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Taiwan’s bishops take practical lessons in media communications


Taipei (AsiaNews): The bishops of Taiwan and the spokespersons of each diocese recently concluded a January 14 to 16 workshop on how to respond during interviews and how to better communicate through mass media.

Participants included Archbishop John Hung Shan-chuan, from Taipei; Archbishop Peter Liu Cheng-chung, from Kaohsiung; Bishop John Baptist Lee Keh-mien, from Hsinchu; Bishop Martin Su Yao-wen, from Taichung; Bishop Bosco Lin Chi-nan,  from Tainan; and Bishop Thomas Chung An-zu of Jiayi.

The course was arranged by Bishop Philip Huang Chao-ming, from Haulian, who, after having arranged something similar for his own diocese in April 2012, pushed for all the bishops to have same the opportunity.

The sessions began with an introduction the impact of social communication in evangelisation, given by He Jia-ju, a university professor. 

Later, Jesuit Father Jerry Martinson, vice president of Kuangchi Programme Service, conducted a session on managing crises, based on the guidelines in Jim McDonnell’s book, Managing your reputation –  A guide to crisis management for Church communicators, focussing on the elements and styles of communication that, in times of crisis, can place the Christian community or its members in a bad light.

A practical exercise was conducted in which everyone took turns in the hot seat for mock live interviews in front of the camera. In the analyses that followed, it emerged that the two most frequent reactions to uncomfortable questions were arrogance towards the interviewer or a tendency to become defensive.

The next day’s workshop challenged participants to present a well-structured personal story or experience in 30 seconds. Later, following mock press conferences, the attitudes and answers of the participants were evaluated. 

Facial expressions, calmness in responding, a willingness to clarify obscure points as well as citing reliable sources were highlighted as important in establishing rapport with journalists. 

The use of simple and clear language was also stressed as being important for fluid and coherent communication, along with body language, use of the microphone, proper use of eye contact and showing interest rather than aloofness. 

“Make friends with the camera and the interviewer,” said Father Martinson, repeatedly.

Luis Cardinal Tagle, from Manila, who was shown in several videos, was held up as concrete example of someone who is experienced and at ease being on television. 

Taiwan’s bishops want to enhance the Catholic profile in the country and to better present the Church’s initiatives to the public by appearing more on television—especially after the death of Paul Cardinal Shan Kuo-hsi, who was the seen as the media’s point of reference for Church matters.


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