Franciscan University co-sponsors Journalism in Post-Truth World Conference

By Mary Jean Cadman
Staff Writer

Speakers encouraged journalists and students to proclaim the truth at the Journalism in a Post-Truth World Conference at the Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C. on March 10 and 11.

The Rev. Dave Pivonka, T.O.R, president of Franciscan University and Matthew Bunson, executive editor at EWTN News, collaborated to host a conference which would discuss the nature of journalism and the world’s need for truth.

Pivonka said, “my desire was to have students here,” adding that the world needs journalists.

During his opening remarks, Pivonka said that people of faith believe there is one truth and that there are some things that are objectively true for everyone, at all times.

“We seem to live in a world where there is fundamentally nothing that is true,” Pivonka said. “We believe that there is a truth, and we believe ultimately, we, people of faith, believe that that truth is found in Christ,” he said.

“Everything has become so political, so agenda-driven, and it does not matter what is true,” Pivonka said of the modern world.

Pivonka said the goal for the weekend was to find and present what is objectively true.

The first day of the conference focused on the craft of journalism, what is generally done correctly and what areas can be improved.

Dan Lipinski, former representative of the Third District of Illinois in the U.S. House of Representatives, was the keynote speaker for the first day of the conference. He presented on media’s impact as a member of Congress.

“Truth has not left the world, but much of the world has turned its back on truth” Lipinski said.

Lipinski said that, to be faithful, journalists must follow truth consistently and strive to do their work well.

Lipinski paraphrased Mother Theresa, saying, “we are not called to be successful, but to be faithful.”

No one is completely objective, but one must do their best and leave the rest up to God, Lipinski added.

The second day of the conference revolved around journalism and faith.

Michael Warsaw, CEO and chairman of the board of EWTN, was the final keynote speaker of the event. He spoke about communicating the truth in a post-truth world.

Warsaw said that journalists are on the frontlines of the post-truth era.

“Authentic information is the goodness directly opposed to untruth,” Warsaw said.

He said fake news is the spreading of disinformation, adding that it is meant to deceive and to manipulate. Warsaw said fake news increases hostility against Catholicism.

“Preaching the Gospel is a challenge today,” Warsaw said.

Warsaw said problems arise because of changes in platforms and the way people consume and share information.

Warsaw added that, in the face of adversity, one should press on and communicate the truth.

“As Catholics we know the goodness will prevail,” Warsaw said, adding that Catholics have the truth, who is Jesus Christ.

“Stay close to the church,” Warsaw advised new and future journalists, “and keep close to the saints.”

He said journalists should maintain a solid foundation in the faith despite challenges, and in doing so one be equipped for all difficulties.

One may not be in a Catholic environment, but one can bring Catholicism to it, he said.

“To be the best journalist you can be, be the best Catholic you can be,” Warsaw said.

Warsaw concluded by highlighting the importance of journalism as a vocation and as a part of the future of society and the Church.

“It deserves attention,” he said.

Wayne Lewis, a professor of communication arts at Franciscan University and a former reporter and editor, helped to organize the event.

“It was a very long process,” Lewis said, adding that it took months to set a date for the event. He said the topics to be discussed at the conference were then decided and panelists were chosen.

The conference was offered in-person and over livestream. About 100 people attended the conference in-person, including about 15 Franciscan students. Many more attended online.

Attendees of the conference included individuals from organizations such as Fox News, The Daily Signal and the Washington Examiner.

Breakfast and lunch were offered both days and the conference closed with a reception.