SPJ 2020 Journalism Conference • Sept. 12-13, 2020



Breaking the habit

By Billy O'Keefe

LAURA BURNS / The Working Press
At the SPJ Convention Opening Night Reception Thursday, journalists jostled to bid at the Silent Auction, people laughed over glasses of wine and cans of Guinness — and two nuns in full habits taped interviews with half a dozen convention participants.

Tommy Valuckas, News Assisstant for The Republican-American in Waterbury, Conn. is interviewed by Mother Marie Martine as Sister Marie-Anne. Martine and Marie-Anne are religious reporters for the Fraternite Norte Dame. (Photo by Kenneth Cummings / The Working Press)

Tommy Valuckas, News Assisstant for The Republican-American in Waterbury, Conn. is interviewed by Mother Marie Martine as Sister Marie-Anne. Martine and Marie-Anne are religious reporters for the Fraternite Norte Dame. (Photo by Kenneth Cummings / The Working Press)

Mother Marie-Martine Guibert and Sister Marie-Anne Bodin worked the room asking journalists where, who, what and how they practice their craft. The former manned the camera while the latter asked the questions.
“My first reaction was ‘What are nuns doing at a journalism conference?’” said Adrian Uribarri, an Orlando Sentinel reporter who granted an interview.
Good question.
The nuns are reporters for their order, Fraternite Notre Dame. In 1977, the Rev. Bishop Jean-Marie founded the Chicago-based order to serve the poor, destitute and homeless. The nuns, who joined SPJ this year, have been working journalists for more than five years.
“Even though we live a very traditional life, we still use all of the modern equipment,” Mother Marie-Martine said.
The nuns operate their own audio and video gear and also edit their tapes. The two mostly cover issues of spirituality and religious events, such as the 2007 White House Conference on Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. They uploaded their report to GodTube, a Christian social networking and video-sharing site. Their work can also be seen on the order’s Web site, Chicago’s public access television and two satellite TV stations, Faith and Revelation TV.
The nuns attended sessions on pesky sources, social networking and lawyers who sue journalists — standing out in their long black robes amid the business casual crowd.
Said Joe Skeel, SPJ’s associate executive director: “I think more than anything it probably opened the eyes of the ‘traditional journalists’ that people of all walks and types and religions are doing journalism.”




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