The sole of the shoes

Publish date 15-05-2021

by Nello Scavo

Go, see, listen, meet, share, tell. Pope Francis reminded us of this on the occasion of the World Communications Day. The image of the reporter consuming the sole of his shoes is very suggestive. But the Pope did not want to simply pay homage to the noble and difficult profession of the special envoy. It would be a reductive and self-referential interpretation. His are words addressed to all communicators.
Whether it's what happens behind the door, or the great international crises. It is basically a call to the vocation and the authentic mission of our profession. An appeal to journalism and communication of service and proximity. "Every tool is useful and precious," writes the pontiff only if he really pushes us to "go and see" what otherwise would remain unknown or only partially known, but with the aim of sharing and circulating knowledge.
In his message, the Pope continually indicates the path of encounter. At the same time, the pontiff's reflection is a warning, because mere "going to the place" is not enough. Francis asks us more: "to live in the relationship". In other words, sharing at least a piece of the road with the protagonists of our stories. The Pope says that "in order to know one must meet, allow the one in front of me to speak to me, let his testimony reach me".
The Pope's message was a relief. Going to see and tell is basically the raison d'etre of our profession. And to be sure I understood correctly, I asked Domenico Quirico, an envoy who ended up kidnapped a couple of times and even aboard a migrant boat, what he thought about it. "The journalistic act - was his response in the interview for Avvenire - is the sharing of human stories that we have a duty to tell and that can only be told on the basis of being with those men, seeing them, listening to them. , of walking with them, and suffering with them, being afraid, dreaming and translating all this into a journalistic narrative ». In other words, "The meaning of this Pope's document is also the obligatory nature of the relationship of absolute fidelity not only with the reader, but with the people who become the object of your narration, a relationship of total loyalty, which can only take place in the moment in where you are and stay with them. All the rest is not journalism ».
In fact, Francesco says that "if we do not open up to the meeting we remain external spectators, despite the technological innovations that have the ability to put us in front of an augmented reality in which we seem to be immersed". However, he points out, any tool is only useful if it puts knowledge into circulation that would otherwise not circulate. In particular, he focuses on the opportunities and pitfalls of the web. The network with social media can multiply the capacity and speed of sharing news, in a continuous flow of images and testimonies - for example for emergencies in the first service communications to the populations - and therefore be "a formidable tool".
"Everyone - Francis says - can become witnesses of events that would otherwise be overlooked by traditional media" and "bring out more stories, even positive ones". There is, he notes, the risk of a social communication "without verification": not only the news but also the images are easily manipulated, sometimes "even just for banal narcissism". "This critical awareness - asserts the Pope - pushes not to demonize the instrument, but to a greater capacity for discernment", with responsibility for the contents disseminated and the "control we can exercise together on false news, unmasking them" as, he reiterates, " we are all called to be witnesses of the truth: to go, see and share ».
The homage to journalists who take risks around the world certainly does not leave me indifferent. Our colleagues whom Bergoglio thanks and encourages. But the Pope addresses the entire information chain at the bottom. The reportage of a correspondent, the images of photojournalists, the film report of documentary makers and directors would be of little use, without osmosis with colleagues in the editorial office, with whom to share and give an organic structure to the information collected.
There is also an invitation to publishers. Because after all, it is they, especially at the time of social network information bulimia, of what Bergoglio defines as "empty eloquence", who decide whether to invest or reduce that need to "go and see". Too often, also due to the publishing crisis, people prefer to choose journalism "without ever going out on the street", without "wearing down the soles of their shoes, without meeting people to search for stories or verify certain situations face-to-face".

Losing this spirit would mean not only damaging information, but as the Pope still remembers, a loss "for the whole of society and for democracy if these voices were to fail: an impoverishment for our humanity".


As a journalist for Avvenire, then, the prayer that Pope Francis wanted to offer at the end of the message touches me a lot, which ends with an invocation: "honesty to tell what we have seen".



Nello Scavo

NP February 2021

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