Role of Journalists and Media in Digital Society

Role of Journalists and Media in Digital Society
Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ
I am very happy that you have chosen a very curr
ent and relevant topic for this UCIP Refresher
Programme: “Role of Journalists
and Media in Digital Society.”
The topic is very relevant
because, as Vat. II decree “Inter Mirifica” on So
cial Communication recognized years back, the
mass media continue to influence us
enormously in our digital society.
My very first encounter with the digital wo
rld was in London in 1975. I went there to study
journalism. Then, I became a member of Swi
ss Cottage Library. I marveled that when I
borrowed a book from the library or
returned a book, I did not have
to fill any form or signed any
record as I used to do in Indi
a. The library clerk just took a
digital pen and drew a line on my
library membership card and another line on th
e book’s ISBN number. The digital pen did not
leave any line or mark neither on
my library card nor on the book!
Then, I was looking for a book which I wanted to r
ead very much. But the Swiss Cottage Library
did not have the book. I was disappointed that
such a big library did not have the book!
Then, the librarian told me not to worry but to
come back and collect the book after three days.
The Library had the facility of
digital searching and locating the
book in one or other libraries in
London or in the whole of England!
and reaching it to the client.
In those days there were no ATMs in London. Bu
t I could punch a number at a window of the
bank in which I held an account and submit my
bank passbook and I could get the money I
wanted from the bank on a Sunday or a holida
y. Then, I would get back my updated pass book in
a day or two by post.
Some thirty five years ago digi
tal services and facilities were rare in the world. But today
practically the whole world has be
come a digital society and so t
oday we speak of the role of
journalists in a digital society.
Let me share with you some more experiences of
the digital world in which we live. I went to
meet the President of SIGNIS India (World Cat
holic Association of people in audio-visual
media) Fr. Rappai Poothokaren, S.J. in his offi
ce in Gurjarvani, Ahmeda
bad. He was working at
his computer with LCD screen. There were no printe
r or paper or pen anywhere in sight! When I
remarked about it, Fr. Poothokaren just said that
“in the digital world we don’t need paper and
Well, most of us have not reached that state to
do away with pen, paper a
nd computer – printer in
our offices in our digital society. But we are k
eenly aware that we live
in a digital society.
I remember my introduction to the computer wo
rld. It was my second visit to USA in Feb. 1982.
Much earlier in the late
1950s I was introduced to typing in
English because my maternal uncle
Msgr. Mathew Vellankal of Kotham
angalam Diocese in Kerala had
a portable typewriter and I
was fascinated with it. So while in high school
in 1962 I joined a typing school and learned the
touch system of typing. So when I went to
USA first time in 1977 I have been given an
electronic type writer to
use for my work first in St Cather
ine’s Church, a suburban parish at
Bronx in New York for one month and then for 2 m
onths as a sub-editor
in the office of St.
Anthony Messenger at Cincinnati, Ohio.
My second visit to USA in 1982 was to attend
the UCIP council meeting at Boston in my
capacity as the Vice President of
International Federation of C
hurch News Services. After the
Council Meeting I spent one month in the office of
Catholic News Service (CNS – the biggest
Church news service in the world) to work a
nd learn about news agency journalism. I was the
Executive Director & Chief Editor of SAR News
(South Asian Religious News) at New Delhi.
CNS office then had a computer which occupied
practically the whol
e space of a room 10x10x10
feet and we reporters had monitors & key board
terminals on our desks. I had on my desk both
an electronic typewriter and a computer monito
r & key board. On the first two days I used only
the electronic typewriter to edit the news repor
ts which the editor Mr. Dick Daw passed to me.
On the 3rd day Mr. Daw came to my tabl
e and told me to use the computer.
I remember the conversati
on between Mr. Daw and me.
Mr. Daw: Fr. Varghese, why don’t you
enter the reports in to the co
mputer and then edit them so
that another person need
not key it again.
Varghese: Thanks Mr. Daw for the encouragement.
But you know that I am preparing to go back
and work in India. There I will be lucky to ha
ve a typewriter. And I do
not expect to have a
computer to work in my office in India at least for the next 10 years.
Mr. Daw: Who knows if you will have a computer in 10 years or not. But you try using the
computer here. Learning something new will always be useful.
I took Mr. Daw’s advice and started using the
computer in CNS offi
ce at Washington in 1982.
Back in India I was using my portable Olympic
typewriter for my correspondence as well as for
writing reports for SAR News.
Then, in 1986 I bought a bi-lingual electronic type
writer which, the company sales-man told me,
is only the second one sold in Ahmeda
bad, the biggest city in Gujarat.