Oh Jealousy…Jealousy

Deacon Greg pointed this out to me today. Seems that some in the Catholic media are peeved that the Jesuits didn’t release their interview with Pope Francis to a myriad of Catholic Sources. Here’s one such complaint from Greg Erlandson, publisher of Our Sunday Visitor:

It appears that hardly any bishops had a head’s up that this was coming. News organizations had advance copies that were embargoed. That means that they promised not to publish anything before 11 a.m. EDT.

And Deacon Greg responds:

Is it possible that this was a concerted effort to shut out other voices? So that the only ones who could speak definitively about it were, in fact, a small cadre of Jesuits? Once it was published, it would take several hours for bishops, reporters, theologians, analysts to get up to speed and be able to comment on this, but by then, the folks at America had already done it. It’s the “get” of the year, maybe of the decade, and good for them. But for a work of this significance, that kind of strategy strikes me as rather small and perhaps even antithetical to the Franciscan spirit of evangelization. For at least a little while, America elected to keep this news, and by extension some of the Good News, to themselves.

And my response is OF COURSE THEY DID.

When you have the story of the year, you don’t exactly give that up to every other reporter. You want to be the one who breaks the big story. And America Magazine and the other Jesuit journals did exactly that.

Some thoughts from a former journalist:

I think the people complaining about this are clearly jealous and to further this point, perhaps they should go the extra yard and try to cultivate a source or two and write their own big story about something. That’s called doing some WORK and not relying on others to do it for you(That said, I’m riffing on Deacon Greg’s column, so I’m just as lazy as you are). I had the David Cone aneurysm story before anyone else. A college friend working for the Yankees leaked it a full twenty minutes to me before anyone else. And a talk show host at the talk station I worked for wouldn’t put it on the air. I had nowhere to go. I decided to leak to the old station I worked for and they broke the story instead. I was really annoyed. I had the story, I cultivated the sources.

And I had nowhere to go with it.

At Busted Halo I was able to interview Bob Shepherd, the longtime Yankee Stadium announcer, who had been sick and nobody thought he’d be able to return. NOBODY had the story of when or if he would be returning. A reporter from the New York Post, who will remain nameless, took the story and wrote it without ANY credit given to me or Busted Halo. To say the least, I was annoyed and there were plenty of other places sports and otherwise who gave us plenty of credit. It was the top Busted Halo story that year.

And I wasn’t giving anyone a head start on it. I sent it to people who I knew would further our reach and who would give us the proper credit for our hard work.

So, sorry, but I’m not buying that America or any of the other Jesuit journals had to release this to anyone else. And they did give advances to people who they knew would further the story and work with them to make sure it was a big story and that America and the Jesuits would get the deserved credit.

Key bishops, he said, received an advance copy of the magazine by mail. Cardinal Dolan received a copy the day before it appeared online. So did the USCCB’s director of media relations, Sister Mary Ann Walsh.The only other person outside the publishing world who received an advance copy was the Superior General of the Jesuits.

And there’s no reason why these media outlets couldn’t spin America’s story for their own purposes as commentators from any number of angles. There’s no reason why in the breaking news moment of the day they couldn’t sit down and make a few comments and tweet a few tweets and try to capitalize on the “story of the day (Week?).” Breaking news happens and when it does you need to be ready. That’s called being a journalist.

Fr. James Martin, SJ talked with Deacon Greg about this today and didn’t back track.

Why didn’t other Catholic media outlets receive a heads up? ”What would the alternative have been?,” Jim asked. ”The alternative would have been to give it to multiple magazines, and the other Jesuit magazines around the world were very worried about leaks…they did not want their story to be scooped.” Jim explained, too, that some of the other publications had a strong resistance to releasing any of the text in advance at all; they weren’t accustomed to dealing with American media practices. ”And frankly,” he admitted, “we wanted this to be a big story.”

And it was and still is. And America and the other Jesuit journals from all over the world deserve all the credit. They did the work and hustled and used their influence to produce a work that may very well win the Pulizter Prize.

It is pure balderdash for others to be jealous and it’s a typical reaction for non-Jesuit entities to be green-eyed monsters at this point. I’m jealous of them too, but ya don’t see jumping up and down like a two year old saying “WAAAAAAH I want to be invited to the inner circle.”

