Catholic media: “Communicating from and with the margins”

“Sometimes can see better from further away,” - Vilnius Archbishop Gintaras Grušas noted, speaking about the Church Chronicle Foundation’s Catholic Media Expansion Project which was presented at the international conferenced “Communicating from and with the margins”. It was organized by Germany’s Catholic Media Council (CAMECO) to mark the 50th anniversary of its activities. Participants in the conference, held in Aachen on 27-28 November, included Archbishop Grušas, the project’s management consultant Donatas Ramonas (CRC Consulting) and project manager Diana Adomaitienė (Church Chronicle Foundation).

The Catholic Media Expansion Project is being conducted for the first time in Lithuania. Its key partners are the web portal Bernardinai.lt, Artuma magazine for families, Ateitis magazine for young people and Bitutė magazine for children. The project began with audience research which clarified readers’ expectations of the Catholic media. They would like Catholic publications, in creating their content, to focus on the everyday challenges that a person of faith faces today. Readers see the strengths of the Catholic media as considering of issues of belief and reliability of information, and the weaknesses as narrowness of topics and lack of engagement of readers. Nonetheless, readers recognize that they need alternative content that reflects Christian values and does not limit itself to one opinion, and would like it to be presented in a contemporary language and form. After reviewing the results of the audience research, collaboration began with management consultant Donatas Ramonas of CRC Consulting, seeking to develop the until now rather weak management side of the Catholic media through a keen grasp of its mission.

With the project at its halfway point, not only can the first general achievements be noted – a changing work culture and strengthened mutual relations – but there are also measurable results. The web portal Bernardinai.lt, which at the start of the project had 233,764 unique visitors per month has steadily increased the number, which is currently 255,963. The number of followers of the portal’s faceook page is also rising and is now at 67,000, up from 62,000 at the start of the project.

That is likely just the start for Bernardinai.lt’s team, which is changing its flight direction and focused on doing real journalism, and also for the other publications, which are now intensively renewing their contents and designs. As consultant Donatas Ramonas said, during these 2 years of the project, the partners have made changes on a scale that not every business is able to do. These initial victories are a motivation and inspiration to continue the “small steps approach” to reinventing the Catholic media.

The Catholic Media Expansion Project would not be possible without the financial support of RENOVABIS and the help of CAMECO, whose senior consultant Sofie Jannusch shares recommendations based on successful experiences internationally. The Catholic Media Council began its work in 1969 as a response to the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Social Communication Inter mirifica, which was the first document of its kind, drawing attention to the growth of the media and considering how best to use it to announce the Gospel. The conference to mark CAMECO’s 50th anniversary gathered Catholic media representatives from many countries. During it, 15 Catholic media projects were presented, including the Lithuanian project.

Diana Adomaitiene,
a project manager

Translated by Bryan P. Bradley

Post scriptum: While taking part in the international conference in Aachen, I had doubts about the relevance for Lithuania of its topic – “Communicating from and with the margins”. But… the very day this text was written, the Prayer Breakfast was restarted in the President’s office after a 10-year break. I was unable to find any coverage of that in the media. Neither the main news portals nor the big TV news programs made any reference to that event, whose participants included the highest civil and ecclesiastical leaders. I won’t offer a conclusion, but it offers something to think about.