First anniversary of Pope’s unique media team

Although you won’t find it on any official calendar, August 1 marks an important anniversary for the Vatican’s engagement with the outside world, especially the press. It’s been exactly one year since an American, Greg Burke, and a Spaniard, Paloma García Ovejero, took over as the principal spokespersons for the Holy See.

Aug 12, 2017

By John L. Allen Jr.
Although you won’t find it on any official calendar, August 1 marks an important anniversary for the Vatican’s engagement with the outside world, especially the press. It’s been exactly one year since an American, Greg Burke, and a Spaniard, Paloma García Ovejero, took over as the principal spokespersons for the Holy See.

By American standards, they probably ought to be doing victory laps, since they’ve already had a longer tenure than the seven months Sean Spicer lasted as spokesman for President Donald Trump and, needless to say, an eternity compared to the mere 10 days logged by Anthony Scaramucci.

Both Burke and García Ovejero were innovative choices. It’s the first time the Vatican’s two most important positions in media relations are held by non-Italians, and the first time both positions are held by laity. In addition, García Ovejero is now one of the Vatican’s most visible women, and the first woman ever to act as spokesperson for the Pope.

Burke is a longtime veteran of Time magazine and Fox News. García Ovejero was working for Spanish radio covering the Vatican.

Both Burke and García Ovejero have changed the Vatican’s relationship with the press for the better, and two, they’re nonetheless operating below their real potential.

Both Burke and García Ovejero are former journalists with long experience covering the Vatican, so they know what it’s like. They’re friendly, sympathetic, and accessible, exactly what you’d want press officers to be.

In a thousand small ways, they’ve converted the Press Office into something akin to a family.

Here’s a simple but telling example. Every year at Christmas time, Vatican bigwigs tend to get a lot of unsolicited presents from people they don’t really know, who generally are just looking to curry favour. Often, those gifts go out with the next day’s trash. Burke and García Ovejero, however, decided to distribute them among the rest of the Press Office staff, who, being lower-level Vatican personnel, are typically under-paid and under-appreciated.

In other words, both possess a sincere human touch, and it shows.

Here’s another asset Burke and García Ovejero can draw on: Being former journalists, they’re able to call reporters out with credibility when their work is unbalanced, misleading, unfair, or has obvious holes. (I’ve been on the receiving end of that treatment from Burke a couple of times, and even if I didn’t necessarily agree 100 per cent with his critique, I certainly took it seriously.)

In the old days, the unstated message from the Vatican when a reporter showed up was that nobody was going to do backflips to make you feel welcome. Today, Burke, García Ovejero, and their team project a different impression. The sense is that the Vatican understands the importance of the press, and, within reason, wants to make our jobs easier. García Ovejero, in particular, is known for her round-the-clock work ethic — I have no idea when she sleeps, but it can’t be that much or that often.

Moreover, Burke and García Ovejero are talented professionals. They know their stuff, they work hard, and they try to be responsive in real time. They have an enormous reservoir of good will which is an asset in media relations are never to be discounted.

Greg Burke and Paloma García Ovejero deserve a “happy anniversary” from anyone who’s ever put fingers to keyboard or microphone to lips to cover the Holy See. -- Crux Now

Total Comments:0

Name
Email
Comments