Please. None of us deserved a head start and I consider James Martin and the guys at America good friends and I work at a Jesuit institution. We didn’t get a head start either and we were able to comment and push the story further for our own purposes in any number of ways. They gave a head start to those who would give America and the Jesuits the props for doing one fine piece of journalism. As an employee of the Jesuits, I have to say I’m really proud of the work that all the journals did in collaborating together and Matt Malone, S.J. and James Martin, S.J. did a yeoman’s job in working the media here in the United States.

Do some work journalists. You’ve got a hard job. But stop whining about the success of others. This one’s for you.

The Gospel According to Blog

America Magazine’s Fr James Martin, S.J. blogged on the Pope’s Message for the World Day of Communications today in which he essentially encourages us to blog the gospel.

This is an essential message for all those in the Catholic church who disparage new media. About ten years ago I remember speaking with a long-time observer of the Catholic church, and asking why so few Catholic leaders–especially some in the hierarchy at the time–seemed to have so little to say about television. “They don’t watch it,” he said bluntly. It was infra dig. That was pretty shocking, and it reminded me of someone who told me that those who proudly say that they don’t watch television are actually saying that they know nothing about the culture in which we live.

Today the same could be said about the new media–the Internet, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, and so on. Some of these developments, to be sure, are a mixed bag, a blessing and a curse, to borrow from Scripture. (What man-made creation isn’t?) The Internet, which boasts Wikipedia and thousands of sites for reputable news sources, can sometimes seem like Newton Minow’s famous “vast wasteland,” filled with hate-filled blogs and, well, pornography. (One of the most popular songs from the musical “Avenue Q” is “The Internet is for Porn.”) Youtube, a marvelous place to find clips of movies and songs that you thought you’d never see or hear again, is also the home of, well, more porn. Facebook, a terrific way to keep up with friends and trade photos, is also the originator of the minute-by-minute account from “friends” telling you that they’re cleaning their bathroom.

But guess what? That’s where people are congregating today and if we want to emulate Jesus we should remember that he went out to see people, rather than simply letting them come to him. (He did some of the latter, but much more of the former.) The history of Christianity is in large part the history of the church using to great effect the latest media, sometimes even inventing media, to evangelize.

Read the whole thing as Fr Jim essentially gives a history of Saints who use modern methods of communication for their time.

Fr. Frank Desiderio, CSP who ran Paulist Productions for many years once told me that we’re really extending the message of Jesus when we use media. Jesus used the media of his day: itinerant preaching–parables or story telling, if you will. St. Paul was a letter writer and Paulist Founder and now Servant of God, Isaac Hecker was a publisher. So blogs like this one and sites like BustedHalo® are simply doing what Jesus and his followers have always done.

So blog the gospel, facebook the psalms and tweet Catholic social teaching because there is where the message of Jesus needs to be most alive.

A h/t to the Jewish Journal for the pic and to America Magazine.

NCR Touts Googling God Blog

Heidi Schlumpf formerly of US Catholic and now writing for NCR has an excellent piece on progressive Catholic bloggers including Deacon Greg and yours truly amongst others in the National Catholic Reporter.

My theory is that those who feel outside the mainstream are more likely to take advantage of alternative media like blogs. And traditionalist Catholics are still outside the mainstream of American Catholicism (if you look at the entire church, not just the hierarchy). Most prominent national Catholic publications are still moderate-to-progressive and feature more liberal bloggers, including National Catholic Reporter’s own NCR Today, whose writers include NCR editors and contributors from all over the country, including yours truly. (Commercial break: If you haven’t checked out NCR Today yet, you’ll find lots of interesting news and opinion there, including a “Morning Briefing” first thing every day.)

Other progressive bloggers write for America’s In All Things, Commonweal’s Dot Commonweal and U.S. Catholic’s blogs. But there are also a number of individual bloggers who favor a post-Vatican II type of Catholicism. Here are some of my favorites:

The Deacon’s Bench (deacbench.blogspot.com), by Greg Kandra, a deacon in the Brooklyn, N.Y., diocese who used to work for CBS News, now for the diocese’s cable channel. His blog is very newsy and updated daily. If you read this blog, you’ll be up on most of the major Catholic news stories.

Googling God (googlinggod.blogspot.com), by Mike Hayes, an expert in young adult ministry who cofounded BustedHalo.com, an online Catholic site for young adults. Blogging since 2005, Hayes just took a job as campus minister at St. Joseph’s University Parish in Buffalo, N.Y. He has a nice mix of personal stories and links to other Catholic and religious material.

