Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Catholic Media- Is this really the best we can do?

This was originally posted on Catholic Phoenix on March 24, 2011, and thought I had posted here, but guess what, I didn't!

I saw a blog post regarding the movie "There Be Dragons" courtesy of OSV via New Advent today, and thought I would share this.

Please enjoy:

On March 15th I was surprised to learn (via Facebook) that it was “Catholic Media Day.” What I saw was a number of persons and groups promoting their own books, websites, publications, etc. Now I have no problem with this, but it caused me to ponder what I think of when I hear the term “Catholic Media.”

To be completely honest, the thought of most Catholic media makes me cringe. I frequently hear people comment how wonderful EWTN television is, and I stop to wonder if I am watching the same channel. The production quality of the programs leaves a lot to be desired, in my own opinion. The material for the most part is magisterially sound but poorly produced. I look at how the shows are put together and wonder if they are using the same sets that they made when the network was founded. I tried to get my daughter to watch one of the children’s programs one morning, and it was so saccharine sweet that I found her rolling her eyes and myself wishing the show would be over soon. With no commercial advertising, I guess there is not any other way to demand better quality.

On the other hand, I switch over to Trinity Broadcasting, a Protestant network, and find a completely different quality of show entirely. 21st century technology appears to be employed, and an effort appears to be made to meet their audience where they are. Are all the movies made about the Bible made by Protestants? You would never know a movie about the Bible was made by a Catholic, at least in my own experience (Mel Gibson doesn’t count!). Yet, on any given weekend, you can switch over to TBN, and catch a movie on Genesis, the Gospel of John, and the band plays on.

My next beef is with Catholic Radio, at least in my own experience, Immaculate Heart Radio in Phoenix, and various stations in the Western United States. Now I understand fully that these are listener supported stations, and they rely on donations, gifts, contributions in order to fund their operations. I was pleased to be “charter supporter” when IHR held their first pledge drive last spring. But I must admit that after our commitment came to the year’s end, my wife and I asked ourselves where we thought our gifting dollars were being best utilized. Regrettably, we found that our confidence in IHR was not what I had hoped it would be.

I find that many call-in type shows are usually aired before we get to hear them in Phoenix, with the exception of Catholic Answers Live, which does air live in the afternoon, but we get to hear the replay the next morning. This is fine if you only hear one version, or do not care to call in. However, if you hear Tuesday’s show live, you might find yourself hearing the exact same show the next morning as you drive into the office. In addition, the station seems to play music of some sort at the end of each hour, but in the time that I have been listening I have yet to hear a complete song. These sorts of things make me wonder about the “testimonies” of people that claim to have had their life transformed by Catholic Radio.

All this makes me ask the question, “Is this really the best we can do?” Or if it’s not, why is the product produced? I know there are wonderful, glowing examples of what Catholics are capable of. I see the young men who produced The Human Experience and know that it doesn’t require high finance, but high creativity to produce something meaningful, appropriate, and capable of delivering the Truth of Christ to the world. One need go no further than the movie Bella to see that the message of the Gospel of Life can be promoted in a way that draws anyone in who views it. I see the quality of the work done by the Catholics Come Home ad pieces and see that media designed for mainstream society is not only capable of being produced, but is being seen in communities across the country. Now, if we could just get that type of material out in other arenas…………..

What can we do? How do we break this cycle of truly bad media? How can we make it less cringe worthy? For my own part, I have chosen to vote with my dollars, and with direct contact with the management of IHR (which for the record went unanswered). I would ask that others consider ways that we can make a change. Most of us are partakers of the product, so if enough agree with me, then perhaps as a part of the whole we communicate our desire to be nourished in our faith in a way that reaches out to a broader cross-section of the community, and perhaps bring others closer to Christ.

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