Rewarding the Messenger
This article originally appeared in Issue# 23
'Communicator' Award Recognizes a Media Professional's Vision and Values
Unlike the ancient kings of legend, our society gives its communications kudos to the bringers of bad news.
Reversing that trend by making sure that some of the honors go to the bringers of good news is the purpose of the new Media&Values Communicator Award established this year by the Board of Directors of the Center for Communications Ministry.
The 1983 award — the first — was presented March 7 to Dr. Richard Byrne, a professor of communications and computer specialist, at the Center's first Annual Celebration and meeting of members. Dr. Byrne was honored as "an outstanding communicator who has shown both vision and values as a media professional.
During the presentation, Barbara Casey, CCM Board member and president of Casey and Sayre, a public relations and management consulting firm, expressed the hope of the Board that the award would provide an annual means of focusing on the positive ways in which sophisticated technology and contemporary media methods can improve the lives of individuals and society.
Ann Redmond, an attorney and president of the Center's Board, further explained that the transmission of high moral and human values in the media is 'a primary value in our world...but is all too often financially malnourished and overlooked." The annual Award is "a way our Center can publicly recognize and affirm those who value and use communications media for human and social progress."
Dr. Byrne, a management consultant and professor at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School of Communications, recently formed a training company called Springboard! which offers workshops to help leaders in business and society overcome "computerphobia."
In addition to his teaching, he has worked in a variety of media, including photography and film, and has designed learning systems for the developmentally disabled, a major museum exhibit on American values and collaborated on the architectural and structural design for a creative university leaning complex.
Dr. Byrne has also had a continuing role in the development of Media&Values and Center programs since their inception. Sister Elizabeth Thoman, CHM, executive director and Media&Values editor, originally conceived and developed the first issue of the publication as an Annenberg graduate student in Byrne's seminar on Communications and Social Values.
To Dr. Byrne, the good news about the technological revolution is the potential it represents for life enhancement and creative problem solving. He characterized the current period of transformation and the structural changes it is bringing as "the void.. this curious age of parenthesis."
Dr. Byrne's remarks preceded his acceptance of the award, a specially designed multi-dimensional sculpture commissioned by the Board and created by Gregor Goethals, a graphic designer and professor of art history at the Rhode Island School of Design. It consists of a 4 1/2" black slate cube with the letters "M" and "V" etched as an overall design on five sides, with the award inscription on the sixth.
Ms. Goethals is also the author of The TV Ritual: Worship at the Video Altar, and the creator of a major exhibit based on the book's concept of television as a values-laden ritual.
Although the award presentation was a major focus of the evening, the event also provided a chance for the Center to celebrate its revised organizational structure and to inaugurate its new Core Membership program.
The Program provides an opportunity for individuals, corporations and organizations to assist the development of the Center by contributing "time or talent, wisdom or wealth." A new brochure describes the Center's purpose as a "Ministry of Caring: people reaching people" through professional communications tools and techniques.
In her brief remarks to the group Sr. Elizabeth explained the Center's current activities and future plans.
She described the Center as the only national resource center established to educate and train religious leaders for the world of mass media and organizational communications. Center functions include:
- The development of workshops, seminars and consulting services to teach media skills and strategies to religious organizations
- Networking between those engaged in the communications ministry in religious communities and the major faith groups
- Publishing professional resource materials, including Media&Values, to focus on media issues and create standards of excellence in all communications activities, from newsletters to teleconferencing.
Among future goals she outlined were development of a workshop on "Communicating for Justice," to apply communications strategies to justice and peace efforts, the creation of a series of telephone conference seminars as an inexpensive way to network and share expertise, and such pragmatic goals as the purchase of an office computer and more office space and staff help.
"We see media skills as strategic tools. Information is power, and those who can use media tools effectively have an advantage over those who don't," she said.