A News Media-tor for a “Peace Movement”

Riffing on the recent news that Jerry Springer is ceasing his violence-prone TV show after some 4,000 episodes, Greg Gutfeld of the Fox News Channel joked that, nowadays in our contentious political culture, “every day is the Jerry Springer Show.”

Gutfeld, in the monologue for his own program on July 7, went on to put that joke in a context echoing Pope Francis’ message for the 2018 World Communications Day (at least a little, if you take out the off-color language and humorous hyperlinks). He suggested that our society work harder at understanding and managing its contention.

“Politics always causes friction,” Gutfeld pointed out. “We just have more places to see it,” such as round-the-clock cable news and social media which seem to hold captive our thoughts and conversations.  “We get it. The country is divided. But that’s actually good: It’s better to have two sides than one.”


He acknowledged that we see more friction because journalists’ cameras are attracted to it. Among news consumers, annoyance comes naturally because we think we’re right and the people who disagree with us think they’re right.

“We should admit that we see things through different filters” and temper our own discussions with politeness, compromise, and forgiveness, Gutfeld said. You can hear the noteworthy monologist say it in this video. He called for a “conservative peace movement” where those toward the right on the political spectrum proactively “take the high ground.”

This proposal might have been directed more toward the consumers of media content than toward the generators of it–after all, a lack of friction in the world could translate into a lack of viewers for Fox and all broadcasters.

But, as Gutfeld knows, and as Pope Francis pointed out in the message (plus accompanying prayer for journalism) he officially released on May 13, the line between producers and consumers in today’s information world is practically invisible. There are millions of self-publishers. Alas, I’m one of them.

All along the media spectrum, and the political spectrum, we do need to collaborate in a movement informed by the pope’s call for “a journalism of peace.” Cheers for Gutfeld–and perhaps for Springer!–as they contribute in different ways to this movement, which can benefit from the pope’s paraphrase of the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi.

That’s the widely honored prayer which, in both its original and paraphrased forms, envisions all of us as “instruments of peace.”

The notes of wisdom in Gutfeld’s monologue made a sweet sound.

(With this post, I am beginning an additional blog at this site–intended as an ongoing expansion of the reflections in my book, When Headlines Hurt: Do We Have a Prayer? — The Pope’s Words of Hope for Journalism. Find the blog as part of the main navbar at OnWord.net.)



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“When Headlines Hurt”–A Guide to Buying and Reading My New E-book

When Headlines Hurt CVR_final_smaller

Update: 6-26-18: I hope you enjoy this book of reflections on the hope for renewal in journalism, drawing upon the recent World Communications Day 2018 message (and prayer) presented by Pope Francis. See my earlier blog post or my LinkedIn profile for a fuller discussion of the book and its subject.

This post has two purposes–first, as a tool for readers who wish to buy my e-book (with additional iterations anticipated in the future) in various formats, from various vendors; and second, as a companion to aid your own online research, utilizing links I included in the original text.

Purchase the book for $2.99 from:

  • Amazon (for Kindle devices)
  • Barnes and Noble (for Nook devices)
  • Smashwords (for several document formats, including pdf and html, as well as .epub, which can be read on Apple products–iPad and iPhone)


Use the following links if your e-book format does not connect the links automatically. These will send you directly to material I highlighted–expert insights that informed the perspectives I pursued in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi. Please invite these experts’ observations into your own reflections! The links are sorted according to the chapters in which they appeared:

Chapter One.

Chapter Two.

Chapter Three.

Chapter Four.

Chapter Five.

Chapter Six.

Chapter Seven.

  • News media “over-covering the crises of the world and under-covering the major trends”: correspondent Georgie Anne Geyer in panel at University of Notre Dame
  • Journalists’ own critiques relevant to news coverage in the 1980s and perhaps still today, extracted from scholar Robert Schmuhl, The Responsibilities of Journalism
  • A 2013 report finds 27 percent of Americans think journalism contributes “not very much” or “nothing” to society, according to the Pew Research Center
  • People are bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, says the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 2467)

Chapter Eight.

  • “News transparency’ helps to bridge gaps between news producers and consumers, says a Washington Post reporter; she also cites public mistrust of media in 2017
  • Other reports on the spread of “news transparency” efforts come fromNiemanLab, a National Public Radio ethics handbook, and New York University
  • “News literacy” is an effort to improve relationships between producers and consumers of journalism, especially young audiences, says News Literacy Project
  • Our society’s sloppy communications styles “make us careless and so make us care less,” says Marilyn McEntyre in her book, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies.

Chapter Nine.

Chapter Ten.

