Last week, the Catholic ‘New Media’ world was abuzz with news that the Vatican had called for an international representation of bloggers to attend a first-ever conference on blogging being hosted in Rome. It’s been reported that Archbishop Claudio Celli – a member of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation – will be in attendance, who also met with US Bishops and Catholic media representatives last year at the Catholic Media Conference in New Orleans.
This represents a significant first-step in acknowledging the influence bloggers and ‘social media’ in general is having on Catholic life.
The list of attendees to this historic event will be small, but hopefully representative. Since there’s no chance I’ll be attending, please allow me to add some thoughts and observations on the current state of affairs.
‘Old Media’ vs. ‘New Media’
For those keeping track, the Catholic ‘New Media’ conferences – which includes the Catholic New Media convention and CatholiCon – have been pulling in very respectable numbers, and last years CNMC in Boston had Cardinal O’Malley as the keynote speaker. Virtually all of the young talent is being drawn to New Media, and they’re establishing their own ‘network’ of like-minded communication specialists.
Old Media (loosely translated as newspapers and printed publications) on the other hand has been shrinking rapidly. It seems like every month a long-established publication is shuttering or revising operations – in many cases trying to emulate New Media practices.
Now, it seems the Church hierarchy sees the way the wind is blowing, and wishes to remain relevant in the new forms of technological communications. Studies have been proving what common sense has been telling us – more people get their news and related content from the web than any other source. For the under-30 crowd, it’s not even close. Paper-based products have been losing market share for over a decade.
Unfortunately, you’ll find those in New Media who show no sympathy for Old Media. Maybe it’s a generational thing, but many feel they have to dismiss anything old as ‘uncool’ or ‘out of touch’. This creates the problem of alienating the older generation and building mistrust.
Conversely, many in Old Media cling to outdated concepts and techniques, while resisting the inevitable changes before them. Also, since the ‘new kids on the block’ didn’t pay their dues in the exact same way as they did, they sometimes do not give enough credit to the younger generation or embrace their ideas…sometimes, rejecting them out-of-hand.
Ultimately, the current divide is the fault of both New Media and Old Media. It can only be resolved by cooperation between both.
New Media Suggestion
There’s nothing wrong with avoiding the mistakes of those who go before us, but a more prudent approach would be to emulate what works, and leave behind what doesn’t. Study, listen and understand what has made Old Media tick for so many decades. The longevity experienced by those publications may never happen again in our ever-changing technological world.
Old Media Suggestion
Start valuing what New Media can bring to the table. All of it. Blogs, video, podcasts and social networks.Then, start learning the language of this form of communication…without prejudice. Be sure to get the opinions of people under the age of 30, either by observing what media they consume, or by directly asking for input.
Again, there’s no chance I’ll be physically at the Rome Conference…but if I were, there is one thing I’d like to see mentioned. New Media needs to be subsidized by the Church. Millions of donated dollars are directed towards ‘conventional’ Old Media forms of communication, and very little – if anything at all – to New Media. Look at what’s been done WITHOUT financial support, and start thinking about what could be done WITH financial support.
As for the Old Media vs. New Media Battle – I encourage both to listen and learn from each other. It’s easy to see what separates us, so look harder for what unites us.