Book Club Channel
Blogs, E-books, and Apps, Oh My! A Review of "The Church and New Media"
Part 2 features the wise counsel of Catholic Answers' Mark Shea, whose experience as commentator and blogger makes him keenly aware of the great potential and the pitfalls of Internet communication—citing comboxes, for example, as a way to interact with people who may have a very negative view of the Church, but who can be educated and possibly transformed by learning more about the Church's consistent message. (I took some comfort in Shea's casual approach to blogging, noting that by its very nature, it's more hastily assembled than a book: "It ain't world peace," Shea says, "but it's still good.") Taylor Marshall, whose popular blog Canterbury Tales always offers a new look at a saint or a scripture, talks about using new media to unwrap ancient truths. And Fr. Dwight Longenecker, convert and author whose faith journey took him from fundamentalism to the Anglican priesthood and finally to Catholicism, offers insights into how to communicate with readers from other faith traditions.
Community is the focus in Part 3. There Scot Landry, secretary of Catholic Media and host of "The Good Catholic Life" on Catholic radio in Boston, and Matt Warner, creator of the Fallible Blogma and TweetCatholic blogs, present some helpful tips for readers who work with dioceses and parishes. And Lisa Hendey of CatholicMom.com discusses the expanding online community and the social nature of the Catholic blogosphere.
Capping it off, Part 4 tackles "New Media and the Common Good." Here, two uber-bloggers—Thomas Peters of American Papist and Shawn Carney of 40 Days For Life—discuss how the new media can help for good, by advancing Catholic social teaching. Peters' highly successful blog frequently covers political events. Wielding considerable influence among his Catholic readers, Peters is able to mobilize his audience to contact their Congressmen or to thank a bishop or to sign a petition or to express themselves in the voting booth. Shawn Carney is the co-founder of the world's largest pro-life organization, 40 Days For Life. The organization—which began with just a few people gathered for prayer in central Texas—grew and spread through use of new media tools such as Facebook and free webinars.
The Church and New Media is a smorgasbord of great ideas, a valuable resource for newbies and experienced bloggers alike. It sent me back to the keyboard to promote my own blog via some of the new media outlets I'd neglected. I've explored websites new to me, soaked up advice and inspiration from long-time writers, committed to participating more fully in the online Catholic community, and identified potential new readers.
Vogt warns about negative effects of new media, such as information overload and online relativism. Despite these and other negative consequences, the new media inspire an explosion of renewed opportunities for evangelization, faith formation, inter-faith dialogue, and even vocations.
Having said that, there is one easy fix I'd like to see addressed in the second edition. I'd have appreciated a clearer delineation between the main chapters and the numerous inset boxes. Granted, I do most of my reading late at night through bleary eyes, but I found that I often slipped from the main essay into a sidebar without realizing it, and then stumbled to figure out in whose voice a particularly helpful box was written. The dozens of sidebars were a valuable addition to the book, but had they been printed on a shaded background, for example, or in a different font, it would have been easier to understand where one writer stopped and another started.
Oh, and one more excellent thing! As if the exhaustive tips and techniques offered in The Church and New Media aren't enough, the book's companion website includes a resources page that organizes 156 (yep, count 'em, 156!!) additional links. There you can find additional articles, videos, presentations, tutorials, and more, all designed to help parishes achieve an effective presence in the blogosphere. Check it out here.
Read an interview with Brandon Vogt on The Church and New Media at the Patheos Book Club here.
Kathy Schiffer is the wife of a deacon and mother of three grown children, and currently works as Communications/Media Relations Coordinator for Guest House, the treatment center for Catholic clergy and religious. She lives and writes in Southfield, MI, and blogs at Seasons of Grace.