Priests-to-be learn the importance of social comunication during a tour of Singapore Press Holdings and they are assured that journalists and the press in Singapore, like the Church, seek to find and tell the truth, and to do so responsibly.
SINGAPORE – Sixteen seminarians from the St. Francis Xavier Major Seminary (SFXMS) together with SFXMS Rector Father William Goh and Dean of Studies Father Kenson Koh toured Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) where they observed an editorial meeting and exchanged views with SPH Catholic journalists.
The Wednesday Aug 26 visit is part of the seminarians’ exposure to the social sphere and helps in their intellectual formation.
Brother Martin Arlando, Third Year Theology student, said the seminarians chose to visit SPH to expose them to social communication. Father Kenson added that social communication is a priority in the universal Church, and knowledge of how social communication works is beneficial for priests-to-be in “employing their creativity in the area of evangelisation both within and outside the Church” and for priests in their pastoral work.
The guests observed a daily afternoon meeting between The Straits Times Editor Han Fook Kwang and various section heads, and saw how a newspaper page is laid out. They also got a peek into the other media businesses of SPH such as Razor TV, STOMP and Asia One, and a briefing on the operating principles of The Straits Times by Associate Editor Bertha Henson, who is Catholic.
There was a dialogue session between the visitors and five Catholic journalists – The New Paper correspondent Andre Yeo, The Straits Times journalists Carolyn Quek and Theresa Tan, Tabla! Deputy Editor Patrick Jonas and The Business Times Executive Content Producer Bernice Bong.
On his work experience at SPH, Mr Yeo said, “Every day is different. We meet someone different, learn something new. It’s not a typical nine-to-five job but you need to love it.”
Mr Yeo also shared with the visitors the challenges and conflict he faced between his faith as a Catholic and his work as a journalist in covering the Novena Church exorcism case and Father Joachim Kang trials, eventually choosing to “work as a reporter first” and not let religion affect his professionalism.
Father Kenson urged the journalists to “always report the truth” and not to feel bad about reporting a wrongdoing of the Church.
Father William advised that whether one considers oneself a Catholic or a journalist, one should always be objective, and he encouraged “responsible reporting” amongst the journalists.
The journalists urged the guests not to “write off the media as enemies” or one with an “agenda to do someone in” and expressed hopes that the Singapore Archdiocese would appoint a media spokesperson.
Second Year Theology seminarian Brother Joseph Zhang “had never dreamt of entering the working areas of the heart of the Singapore press”. He found the dialogue with the journalists engaging and learnt of the importance for Church leaders to engage and collaborate with people working in the media.
“Through engaging the Catholics working for the media, we can heighten their awareness of their role to transmit the truth and Gospel values in their work with a language common to all people,” he said.
First Year Theology student Brother Jovita Ho felt cheered that “SPH practises responsible journalism”, a conclusion he has come to from observing how the headlines are prepared to the levels of checks made to ensure news is “genuine and contributes to society as a whole”.
The visit made him realise that both Church and media are interested in proclaiming the truth.
By Darren Boon