ROME – The Holy See launched its new VaticanNews (www.vaticannews.va) website at precisely 4.42pm on Saturday, 16 Dec 2017, in the latest step in the process of reforming Vatican communications.
Twenty IT specialists have worked tirelessly for several months on the project, which had been announced previously several times.
The launch date was chosen to coincide with the eve of the 81st birthday of Pope Francis, who launched the reform of Vatican communications in 2015.
“We should not confuse the reform process with the portal, which is just one aspect of it,” warns Mgr Dario Vigano, prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for Communications.
Mgr Vigano decided to launch the website in an effort to unify Vatican communications which were previously split into several brands and sometimes almost unreadable.
The new VaticanNews site is fluid and easy to navigate and is well integrated with social media including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
It makes extensive use of multimedia, particularly audio and video, the great strengths of the former Radio Vaticana and the Vatican Television Centre (CTV).
Currently, in a “beta” version, the site is operated by a single editorial team divided into six language groups (Italian, English, French, Spanish, German and Portuguese).
It also contains sections in the 33 other languages that Vatican Radio transmits in.
Another newly introduced brand, VaticanMedia, will aggregate the various services for media professionals (direct telecasts and radio broadcasts of papal celebrations, for example) while the Radio Vaticana brand will in the future be reserved for a digital radio station broadcasting in Italy and in FM in Rome.
However, the prestigious legacy of Radio Vaticana, which was founded in 1931 by Guglielmo Marconi, the inventor of the radio, is not yet over.
It will continue despite a series misunderstandings that occurred at the beginning of the reform programme between radio station personnel and the heads of Vatican Communications, who are more involved in communications than news.
“Everyone has taken time out to listen and analyse. Some understood the need for change while others insisted on the importance of radio media in certain countries such as France,” comments Jean-Charles Putzolu, a former editor for the French section of Vatican Radio, now a strategic service of the Secretariat for Communications.
Once threatened, the shortwave station will not be abolished but “redeployed” towards more disadvantaged countries. Thus, it will disappear in Europe where it has lost most of its audience but will continue it is transmitted on relay via 80 partner radio stations.
“At the same time, we are in contact with Facebook and Google who are working to improve internet connections in Africa,” says Putzolu.
Finally, while VaticanNews insists that it is a Vatican “communications” body rather than a news service, the general editorial line remains unchanged.
“There will be no change in the content of the three daily radio news broadcasts,” insists Hélène Destombes, head of the francophone section of the new portal, which aims “to speak to everyone” and “to be heard everywhere.”
While it evidently emphasises events and items involving the pope, VaticanNews will continue to provide an overview of local churches – with which the Secretariat for Communications intends to work more closely.
It will also include international news in an effort “to provide keys for understanding based on the Gospel.”
This is an important aspect at a time when world political and economic powers are investing in news services to promote their own vision of the world.
The next stage in the Vatican communications reform will be the integration on 1 January 2018, of the Vatican Printing House and L’Osservatore Romano.
This will take place progressively maintaining the identity of the historic Holy See daily but working to increase its circulation. – la croix international