VATICAN CITY, APRIL 29, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Journalists who cover the Vatican are usually the ones who do the probing. Now, a doctoral thesis has taken a detailed look at them.
Father Frederick Njoroge Kairu of Kenya has written a thesis about the news correspondents who cover the Vatican. It is entitled “The Vaticanologists: Who They Are and What They Do: A Survey on Their Knowledge, Attitudes and Behavior.”
What the priest found is that the majority of the reporters (72%) are men. Their average age is 49.8 years. And most (63.4%) are married.
A comparison of Father Njoroge’s thesis with other empirical works on journalists reveals that the cultural acumen of Vaticanologists is greater than that of the average journalist. For example, 80% of Vaticanologists speak or understand at least four international languages.
Eighty percent of those interviewed said they are Catholics, although the thesis does not address questions of religious practice.
A similar percentage of journalists writing about the Vatican have taken brief courses and refresher seminars, and attended sessions to reflect on theological questions.
One out of four said that an assignment as a correspondent in the Vatican “should never be a journalist’s first job.”
The purpose of the study was to find out “how an ecclesial press office can improve the quality of its service to journalists.” This requires “knowing one’s audience well, with sufficient information,” it said.
Professor Marc Carroggio directed the thesis, which was presented in the Faculty of Institutional Social Communication of the University of the Holy Cross in Rome.
He said that the study reveals that “communicators are needed that will be a bridge between journalists and institutions of the Church.” This means individuals who “know well the logic and needs of both sides and who try to conciliate them,” Carroggio said.
In this connection, the study reveals that three out of four Vaticanologists think their work “would be difficult without the mediation of cooperative institutional sources,” the professor added.
After interviewing more than 100 Vaticanologists of the general media, Father Njoroge listed some of what he considers the essential characteristics needed for journalists covering the Holy See.
The characteristics include “a degree of theological formation, religious sensitivity, knowledge of the sources, professional independence, ethical conduct, a passion for journalism, and previous experience in another job.”
Regarding the Internet, 3.6% of Vaticanologists say they never use it; 77% use it “more than once a day.”
Fully 72% of Vaticanologists prefer to receive information and invitations by e-mail; 19% feel more comfortable with faxes. Only two journalists preferred the postal service.
The Vatican press office was the most consulted source of information by Vaticanologists (93%). Journalists also rely heavily on the agency Ansa and the two principal Italian newspapers as sources, the study found. About 27% consulted ZENIT at the time of the study. This was before ZENIT launched its Italian edition.
Among the Vaticanologists surveyed, there were 137 Italians; 37 North Americans; 25 Germans; 22 Spaniards; and 16 French.