by Ginny Cooke and Gordon Nary
Gordon: You are a Vatican analyst. What is the difference between a reporter and an analyst?
Andrea: A reporter merely reports the news. An analyst is called to put new information in context and see how things are, how things got to the point they are and how they could be in the future. In my view, all reporters should be analysts. News per se is not enough to help people understand.
Gordon: What publications in English and Italian do you write for?
Andrea: I am Vatican analyst at Catholic News Agency in English and ACI Stampa in Italian. I have a blog, called MondayVatican in English. It is updated every Monday.
Ginny: How did you become interested in journalism? Do you see it as a profession or more of a calling or both?
Andrea: As far as I remember, I always wanted to be a journalist, though I did not know I wanted to be a Vatican reporter. Reporting, however, has always been part of my life. I think that everything might be a calling, even a profession. My definition of calling is that thing that makes you feel alright despite everything that is going bad. This is journalism to me. On the other hand, if you do not have a calling, you are likely not to be a good journalist. Being a journalist is not just working. It is part of your life. This is why I make a distinction between those who are journalists and those who work as journalists. In addition, being a Catholic journalist in a Catholic media is something more than a calling. Actually, taking a religious perspective is at the moment one of the most revolutionary things ever. Doing it in a Catholic environment is even more revolutionary.
Ginny: How do you select the topics that you write about?
Andrea: I do not have specific criteria. There are things that are news, per se, and so it is granted we have to write about those. I like to choose topics that provide wider scenarios, so I generally tend to put a series of news together, like pieces of a puzzle. Obviously, I have my interests, and generally, I am very eager to write about the Holy See and finances, the Pontifical Diplomacy, the Curia reform, with a gaze set on theology and ideas and the way they develop. In general, I use a lot my instinct, and I do not care so much about the audience. I think we should not give the audience what it wants. I think we should ALSO give the audience what it wants, but at the same time, we need to give also information that people will not likely read as the first point of interest. Being journalists means providing a service, and being a mediator between the news and the audience. This is true especially now since the Internet strongly changed the information landscape. News (fake or true) is everywhere, but there is a lack of good mediators able to explain the news.
Gordon: When did you launch MondayVatican and approximately how many articles have you written for this site?
Andrea: I wrote 410 articles for MondayVatican. I launched it back in 2011, which means 7 years ago. I wanted to do a website on analysis and information on the Church from an international perspective, and this is the reason I chose to write in English, though English was not (and is not) perfect.
Gordon: What has been the most challenging topic that you have addressed and why?
Andrea: It seems ages ago, but I remember it was difficult to provide a context to the attacks on Benedict XVI, especially before and after the so-called Vatileaks 1. Benedict XVI had been reached by a series of criticism that I found unfair, basing on the facts I knew. Providing a context, explaining Benedict XVI’s thought, required a lot of studies. Everything has a rationale, in Benedict XVI. But it is so rational that it is difficult to explain. Still, I do not know if I have actually succeeded.
Ginny: How has social media influenced journalism? What are the most popular social media resources used at the Vatican?
Andrea: Social media impacted the way journalism is done.
The fact that news is everywhere, spread via the social media, and that anyone can give their version of it, is, however, a hard challenge. Does the journalist have to run after the news, or can the journalist take time and wait until the news can become a real story? This is an everlasting question. In my opinion, one can always wait, to provide a more in-depth story, but experience says that it is hard to keep people up in the laptop to read you when news already broke with a nice picture or video.
For what concern media resources, at the Vatican they are still very traditional: there are a few officials on Facebook or Twitter, but they are just a few, while the use of Whatsapp is increasing among the younger official, priests and bishops – also Cardinals, in some cases.
Ginny: What social media resources would you recommend all parishes use?
Andrea: If a parish wants to reach out for people, it should be on all the major platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – and should involve young people in doing that. Then, parishes should also network among themselves, with online platforms that help to spread events and foster collaboration. It largely depends in the country, though, and in how the parishes are social friendly. There will not be a revolution on that, but rather a slow transition.
Ginny: Any thoughts on Integrity and how to restore the loss of it in journalism?
Andrea: Integrity is a very personal issue, and not all of the bloggers lack of integrity, as not all the journalists in traditional media has more integrity.
Gordon: What are the three top societal challenges that the Vatican may need to address over the next two years?
Andrea: Hard question. I’d say, from my point of view of a guy in the Western world:
1. The overwhelming impact of public opinion, and the way it becomes a published opinion: this already impacts the Vatican a lot.
2. Secularization. It seems granted, but secularization has not reached its peak yet. Religion will always more be marginalized, and the challenge is not to be able to keep a public voice on issues, without being put at margins.
3. The slow demise of communities: we had a global world, we have the upsurge of nationalism, but truth is that people are losing the sense of communities. They are mostly isolated, although they speak of nations, independence and so on. They might participate to rally, but then they do not live life with others. Parishes can still do a lot to counter this.
Ginny and Gordon: Thank you very much for your time and excellent insights and work. We look forward to future contributions from you.