It’s second-hand reporting. It just won’t do. None of the bishops’ seminar options, the ‘self-select sessions’, are open to us. I look at the range of issues and am desperate to sit at the feet at some of the renowned people from all over the globe who are leading them.

Here is everything that matters, everything the Church should be engaging with. What wouldn’t I give to go to The Deadly Co-epidemic of Tuberculosis (TB) and HIV/AIDS, chaired by the Archbishop of Cape Town? Or The Consequences of Climate Change in Sub-Saharan Africa? I want to know about the Church’s role in peace building and conflict resolution. The mission challenges posed by eastern spiritualities. Christian responsibility in relation to the Holy Land. And the rest.

I want to hear it from the horse’s mouth. I want to see the flashpoints, hear the burning things I hope the bishops want to say from their own contexts. I don’t want someone else to tell me what was said. The conference is heavily in debt and there’s all the more need for us to know it is doing its work. The only result of keeping the media at arm’s length like this will be the headlines that everyone’s expecting and nobody wants.

Let me repeat that last sentence:

The only result of keeping the media at arm’s length like this will be the headlines that everyone’s expecting and nobody wants.

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Lisa Fox
12 years ago

I agree and disagree. (How very Anglican, eh? 🙂 I agree with the sentence you highlighted: “The only result of keeping the media at arm’s length like this will be the headlines that everyone’s expecting and nobody wants.” I think the Archbishop and his staff are really blowing-it by having such tightly controlled pablum at the so-called “news conferences.” His attempts at control are already backfiring, and I hope he will change that strategy, just as I read that the structure of the indaba groups is changing based on honest feedback. But I must disagree with Pat Ashworth’s sense of… Read more »

Leonel
Leonel
12 years ago

I could not care less if some/many among the media lose patience. It simply can’t hurt any more than what it has done already. In any case, those headlines are THE ONLY REASON why 70% of the media is in Kent Uni AT ALL. None from any other ‘group’ represented -and accredited- at the conference has done the same stupid thing that some of the media tried to do by swapping their conference IDs with unauthorized people. Knowing that it is up to stewards (average age 22 yrs old) to detect them. So yes PLEASE keep the media at arms’s… Read more »

Fr Mark
Fr Mark
12 years ago

Leonel, but this is the Anglican Church, not Opus Dei – we conduct our business openly. Our bishops should also be accountable to the wider church and, in England at least, to the wider society, which implies an attitude of openness to the press. This is part of the Church having a privileged position in society in England: it is not a secret club.

Peter of Westminster
Peter of Westminster
12 years ago

“Wouldn’t it be way cool if the Anglican Communion could host such a conference, with such powerful speakers and intense discussion … but make it open to all Anglicans all over the world? Now THAT could excite me!”

What a great idea! Way, way cool…

Keith KImber
Keith KImber
12 years ago

Media presence at events like this all too often results in attention grabbing saleable headlines, sound-bytes that inevitably distort the truth that are exaggerated and partial. Too much of the reportage propagates anxiety and despair, and does nothing to encourage anyone to keep the faith. It’s often more of an incitement to desert the church, rather than take it seriously. As Leonel says – it’s as if reporters think they are participants, rather than observers on these occasions. Nobody appointed them – like seagulls they just turn up for the pickings. In this publicity obsessed age, it’s good that the… Read more »

Erika Baker
Erika Baker
12 years ago

Fr Mark
“Leonel, but this is the Anglican Church, not Opus Dei – we conduct our business openly”

Actually, we don’t. Even PCC meetings are only open to PCC members. How else could you guarantee free discussions and an acceptable decision making process?

We are open in the sense that we are ultimately accountable, and there will be reports and statements from Lambeth.

But I don’t see why there should be an automatic right for the public to be part of conversations among colleagues, especially colleagues who have to learn to trust each other gently, slowly and in safety.

Spirit of Vatican II
12 years ago

Lambeth will have achieved wonders if it comes to an end without another embarrassing and bullying statement on homosexuality, such as that of the last Lambeth conference (to which a host of bishops, including Rowan W., objected at the time) or that of the grim meeting in Dar Es Salaam. Lambeth will have achieved even greater wonders if it refocuses the Anglican Communion on the Gospel and ways of enacting it, and undoes the scandal of Dar Es Salaam where a week was spent discussing Bishop Gene’s homosexuality in the midst of a continent marked by genocide, hunger and countless… Read more »

Leonel
Leonel
12 years ago

Fr Mark “Leonel, but this is the Anglican Church, not Opus Dei – we conduct our business openly” Er… no we don’t. Nor should we. This is not a soiree. This is a conference, for bishops, about issues affecting their ministry and the people of God entrusted to their care. I really can’t see where the ‘public’ bit became a birth mark for any meeting. Too many people still dream of Lambeth as the great, fat, anglican synod. In any case, the media has no natural right of access to pretty much nothing. Let them sweat for a story, and… Read more »

Malcolm+
12 years ago

Effective media relations doesn’t mean giving the media free reign.

But if you don’t give the media anything (or anything but pablum) then the only one you’re hurting is yourself.

Media relations isn;t that hard, really.

1. Tell it fully.

2. Tell it frankly.

3. Tell it first.

4. Don’t lie. (Sure it’s wrong. But more importantly, it doesn’t work.)

5. Treating journalists with courtesy won’t make them your friends. But it makes it more likely that they’ll call you for your comment and that they’ll make some token effort to be fair to your side.

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