VATICAN CITY — Inside Vatican City, Cardinal Peter Turkson serves as the chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Social Sciences — the first exclusively scientific academy in the world, with roots dating back to the early 1600s.

The academy is headquartered in the Casina Pio IV, surrounded by Vatican gardens, 16th century frescoes and mosaics, and views of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.

It is here on Thursday that Cardinal Turkson addressed the Symposium on the Role of News, Media and Art in Society, speaking with business leaders, journalists and academics from around the world — including a team representing Deseret Management Corp., the parent company of the Deseret News. Together they discussed the power of uniting unique partners from business and nonprofit sectors to solve common problems.

Seats inside the chamber where Cardinal Turkson spoke are arranged facing one another, enabling gathering and conversation, he said. This type of exchange is the tradition here in the science academy — where Galileo Galilei was appointed as a member on Aug. 25, 1610.

The content created by media or artists, he said, depends on the point of view of the writer, artists or photographer. Yet, every now and then, when fueled with enough curiosity, there are opportunities to glimpse the whole picture. “Because the fullness of the picture is always something that we should aspire after,” he said.

DMC CEO Keith McMullin speaks during a Deseret Management Corporation partnered symposium on the “Role of News, Media and Art in Society” at the Vatican in Rome on Thursday, May 11, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Lift and influence

Sessions of the conference were co-sponsored by groups that included DMC, Radiant, the Pontifical Academy of Social Science, Handshake and Emotions to Generate Change. Each highlighted the power of media, the role of media and art in civil discourse, the opportunity of media to create a common experience, the changing relationship between media, art and society and media misinformation. Shanelle Gabriel, a poet and the executive director of Urban Word, was the emcee for the symposium.

“It is a pleasure for me to be here with all of you, in this most special and holy place, to talk about a topic of great importance to us,” said Keith B. McMullin, CEO of Deseret Management Corp. and a former member of the Presiding Bishopric of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

At Deseret media companies — including Deseret News, KSL Television, KSL Radio, Deseret Book, Deseret Digital Media and Bonneville Communications, which are all owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — “our purpose is not only to inform, but also to lift and influence men and women, boys and girls, who involve themselves in the products and services that we render. And we come concerned about the fraying edges of society, and what might be contributing to the disruption of an otherwise peaceful life.”

St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in Rome on Thursday, May 11, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

So, when the opportunity “came for us as a commercial business, to address this vital question of faith and how it is portrayed in the public media, we seize it,” he said.

“Every man, woman or child has within him or her a spark of the divine,” he said. “That is a universal truth.”

As a consequence of that divine heritage, they also feel “an affinity to Almighty God, and desire to have those affinities nurtured and respected and properly represented in the public discourse and in the media,” he said.

A recent study, commissioned by DMC’s Radiant Foundation, found that faith is both underrepresented and misrepresented in mainstream media. “We decided we must help change that,” he said. “We are so pleased that we are here today to discuss … how that dearth of proper treatment of faith in God, and faith in one’s beginnings and faith in one’s purpose in life, can be properly treated in the public square and in the public media.”

For example, McMullin said 180 million people — about 61% of the population in the United States — pray every day. “You will never read about that in the public media,” he said.

Together, McMullin said, he hopes to help people of faith “find proper representation by those who write and publish news and commentary. And we’ll give them courage to stand for that which is true and not be persuaded by the contentious winds that are blowing across the societies of the world.”

DMC executive vice president Sheri Dew, right, participates on a panel with Cristiane Murray and Sister Jane Wakahiu during a Deseret Management Corporation partnered symposium on the “Role of Media and Art in Society” at the Vatican in Rome on Thursday, May 11, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Express gratitude

Sheri Dew, a Latter-day Saint and executive vice president and chief content officer of Deseret Management Corp., joined Sister Jane Wakahiu, a Catholic associate vice president of the Conrad Hilton Foundation, in a special panel discussion about the power of media to inspire people, encourage reflection and foster faith. Cristiane Murray, deputy director of the Holy See Media Office and an independent freelance journalist, moderated the session.

 “Words have power,” Sister Wakahiu said.

She asked members of the media to focus energy on the “common good.” She said the answer lies as the media creates content that will build trust and respect.

“We don’t have to tear each other down in the media,” she said. “But you can speak with love with tenderness and compassion. And even when we have a difference … we can still communicate our own perspective with love.”

Dew spoke about the power of media and the “endless diet of content” consumed every day. “Think about this,” she said. “This year, a 30-second Super Bowl ad cost $7 million. One ad.”

Yet there is also a way to use media to transcend barriers, she said.

One example, she said, is the video made by President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints inviting the world in November 2020 to #GiveThanks. “Tens of millions of people watched that video,” she said.

The invitation to express gratitude to God “transcended religion, race, cultural barriers and continental borders.” More important, during a time of distress and uncertainty, it made people feel better.

Cardinal Peter Turkson and DMC President Keith McMullin attend a Deseret Management Corporation partnered symposium on the “Role of Media and Art in Society” at the Vatican in Rome on Thursday, May 11, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Who will listen?

JR Kerr, the CEO of Handshake, said a reason the timing of the convening was significant is “because in the world today, too often, issues that we very often agree on are being pushed to the edges. … So today we are talking about the common good, the role media and arts and bringing them together.”

In the final session, Anna Klein, senior vice president of Estee Lauder, posed a question that had been discussed earlier in the day. “How do you get people to listen?”

Those gathered for the conference came with a desire to work for a common purpose but with different agendas and takeaways, she said. The key to collaboration is figuring out what that looks like for every individual.

“The answer to the question of how do we get people to listen,” she said. “People will only listen if they see themselves in the conversation.”