[Please send me your comments at billgerards@gmail.com]

[Also, peruse some more of the content you’ll find in earlier posts on this OnWord blog. Please visit the “I Link, Therefore I Am” biographical page connecting to dozens of articles, online posts, books, videos, podcasts, and other recordings–many of which I’ve been blessed to produce, or contribute to, in recent months.]


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Taps for My Dad: A Memorial Day Parade Film

Dad as sailor

I had never been in a Memorial Day Parade before–at least not as a participant who was fully engaged in the honors being bestowed, the opportunity to contribute one’s talent, and the importance of such an event for individuals and communities.

Thanks to the City of South Bend, The Music Village, and local filmmaker Chuck Fry, I was invited to be one of the local musicians playing Taps in prominent places along the parade route. You can see Chuck’s excellent short film at vimeo, as well as South Bend’s facebook page and mine. All posted in just the past few days.

A remarkable combination of developments gave me a chance to use my musical abilities to honor my father as a deceased World War II veteran and as the man whose own simple but joyful accordion playing inspired me to become an accordion instructor and performer, sharing music with the community these days. You’ll see that the film allowed me to tell a personal story connecting past, present, and future.

A big thank you to everyone who was involved. That definitely includes my dad and all the veterans to whom our country owes so much.

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My New E-book–“When Headlines Hurt”

When Headlines Hurt CVR_final

Update 6-26-18: My new e-book recently became available through Amazon Kindle and Smashwords.  This book, with further iterations anticipated, is a set of reflections and resources connected to the 2018 World Communications Day message officially presented by Pope Francis on May 13. You’ll see that my commentary builds upon the prayer with which the Pope concludes his message–a wise and inspiring paraphrase of the famous Peace Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi.

I couldn’t resist pondering how we–as producers as well as consumers of news–could serve as “instruments of peace” by renewing journalism.

Let me know (at billgerards@gmail.com) what you think after you’ve purchased my brief book. Discussions about how to heal our polarized nation and its contentious conversations have to start in earnest among all of us. This does not require the compilation of detailed tomes, so I’m happy with this “day of small beginnings” through the medium of e-books. My thanks go to the talented folks at Electric Moon Publishing for helping me to e-navigate.

We need new voices and informed viewpoints in all media, plus a refreshed sense of trust, hope, shared purpose, and human dignity among participants in the public square. It is my modest goal to raise awareness of the insights Pope Francis is contributing to the discussion. He has stepped forward as a world leader whose concern about news extends to what I call “headlines that hurt.” Where there is injury, he wants to shape a more forgiving world stabilized by truth, understanding, mercy, justice, and charity.

The reflections I offer are hardly “breaking news.” They’re informed by my own background as a Catholic, as a fan of both Pope Francis and his namesake St. Francis, and as a long-time journalist (in the secular and faith-based arenas) who honors communications and all professional communicators of good will.

I sense part of the cure for our tendencies toward disinformation and division can come from benevolent sensibilities that embrace both faith and reason. But, in the research underlying my commentaries, I am grateful to have learned from a variety of experts in journalism and other fields. They point us toward the cure, regardless of their own faith backgrounds or their attitudes toward the Pope’s stance. I recommend that you also tap into the wise people of good will whom I quoted and linked to in my original text.


We’re welcoming everyone into this conversation because we can’t afford a stand-off between the producers and consumers of our daily information diet. Nowadays, many news consumers are also the gatekeepers and purveyors for their own recipes of reality. Journalism must put us all to work for the common good, in the light of shared truths. It’s not a tool to merely entertain or “engage” or enrage us. That’s why I like the Pope’s decision to include a prayer we all can say, in solidarity, as we “press on” in our journey toward a more peaceful society.

Please say a prayer for me and for all people who would like to advance the cause of “a journalism of peace” for ourselves and future generations. As you’ll see in the original Peace Prayer of St. Francis, becoming instruments of change requires self-sacrifice and a humble willingness to admit our own failings. Our communication will need to be more interpersonal and more contextual, incorporating more listening and more outreach. Pray that we become more understanding even as we ask more questions, tougher questions. We’re looking for less news that “breaks” and more news that builds, fewer headlines that hurt and more headlines that help.

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Happy World Communications Day!

Pope and Communications


Of course, the most important fact about this day is that it is Mother’s Day. Happy Mother’s Day to all moms, including my own mom in heaven and my wonderful wife Eileen, who is the world’s best mom to our outstanding daughter, for whom we’re lobbying to establish a tradition called Daughter’s Day.

