Master Camps will Offer Lessons for Adapting to Digital World, Coping with Crisis

Posted inCommunications

by Ana Rodriguez-Soto

Journalism seemed a lot easier back when newspapers came out only in print. You went out, covered the story, got back to the office, wrote it, and handed it to an editor. Perhaps those of us in the Catholic press also shot the photos; and once desktop publishing came into being, we helped lay out the pages.

But the advent of digital has all journalists doing more with less. Now we don’t just write a story. We Tweet our notes as we’re taking them. We most definitely shoot the pictures (if not with an SLR then with our smartphones). Perhaps we also shoot some video. Then, in addition to writing the story — and possibly acting as our own editors — we post it online. We post the photos or video to Facebook and Instagram. We Tweet a link to the posted story. Then we start the whole process again for print.

Because we’re doing so much more, figuring out a way of doing it all without going insane — in more technical terms, coming up with an efficient workflow — is vitally important. And that’s the subject of one of the master camps being planned for the Catholic Media Conference to be held June 18-21 in St. Petersburg, Florida, with the theme “Navigating Communications.”

The Editorial/Writing track will be led by Kilian Schalk, founder of PurpleGray, a company whose goal is to “guide content creators as they adapt to the digital space.” Schalk recently led a webinar for the Catholic Press Association on that very subject, based on his work with the people at America Media. But he and his company have also worked with The New Yorker, Condé Nast, and Time Inc.

Schalk will be joined by Tim Reidy, deputy editor in chief of America Media, and America’s senior editor, J.D. Long Garcia. The transformation at America Media has been nothing short of amazing so learning how they did it should prove quite useful to those of us in the Catholic press. And this master camp is aimed not just at editorial staff, but also counts as the master camp for the business track (advertising/marketing/circulation).

Then there’s the Communications master camp, which will help communications directors deal with a topic many dioceses are facing right now: the renewed headlines about sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

For the morning half, Mary Ross Agosta, communications director for the Archdiocese of Miami, will lead a discussion on “How communication directors and attorneys can survive a crisis.” And she’ll practice what she preaches by speaking alongside one of Miami’s archdiocesan attorneys, Maura Fitzgerald Jennings. Want to find out how the legal impulse to protect can merge with the public relations need to be transparent? Come to the morning session and find out.

For the afternoon half of the Communications master camp, Ross Agosta will lead a discussion of another related and pressing topic: When and if to hire a public relations firm. Can PR firms really help in a crisis? If so, how? It should make for a very lively discussion.

For those in the Design track, the master camp will be led by Ed Henninger of Henninger Consulting. Henninger has worked with countless newspapers in and out of the Catholic press and has been called “the nation’s foremost design expert for large and smaller hometown newspapers.” He’ll share his “Top 10 design hints” with all those creative people who help make our stories jump off the page and grab people’s attention.

In the Digital Media track, Billy Atwell, communications director for the Diocese of Arlington, will lead a two-part master camp. The morning half will be devoted to podcasts, a nod to their ever-growing popularity. Atwell will give some tips on building a studio and creating a podcast.

In the afternoon, he’ll talk about numbers: Specifically, how to get, analyze and understand your Google and social media analytics. And he’ll make all of it palatable for those of us who are numbers-phobic.

Finally, the master camps are adding a new track this year focused on radio. It will be led by David Renshaw, communications director for the Archdiocese of Portland. His focus, appropriately, will be “High Fidelity”: adapting and spreading the Gospel via radio.

There will be plenty for everyone to learn so plan on arriving in St. Petersburg around midday Tuesday, June 18. That will give you plenty of time to rest, enjoy the evening reception at the Dali Museum, and get up bright and early Wednesday, June 19, for the master camps.

Ana Rodriguez-Soto is editor of the Florida Catholic, Miami edition, and a member of the Editorial planning committee fo