Dealing with the media
When tragedy strikes
Often, ministers and elders are asked to speak for the community when tragedy strikes. They would attract the attention of the media. Journalists often gather with surprising speed in the midst of the community bringing cameras, satellite vehicles and all the expectations of finding the instant answers demanded by today’s rolling television news culture. This can feel unwelcome and intimidating.
The Communications department support in managing the media
The Communications Department is a valuable resource dedicated to supporting ministers, elders and their congregations in dealing with the media, particularly in reaction to tragic circumstances. Staffed by experienced journalists, the Communications Department knows how the media operates. In understanding the media’s expectations, the leadership of ministers and elders at an early stage can relieve pressure on the entire community.
The Communications Department is available twenty-four hours a day to respond to tragic events, and provide support in managing the media. Often, journalists will call the Church media team to break bad news even before the minister has been informed. The Communications Department can act as a buffer between the media and minister and elders, taking all the phone calls, considering all the interview requests, writing any statements and being present in the parish to facilitate any television interviews. This service is a safety net for the local congregation and is intended to minimise disruption to the important pastoral work supporting local parishioners.
Church as an alternative focal point for media attention
When a tragedy occurs within the parish, the church can act as an alternative focal point for media attention. A book of condolence can be a dignified and thoughtful expression of a community’s sense of loss. Lit candles can provide a powerful evocation of sorrow and hope. Facilitating access to suitably prepared people in such appropriate settings can satisfy the media’s initial demands for content and decrease the intrusion felt by the surrounding community.
Inevitably, the media will be interested in the first church service following any tragic event. The minister’s message to the congregation is a public statement articulating the community’s reaction and setting the tone for its response as it seeks reconciliation. Correctly facilitated, this can be enormously empowering for the congregation in realising its meaning and value within the parish.
The Church is also the natural place to bring the whole community together for a special service or memorial in the aftermath of a tragedy, or on key anniversaries which follow. Often ,these will be demanded by the community, and can be interfaith. The Communications Department can assist organising and publicising such services, and managing media access where appropriate.
Dealing with tragic events is a daily part of the Church’s work. Every congregation should know how to contact the Communications Department, and consider how it would respond should a newsworthy event occur within the parish.
Further reading and resources
The Communications Department on-call number 07854 783 539 (twenty four hours a day)