Ad Dominum (ad-dominum.com), by “Thom,” a secular Franciscan and reference librarian whose blog description promises “progressive theology, traditional liturgy.” I know you’re thinking, “A librarian and a liturgist?” But trust me, he’s interesting — even if he does like to dissect every Mass (most recently Ted Kennedy’s funeral).

Catholic Anarchy (catholicanarchy.org), by Michael J. Iafrate, a singer-songwriter working on his doctorate in theology. With the tagline “vox victimarum, vox dei” (“the voice of the victim is the voice of God”), Iafrate’s blog covers politics, liberation theology and social justice movements. Anti-capitalism is a category; Dorothy Day is mentioned frequently.

The Ironic Catholic (www.ironiccatholic.com), by an anonymous professor of theology at a small Catholic university in Minnesota. The only female on this list, she is currently pregnant with her fourth child. This blog isn’t necessarily liberal, but it is funny with its fake news reports, “strange but true” notices and bad theological jokes.

Humbled and honored is all I can say to be mentioned with such prolific bloggers and by someone who is an excellent writer and reviewer of all things Catholic who I have admired for years.

Today may we all rediscover the gift of surprise, which I was indeed floored by today.

Extending Jesus’ Message

I was recently asked about why we use the media at Busted Halo® to do ministry and my answer was simple: We’re just doing what Jesus did.

That’s right. Jesus used the media of his day: storytelling, itinerant preaching, mountaintop gatherings.

And moreover the church has kept that going: St. Paul was a letter writer (and we close the year of St Paul today–so blessings to our friends the Paulist Fathers). Isaac Hecker, Servant of God–the Paulist founder was a public lecturer and a publisher and believed in using all kinds of media. His theory was that we need to proclaim “old truths in new forms.”

And we extend that message of Jesus today using all that we have at our disposal. TV, Radio, Internet, Facebook, You Tube whatever.

What kinds of things have you sampled on the net or TV that have faith based material on them?

To Vatican Critics: Media Matters for You Too

I got annoyed at a few friends the other night and I think I shot the messenger. They mentioned that they were annoyed at Pope Benedict’s statements while he was in Africa about how condoms are not a solution to the AIDS crisis.

I asked them (probably in an angry NY tone) what they thought the Pope meant. One claimed that they weren’t sure and the other said that they thought the Pope was saying that condoms are not a way to prevent the spread of AIDS–that they don’t work–that scientifically condoms don’t really prevent the AIDS virus.


What the Pope was saying was that condoms are a quick fix. That they don’t stop the real systemic problem at hand which is an unhealthy and cheapened view of sexuality–which most people in the world actually subscribe to and which many men especially in Africa have taken to an extreme.

Women are regarded in Africa by many men in that culture as disposable. They are only there to serve the sexual needs of men. We shouldn’t single out Africa in this regard as this is a widespread phenomenon.

So the Pope’s suggestion is that condoms do not create a culture change and a shift in the sexual mindset of the world–especially on a continent where AIDS and HIV is a huge problem–is what is really needed.

But what happens now? His answer is taken out of context and blown up in the media as the Pope saying that we don’t need condoms in Africa to solve the AIDS crisis with no explanation at all and most people come away thinking that the Pope just made a stupid and perhaps even an out-of-touch statement.

He did not. But now we’ll never hear him go beyond this statement because the Vatican PR department won’t field anymore questions on the subject out of fear.

The good follow up question that I suspect the Pope may even have a brilliant idea about is this:

“While it may be true that a more systemic change is needed to really solve the problem of AIDS in the world, there are many people who may not share that opinion. While we realize that you need to set the bar high by calling people to a higher standard and uphold the teachings of the Catholic faith, can you also share any ideas you may have to keep people safe in the meantime, before this culture change hopefully takes hold on the culture–or even dare we say, if it doesn’t?”

Culture change doesn’t happen overnight. And while I agree with the Pope’s point, I’d sincerely like to hear what ideas he might promote of a practical nature that will protect, especially women who are often raped by men with the AIDS virus or are forced to have sex with their husbands who may be transmitting the virus as well.

While I’m not likely to get an answer from the Holy Father on this matter, I’m wondering what y’all think about two things:

1) Is the media as well as the general public shooting us in the foot by taking questions out of context?

2) What ideas might we have for both building a change in the culture and for keeping people safe in the meantime?

Let’s say that condoms are not an option just for kicks!

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