Journalist and commentator Simon Caldwell tells his own story about getting ready for the launch of the Pope’s new book.
Journalists and public relations consultants often tread common ground but their instincts are different. This is because generally they have functions that are diametrically opposed: the role of the journalist is primarily to bring stories into the public domain by seeking them out, discovering them and reporting them while PR operatives are often called upon to cover up, or bury, what journalists might think are the best stories.
They tend neither to like nor trust each other and occasionally will swear at one another down the telephone.
I am a freelance journalist slowly venturing into the world of PR. Imagine my delight to be handed an advance copy of Jesus of Nazareth Part Two: From Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection, the forthcoming book by Pope Benedict XVI, some six weeks before its publication on March 10.
Had I been working solely as a religious journalist I would have killed for this text (not literally of course). But my brief was PR and it included the task of discerning the “incendiary” passages with a view to preparing a media strategy for the launch of the book.
I think the decision by the Catholic Truth Society, the publishers to the Holy See in the UK and Ireland, to ask a journalist to read this book was shrewd. I have identified at least one major international story tucked away in the Pope’s text. “Incendiary” might indeed be the best way to describe it.
As a journalist I would like to tell you everything but as a PR consultant I labour under the strict terms of the embargo imposed by the Vatican.
So I can’t tell you what the big stories are (that’s the PR side out of the way) but what I can tell you is that Pope Benedict will again show his ability to surprise us. This is no dull theological tome. It is a meditation on the person of Jesus during his Passion, death and Resurrection by one of the Church’s greatest intellectuals.
The Pontiff also writes with pace and lucidity of style and his clarity of thought and insight are breathtaking. The narrative is simply gripping and I defy anyone to put down that book without being moved to the core.
If the Pope set out to bring Catholics closer to Christ by writing Jesus of Nazareth I think that he will accomplish his objective.
But it is also in the apostolic nature of the Successor of St Peter to perhaps keep one eye on a wider audience. So within the text the reader may discover several themes that touch on topics of the day.
Fellow religious journalists, get yourself a good breakfast on the morning of March 10 because you might be in for a long and busy day.
Simon Caldwell has written extensively in the Catholic Herald and runs St Gabriel News and Media.
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