But I want to wish all of you a Happy World Communications Day. This day of remembrance and edification was established 52 years ago by the Catholic Church during Vatican Council II. Its existence on the Sunday before Pentecost every year–and the tradition of annual papal message that accompanies it –are statements of the importance the Church gives to varied means and media of cultural expression.

This year’s message from Pope Francis found special resonance with me because it speaks from his heart about the need to renew the communication of news and the conversations of trust and common cause so necessary for our society’s future. I thought it was a great touch that the message ended with the Pope’s own paraphrase of, or sequel to, the beloved “Peace Prayer of Saint Francis.” I decided to reflect in a structured way on this “Peace Prayer version 2.0,” and my thoughts grew into a book I am preparing to share with a larger audience. The book’s working title is Headlines That Hurt: Do We Have a Prayer?  The Pope’s Words of Hope for Journalism. 

As my World Communications Day gift to all of the good folks whom I welcome as readers of my OnWord blog and as my connections on LinkedIn, I offer a preview of the book. Please go this site’s navbar and click on “Headlines That Hurt.”  Please take a look at the (copyright-protected) thoughts and send me your feedback at billgerards@gmail.com. Perhaps you’ll also consider doing those “friend” and “like” and “follow” and “connect” favors to help me market the finalized book.

When Headlines That Hurt comes out later this month, probably first as an e-book, please consider buying it. I’ll welcome your support if indeed you think, in the spirit of Mother’s Day, my reflections can help give birth to big-picture, faith-and-reason-based discussions about a renewal of journalism, words, conversation, truthfulness and trust in our society. When you click for the preview, don’t worry about this book being too heady or ambitious. As the accompanying photo suggests, I’m striving for a sense of Franciscan joy and keeping it light-hearted.

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Mary Schmitt’s Award for Community Spirit

mary and me april 18

Mary Schmitt, our daughter who is studying business at The Catholic University of America, received an award at CUA’s 2018 Cardinal Leadership Celebration dinner on April 18. What a great time I had applauding her accomplishment and meeting many of her fellow students and friends, who are grateful for her spirited contributions to campus life!

Please go to my Facebook page at wgschmitt and see the video I made of the award presentation. She received the Martha Comiskey Memorial Award in recognition of her “devotion to the University, ability and willingness to motivate [her] fellow students and unwavering commitment to the University’s goals.” My favorite part of the remarks made by Office of Campus Activities assistant director Emily Scanlon: “Everybody needs a Schmitty in their life.”

Eileen and I are so glad to have that Schmitty in our life! Mary inspires me with her ability to reflect, and contribute to, the best spirit of communities where all-around excellence is pursued for the sake of the individual, God and others. As she accepted the award, my mind flashed back to earlier days of her sharing this blessing. As a graduate of St. Joseph Grade School in South Bend, she received the Fanelli Award recognizing the gift. I knew good things were in store.

When you check out my social media to share in my joy, please consider following me on Facebook. I’m trying to do things–media outreach consulting, freelance writing, radio and podcast hosting, public speaking and lots of musical performances–that communicate my gratitude to God and wonderful friends! Please also check out the mary.schmitt.94 page on Facebook and Mary’s LinkedIn profile (maryschmitt19) too! That profile is her next step toward encountering new communities and making them even better by her presence.

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Moms, a Mission & an Alabama Anchor

Thanks to Devon Walsh, award-winning anchor for WKRG TV in Mobile, Alabama. I appreciated your receptivity to the story of hope that my colleagues and I with the Good Counsel network of maternity homes figured you would want to tell!

I invite all my friends to take a look at this uplifting report Ms. Walsh, a University of Notre Dame graduate, recently produced for her viewers throughout the region stretching from Mobile to the Florida panhandle.

The home, called Good Counsel Mary’s Shelter Gulf Coast, is the only place of its kind in the region where expectant moms who have been homeless–and too often victims of domestic violence or drug abuse–can take up residence and prepare not only for childbirth but for a career. Thanks to lots of people standing by to help as part of a welcoming community with other moms and kids, this home can be their turning point toward a sustainable, independent family life after a baby has come along.

It’s my privilege to help spread the word about Good Counsel’s long-standing mission to media folks and others. Good Counsel was co-founded many years ago by my friend from Long Island, Christopher Bell. Keep up the great work of meeting these needs, Chris. And, Devon, it was a pleasure reaching out to you, and we’re grateful for your news reporting that’s bound to help lots of other families.

I invite you to learn more about the Chris Bell’s organization at goodcounselhomes.org. May women in need, especially those in the Diocese of Mobile and the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, continue to receive help and hope from skilled and caring folks who believe that where there’s life, there’s hope.

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