Diocese of Charleston Media Communication Policy

Preamble
HearSay Communications is a public relations company retained by the Diocese of Charleston. Its president, Maria Aselage, is the Diocese’s Director of Media Relations. In that role, she oversees all public relations efforts for the Diocese and serves as its media spokesperson. She reports to the Vicar General and keeps in regular contact with the Bishop in the event of a crisis situation.

Policy
The Director of Media Relations works for the Bishop of Charleston to ensure that the Diocese of Charleston’s mission, response to media inquiries, and presentation of events are represented with one, unified voice in a manner that promotes evangelization of the Catholic faith.  Hearsay Communications will ensure a clear, consistent, accurate, authoritative and timely message is communicated to the public on behalf of the Diocese and the Bishop.

In order to efficiently and effectively ensure a unified message, all Diocesan Personnel (priests, deacons, seminarians, religious, diocesan employees, parish and school personnel, and institutional staff affiliated with the Diocese of Charleston) are required to comply with the following media communication policy. Good communication among all Diocesan personnel will assist Ms. Aselage with her role in working with reporters and may preempt any negative reports in the media.

  • Any media inquiries on topics that are considered controversial (issues related to sexual abuse, abortion, homosexuality, politics, war, etc.) and may result in a negative or contentious story about the Diocese, its parishes, its school or its personnel should be directed to Maria Aselage, Director of Media Relations.
    • Maria Aselage
    • maria@charlestondiocese.org
    • (843) 513-7605

    If you are unsure whether the topic may be controversial or result in a contentious story about the Diocese, please contact Ms. Aselage immediately and discuss the issue with her. She will make the final decision on how the media inquiry will be addressed.

  • If a media inquiry is made on topics that are considered non-controversial, it is not necessary to immediately contact Ms. Aselage; however, please contact her within 4 hours after the interview so she can track the media coverage.
  • In response to any media contact or inquiry regarding a controversial topic, Diocesan personnel are not to respond by stating, “I am not allowed to talk to a reporter” or “I have to get permission to speak to you”.  Instead, advise the reporter: “The Diocese of Charleston’s policy is to refer all media inquiries to Maria Aselage, our Director of Media Relations. You can reach her at (843) 513-7605.”
  • Ms. Aselage is to be contacted immediately, no later than one hour, if and when a personnel member has been approached by the media regarding a controversial issue. Diocesan Personnel are expected to cooperate with Ms. Aselage in order to assist in preparing a response. A reporter should not compel anyone to answer questions on the spot.
  • Comments to the media regarding a controversial issue can only be issued by Ms. Aselage unless she authorizes another to comment.  A decision to delegate this responsibility will be based on that individual’s knowledge, experience and expertise. Ms. Aselage will work with that designated official to prepare him/her to respond to the media inquiry.  Preparations may include developing talking points as well as counseling, training and practicing for the interview.
  • In the event a reporter and camera crew show up unannounced at a parish or school regarding a controversial story, the administrator (pastor/principal) and the parish/school staff shall act with courtesy and professionalism. The Administrator shall contact Ms. Aselage immediately and inform her of the identity of the reporter/photographer and the purpose of their inquiry.
  • The following guidelines should be used when television camera crews or print photographers arrive unannounced regarding a controversial story.
    • Although the media cannot be prevented from photographing or filming the exterior of a Diocesan building, Ms. Aselage can contact their newsroom and/or editors for clarification.
    • The media cannot enter Diocesan facilities to record, photograph or attempt to interview anyone without explicit permission.
    • The media cannot block the entrance to Diocesan parishes or schools, or prevent people from entering buildings or conducting business as usual.
    • The media can be instructed not to block or interfere in any access area, such as parking lots, driveways, doors, walkways, etc. if staff complains about the inconvenience caused by their presence in those areas.
  • Letters to the editor may be submitted without the approval of Ms. Aselage. However, she is available to serve as a resource and to review the document before it is sent to the publication.

This policy covers all external news media including broadcast, electronic and print.  It is to be implemented to protect the Diocese of Charleston and the people it is charged with serving.