In case you missed it, Pope Francis’ prayer intention for the month of October was for journalists. In choosing this intention, the pope was challenging Catholics to be more reflective about how our participation in the common good is dependent on those who practice journalism as a profession. To explore this more, I reached out to Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig, who is the assistant editor at PostEverything and Outlook for the Washington Post and will be a contributing writer for America, writing on religion, politics, and public life, starting in 2017.
In our interview, she discusses both how Catholicism informs her work and how she believes it should inform other Catholics in their efforts to bring about what Pope Francis calls “a culture of encounter”.
How do you see principles of Catholic social teaching informing your work?
We all have an obligation in our own work to pursue the common good. For journalists, I think about it in terms of advancing stories that are true, first and foremost, and that are relevant to the public interest. In my editing work, I try to seek out stories that I feel address issues that are being under-addressed.
The two sections I post in—Post Outlook and Everything—are very diverse sections. They are both devoted to having broad conversations. So, for example, since I know both the communities in the Catholic world and the specific political writers who write from a Catholic perspective, I try to seek out people from those groups to contribute pieces for us when relevant. For example, we have a Catholic medical student, Chris Landry, working on a story about how Zika warnings have caused abortion demand to far outpace what the likely incidence of microcephaly will really be. We’ve also invited Charlie Camosy to write on the potential of a pro-life left.
In working on all of these stories, I feel like I am offering people an opportunity to see perspectives that they may not see very often.
What would you say about the importance of people reading about big picture events that may not directly relate to their own everyday experience? How do these larger questions still relate to our common good?
One of the things I really like about journalism looked at in terms of Catholic Social Teaching is that there is a subsidiarity principle at play. Local papers do a lot to keep ordinary people informed about what is going on in their particular town, and then larger papers like the Post or the Times take on the role of informing people of what is happening nationally or even globally.
These larger papers invite people to partake in the common good by keeping them informed about issues that are going on in other countries and that are affecting the globe, like climate change or Zika. For example, there’s a great piece coming in soon about corruption and climate change in Honduras. We also, of course, try to keep our readers informed about national conflict.
When we inform people about these things, we invite them to participate in the common good and common life of other countries and to even take action if they feel that it is needed. Read More