Let’s Talk About Communicating Better!

When Headlines Hurt

Values Renewing “What’s New”


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There’s a second kind of “climate change”—this one in our culture. It generates heat without light through conflict in civil society and causes personal pain through erosion of dignity and hope. Like the weather, we gripe about it, but we don’t know what to do about it. We can’t agree on solutions to pursue together or even reach clarity on what problems are ripe for real discussion. You might say the mix of challenges constitutes a “perfect storm” summoning us to serve through damage prevention and reconstruction.

This multi-dimensional problem, which creates major hurdles against achieving goals of secular solidarity and missionary discipleship, is a combination of social polarization and eroded conversation. It is building momentum these days, at the intersection where journalism and our changing news environment meet politics and our changing technological environment. It’s arising amid confusion and disagreement about values, approaches and purpose, fed by disenchantment with traditional ideas plus attempts to confront new, complex issues in the modern style of self-centered moralism and relativism.

We need to get back to basics about such values as the common good, the pursuit of peace and other “rules of engagement” among people—such as mercy, justice, patient accompaniment and personal accountability—about which the Catholic Church provides time-tested insights. Pope Francis is one of the few world leaders and opinion-shapers who is seeking to spotlight these resources as relevant, connection-making remedies, not outmoded attacks on personal freedom. He talks about them, in compelling ways, through his messages for World Communications Day. He also addresses the dangers our “digitized” culture poses, especially toward young people and the future of communities, local and global.

Bill Schmitt’s book, When Headlines Hurt: Do We Have a Prayer?, published in 2018, is the groundwork for an effort to help all people of good will address this problem, tapping into Church wisdom and a Franciscan spirit while remaining inclusive and attuned to today’s perspectives. Bill’s endeavors for thought-leadership through blogs, podcasts, public speaking and ecumenical, non-partisan awareness-building seek practical goals with the transformative assistance of faith. Bill would like to explain more about the prospects for renewal he sees in communication and information. He’d like to start discussions—first at the grass-roots level, among people like you. Parishes and church groups will enjoy rediscovering the power of faith and reason, truth and love, not only to evangelize, but to cooperate with the secular world in preserving rights and responsibilities, debate and problem-solving.

That’s the essence of the When Headlines Hurt—Values Renewing ”What’s New” project. Invite Bill to bring his reflections and research, based in the messages of Pope Francis and Saint Francis among others, to a discussion group as contemporary as today’s headlines and newsfeeds.