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Alum organizes Vatican site

Marielle Hampe | Sunday, November 6, 2011

As communication rapidly evolves in today’s global society, one Notre Dame alumnus is helping the Vatican incorporate new media into its mission.

Thaddeus “TJ” Jones, a 1989 graduate of Notre Dame, was present when Pope Benedict XVI officially launched the Vatican’s website, news.va.com, and wrote the first papal tweet on the eve of the feast day of Saints Peter and Paul.

News.va is an aggregator website that pulls together content from all of the different Vatican news sources into a single web page.

Jones is the news.va project coordinator and an official at the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

“If you want to get your word out, you have to look at how best to do it,” Jones said. “We wanted to engage with more social media in the way other organizations do already and be present in the dialogue of new forms of communication.”

Jones said 35,000 people became followers of the news.va site within the first hour after Pope Benedict XVI’s tweet, which read, “Dear Friends, I just launched news.va. Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ! With my prayers and blessings, Benedictus XVI.”

The way the world communicates has evolved and changed over the years, Jones said, and the Vatican strives to keep up with new forms of communication.

“The Vatican has an important message, and we have a duty to improve the way we get this message out,” he said.

He said the Catholic Church is a community of believers that spans the globe.

“News.va is meant to get the news out about the Pope to this universal church. Our idea was to bring news about the Pope to one portal to get information to the people,” he said.

News.va brings together content from a variety of Vatican news sources, including the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore

The site is available in English, Italian and Spanish and French. The main page also includes links to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr pages.

“The look of the website is inviting and not too formal,” Jones said. “We are trying to present the site in an attractive way for our audience.”

Although the site has been successful so far, Jones said improvements are in the works.

He said there are plans to make the site completely media platform compatible by augmenting the video selection and improving the live streaming of papal events.

“Our goal is to make the site accessible to everyone,” he said.  

Jones has worked at the Pontifical Council since 2003. He is also involved in assisting television networks in broadcasting major papal events like Christmas, Easter, the funeral of Pope John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI.

Prior to his current position, Jones had worked for 10 years at the Vatican Radio. He said his experience as a reporter gave him excellent background for coordinating the news.va site.  

He also said his Notre Dame education helped to prepare him for his work at the Vatican.

“The Catholic atmosphere at Notre Dame is enough to give you a sense of what it means to belong to the Catholic Church. My Notre Dame education gave me an ethical foundation,” Jones said. “There’s an emphasis at Notre Dame of making a morally and ethically informed person, an excellence in preparing a person spiritually and intellectually.”