A Review of Ethical and Pedagogical Challenges for Religious Communicators: Need for Pastoral Communication Education in an increasingly Networked Society.
2:00 PM - 3:30 PM
Wed Jul 10, 2019
Salle C Bis (Room C Bis)

For decades, there have been serious discourses on the power and effect of media or outright, lack thereof. In exploring and reviewing these influences of media, scholars have explored the impact of news media, the contributions of various communication mediums through which news and other information are conveyed such as traditional versus emergent technologies, among others. Some of those discussions focused on the power of the source in the form of a person or persons, media outlet, geographical area, or geopolitical source. This paper focuses on the power of the source for news and other messages emanating from religious leaders or as we represent them in this paper, pastoral communicators. Although this paper focuses mainly on Africa, we however, cite instances from other geographical areas. Religion is integral in the African art, culture, philosophy, belief systems, and politics. An average African (Sub-Saharan Africa) constructs meaning through some type of religion or religious beliefs. In most cases, this is interwoven with culture as well as politics. Religion arguably seem to be more powerful than many other social constructs such as education, politics, social-circle or even cultural values. Through the use of emergent technologies, religion is communicated to several thousand if not millions at a time. It is essential for pastoral communicators in Africa to be aware of the impact of their ministry as transcending spiritual need to include, guidance in other areas such as politics, health and well-being, civic duties, and so on. It is equally important for them to know the power and potential impact of mass media, how mass media can be effectively utilized while incorporating ethical, legal, technical, and journalistic tenets. We therefore, aver, that pastoral communication education is imperative. In the past, some churches or religious organizations recognized this need and insisted on or strongly recommended a formal training in the field of communication. For instance, the Vatican II’s Inter Mirifica, the Catholic Church documents call for proper formation and training in the communication field for all members of the church who use the mass media for pastoral work/evangelization. The paper is organized in three sections. Section one reviews the pastors’ (Religious dignitaries) construction and interpretation of meaning and their delivery methods and how their audience receives it and possible impact of such messages. Religious leaders of all sects employ the use of mass media in evangelization and the impact of evangelization has risen exponentially due to the use of emergent technologies to spread religion of all kinds. Section two presents the three theoretical frameworks upon which we base our argument: The powerful effect paradigm, the Medium is the Message concept, and the Two-step Flow theory. We measure the impact of religious media messages from three perspectives or standpoints. First, the impact of the messages themselves; the impact of the medium used in transmitting the message as in the McLuhan philosophy “the medium is the message” and thirdly, reviewing the impact from the power of the source – the religious leader who exerts impact to opinion followers because of the power of the source. From the above premise, it then becomes crucial that religious leaders who utilize mass media ought to be trained to be aware of the powerful instrument that they are using, the social implications, and the ethical, critical and legal obligations. Section three proposes the need for a formal training and thus the institutionalization of a pastoral communication curriculum in communication/journalism training institutions in disruptive age. We therefore acknowledge the need for a formal / semi-formal education and training for religious leaders and the media producers and practitioners by identifying the scope and need for such education and evaluating current practices related to expertise, curriculum, and delivery formats, and related legal and ethical issues in such training environments by identifying the scope and need for such education and evaluating current practices related to expertise, the curriculum, delivery formats, and related legal and ethical issues in such training. This section is further organized in four subsections focusing on: the percentage of mass media outlets devoted to pastoral messages and work in Africa; the Educational background of prominent pastoral communicators in Africa and the nature of their ministries, programs and messages; review of available formal training in pastoral communication in African media institutions; and review the nature of the program and their curriculum as it relates to journalistic tenets, technical skills, ethical responsibilities, the legal, formal controls as contained in respective constitutions and other media governing bodies.

Bellarmine Ezumah Associate Professor / Grad Program Dir., Murray State University

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