The rise of blogs and websites and the decline of print media tends to favor amateurs and volunteers over professionals—a tendency that may eventually have a significant impact on religious institutions and their public image.
Writing in the conservative Catholic magazine New Oxford Review (December), journalist Tom Bethell mainly focuses on Catholic publications when he notes how the Internet revolution is squeezing out the traditional print media. Among other publications, in the last year, the conservative Crisis magazine has ceased publishing its print version, and the influential liberal National Catholic Reporter announced that it is reducing its publication schedule to 24 issues a year, 18 fewer than at present.
What all this means in both the secular and Catholic media is that as the “high-maintenance professionals retire, often without being replaced, and as the newsrooms begin to resemble ghost towns, flotillas of amateurs are taking up the slack” in the form of “hundreds of bloggers” and websites.
Already, Bethell notes, magazines are letting online amateurs take over certain areas of their work.
For instance, once influential magazines such as the Latin Mass have taken a back seat to bloggers and websites in driving up interest in the Tridentine (or Latin) Mass (and listing available Masses) now that the pope has allowed its more frequent use. Bethell adds that in Catholic press, the “professional/amateur divide roughly corresponds to the liberal/conservative divide. For reasons that are hard to fathom, conservatives are temperamentally uncomfortable with the idea of reporting.”
This could be seen in the liberal National Catholic Reporter employing paid staff and correspondents while the conservative Wanderer relies on unpaid volunteers as correspondents. But ironically, the Wanderer may be the model of the future, “in which unpaid volunteers who love their subject will find themselves better placed to tell us what is happening than once well-paid professionals who are rapidly becoming unaffordable.”
(New Oxford Review, 1069 Kains Ave., Berkeley, CA 94706.)