Catholic 2.0

Catholic 2.0

I’m sitting in what was formerly the terminal of the central train station in Indianapolis, Union Station. I’m at the annual Catholic Media Convention, a get-together for those involved in Catholic communications efforts of every stripe. I’ve been coming to these conventions for many years for St. Anthony Messenger. Years ago, I struggled mightily to help bring Internet publishing to the Catholic Press. It was Web 1.0, and St. Anthony Messenger did quite well, developing a number of websites, including this one.

But, of course, now we’re many years into what we call Web 2.0. Now it’s just called the Internet. And it’s still growing and changing at lightning speed, migrating more and more to our mobile devices, and who knows where after that? It’s a place that’s been a bit more of a challenge for my 1.0 self. Web 1.0 was a like publishing, though far more powerful.

Those of us in the publishing business, if we were willing to embrace the technology, were way ahead of the game. We had strong content that suddenly had an even bigger reach that we had in print alone.

It’s About Relationships

Web 2.0, as anyone reading this must surely know, is all about relationships. It’s a two-way, or, at best, a multi-way conversation. 2.0 is really different from 1.0, and, honestly, I’m not a native, though my young-adult sons certainly are. Web 1.0 was natural for me; Web 2.0 seems trickier. In 1.0 we moderated the message by our training and experience, and at least gave the appearance of controlling it (those on the inside of the wild ride know better).

Web 2.0 seems to be more like a free-for-all. I know my young-adult friends and family don’t experience it that way. I suppose 1.0 felt like that to the print-bound back in the 1990s.

At the workshop I’m in right now, panelists are talking about the different aspects of blogging, one of the hallmarks of 2.0. Msgr. Paul Tighe, from the pope’s communications office, is suggesting some sort of compromise between the old and the new; that print media and blogging/tweeting should complement each other. It’s a compelling idea to me. Web 1.0, a one-way media, is akin to the old print media or video days. Blogging, observes Tighe, is an area marked by extraordinary freedom.

The Old and the New

If we as Church communicators can “go in there and keep a spirit of listening, it’s a very privileged way to hear what’s going on.” At their best, says this architect of the pope’s internet strategy, the old media and the new ought to be complementary: print brings a more professional and reflective approach. In print, fact finding is important; saying things in their best way is important. In the new media, though, is the ability to react speedily, to be responsive, to be open to newness.

In our country, at least, it’s a lesson the trains learned long ago. Freight still moves on the rails. People don’t. But people sure use the freight. At Union Station in Indianapolis, that makes a lot of sense.


About the Author

John Feister is editor in chief of St. Anthony Messenger magazine. He has a B.A. in American Studies from University of Dayton, and master's degrees in Humanities and in Theology from Xavier University. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada, and was previously an adviser to the Communications Committee of the U.S. Catholic bishops (2000-2006). His latest book, Thank You, Sisters: Stories of Women Religious and How They Enrich Our Lives is available from the Franciscan Media catalog. He has cauthored four books with Richard Rohr (Franciscan Media), and coauthored, with Charlene Smith, the biography of Thea Bowman (Orbis books).