Joy and Hope
June 19, 2010
Bringing new innovations to The Catholic Herald
I remember the familiar, reassuring morning plop of the newspaper on the front porch. The subtle sound brought a sense of anticipation and sometimes dread. The plop gave a hint about what the new day might bring.
I seldom watch television and am even less inclined to get my news that way. The morning newspaper always seemed the more proper way to digest and consider current events rather than the chatter of television. A quiet morning with the paper in one hand and a spoon of oatmeal in the other, with the wafting aroma of warm coffee, is a momentary respite before the day’s calendar pushes me to the car, presses down the accelerator, and sends me to my first appointment.
The ritual of the morning read begins with the comics. What will Crankshaft do today? How will Hammie taunt Zoe this morning? What bit of childlike wisdom will the kids in Family Circle utter? Will Jeremy’s adolescent angst push his mother to madness? I then quickly peruse the headlines, read a few columns of the more interesting stories and then linger over columnists’ musings on life in Sacramento. I am not much for the sports pages, but will take a glance if something pulls my attention.
I am sure many of you are familiar with this well-worn sunrise rhythm. Some of you may be reading this on a computer and wonder what could possess me to dirty my hands with the toxic ink off the newsprint paper that has been lying on the front porch exposed to who-knows-what kinds of bacteria. The newspaper for many has been relegated to Norman Rockwell nostalgic figments.
I will confess to my own evolving news intake. The Sacramento Bee offers e-mail alerts to breaking news. These bing into my inbox throughout the day. I still like to hold a newspaper at home, but will revert to reading newspapers on my Amazon Kindle while I am traveling.
For a lot of reasons I have been on the other side of the news — not just reading it but being read. I have given lots of interviews for all kinds of news media, most frequently to the newspaper reporter. Doing interviews with newspapers is distinctly different than either radio or television. While the camera or the recorder is on, you have to talk. You have to be think quickly and speak crisply. Use only simple declarative sentences because the message has to fit in before the commercial on a new painkiller medication.
With newspapers, the reporter will ask a question and I have a moment to think about the answer. I’ll give an answer and the reporter may take one’s time before asking the next question. The newspaper medium has its own limitations, but the interview is more like a conversation than the faux-conversational mode of TV. It is because of these conversations that I have the habit of reading the byline on a newspaper article. I want to know who wrote it because each reporter has their own lens with which he or she presents the news.
There is the obvious ethical and professional norm to be objective as possible with a story, yet a reporter still brings his or her own perspective to each story. With time, reading a newspaper becomes like reading letters from people you know. The conversation is going both ways. The reporter or columnist talks with their sources for the story and the reader reads the story the reporter wrote.
In all of this, there is the news: the who, what and why of all that is happening. There is also the community that shares this news: the newsmakers, the journalists, the editors and the readers. A newspaper works because there is this social contract to talk to one another in an effort to get at the truth. The enterprise of the news only works when we agree to carry on the conversation. The newspaper in some fashion relies on the implicit consent to do that.
This social contract is changing. Some of this is due to a decidedly more adversarial tone to journalism. A lot of journalists in the broadcast media seem to be taking their cues from WWE wrestlers. More so than this disturbing trend, the innovations of information technology have replaced the morning “plop” of the paper with the “bing” of an incoming message in one’s inbox.
With this issue, I join many of you in saying goodbye to the manner and custom of The Catholic Herald to which we had become accustomed. The Herald has served as a sign of our Catholic social contract to carry on a conversation with one another. The newspaper format has very ably served the Catholic community in the north state for 103 years. My sincere thanks to Julie Sly, editor, and staff members Cathy Joyce, Denise MacLachlan, Luis Gris, Steve German and Katie McAllister, who have done their part in furthering this conversation among God’s people in the Diocese of Sacramento.
I am also anxiously aware that many Catholics did not share in this conversation. As we move into the future, I hope that the new innovations we bring to The Catholic Herald will not only provide a valuable conversational tool for all of us. Hopefully, more of us will be part of that conversation. More of us will be informed about their Catholic faith as well as the many good works offered by Christ’s disciples for the sake of the Lord Jesus and his Gospel. I also hope that more of us will share that good news with others and keep alive the conversation of hope and joy that began when the Word became flesh. (Jn. 1.14)