Social Media and Catholic Bishops

Michael Voris explains the importance of the NEW Catholic Media.

There is no doubt now that social media (blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) are what rescued the 2014 Extraordinary Synod on the Family from a clearly heterodox direction. High ranking orthodox prelates within the synod realised, after the publication of the midterm relatio, that the synod process had been hijacked, and was being directed (orchestrated and planned) from the top-down, in an attempt to 'rail-road' an agenda that was counter to the historic and orthodox teaching of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic faith. The orthodox bishops within the synod quickly realised that they were surrounded on all sides, with the orchestrators of modernist heterodoxy to their front, and the liberal mainstream press to their rear. Neither would give them a fair chance to get their message out. So they turned to the bloggers, and small independent media outlets, to get their message out to the public, and this in turn reverberated on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Within a very short period of time, social media proved just as effective (if not more effective) at getting the message out, as the standard mainstream media.

Unlike the mainstream media, which is generally passive, with social media comes social action. Bloggers are engaged reporters who are unencumbered with the supposed 'objectivity' of regular journalists -- many regular journalists not really being 'objective' anyway. It is no secret that the mainstream media often promotes a very left-leaning slant on the news. Conversely, many bloggers, and small independent news outlets, are willing to counterbalance that with a more conservative, or traditional, right-leaning slant in their articles. Another advantage is that unlike large media outfits, they tend to be very fast. One can expect an interview to be released to the public within hours to minutes after taking place. Whereas large media outlets take much longer -- hours to days -- due to the editing process (which may not go in a one's favour) as well as set broadcasting and print times. Lastly, large media now depends heavily on small media. Yes, you heard me right, many large media outlets now quote, cite, and sometimes even link to small media outlets (such as blogs and independent news sources) to develop their own stories. So in going to small media, one can potentially reach the entire media, if the story is big enough. How many times have you heard a major news story about some famous actor or actress sending out a controversial "tweet" on Twitter? It happens all the time.

So with that in mind, we now move to the present time and the years ahead. This is not 1970. Nor is it 1980. It's not even 1990. This is the 21st century, and the good news about that dear bishops is this. You now have a tool at your disposal that your predecessors did not have and could only dream of. You now have social media, and that means you are no longer prisoner to the whims of the mainstream media. It also means you have a voice, a powerful voice, that can reverberate around the world (depending on how big the story is), and it can be carried by people who are friendly to your message!

Dear bishops, social media is your friend. It is your ally. All you need do is learn how to use it correctly, and I'm going to tell you how to do that right now. Here we go...
  1. Set up an official Facebook fan page. If you're computer savvy you should do this yourself to retain full and absolute control. If you're not computer savvy, that's okay. You should find a trusted person to do this for you. It should be a close friend -- somebody who will never betray you. It should not be a mere employee. Once the Facebook fan page is set up, you now have your first outlet. The advantage of using Facebook is unlimited text. You can 'cut and paste' entire speeches to it, make long statements, and even post photos and illustrations.
  2. If you don't like Facebook, that's okay, you can skip it. Because the next thing you should do, regardless, is set up a Twitter account. Again, if you are computer savvy you should do this yourself to retain full and absolute control. If you're not computer savvy, again that's okay. You should find a trusted person to do this for you. It should be a close friend -- somebody who will never betray you. It should not be a mere employee. The advantage to Twitter is you can pick up an unlimited number of followers rather quickly, and messages you broadcast tend to travel much faster than Facebook. However, you are limited to text size. Basically, whatever you "tweet" has to be in one or two short sentences. Of course, you can avoid both Facebook and Twitter if you like, so long as you follow through with step number 3 below.
  3. Get to know your local bloggers. A simple Google search will reveal Catholic bloggers in your area, and a cursory review of those blogs will quickly reveal what kind of bloggers they are. You should know rather quickly if they are orthodox and reliable sources of information. You should also be able to tell rather quickly if the blog has a decent following. (HINT: unorthodox, liberal Catholic blogs usually don't last long. They're generally not successful.) Keep the principle of subsidiarity in mind. One can always go to a large blog with millions of followers, located in another region, but if you're a small diocesan bishop far away, that blogger may not be as willing to carry your message, especially when some major cardinal is speaking at the same time. If you stick to local bloggers, they are usually thrilled to carry your message. No worries, because if your message is important enough, it will be cited by larger blogs and media outlets later on. The nice thing about the Internet is that when it comes to information, the size of the blog, or media outlet, no longer matters. Once you have identified two or three local blogs to your liking, contact the bloggers. Usually the blogger will leave an email address somewhere on his blog. Or if he's a Catholic, he's probably a parishioner in one of your parishes. You could simply contact him through that parish priest. Whatever method of contact you choose, make it a point to have a short conversation with him, either by telephone or in person (personal human contact is important here), and ask if he would be willing to publish press releases, important messages, or interviews on rare occasions when needed. I guarantee you, the average Catholic blogger will be thrilled to hear this, and will most likely agree. The key to making all this work is to give the blogger something special or exclusive, that people won't generally find in the mainstream news for a while. This is the 'commerce' of blogging. Bloggers need something special (exclusive) for a short time, to break a new story, to help drive traffic to their blog. If you offer them this, that is more than enough payment for their services. So offer your bloggers a detail or two that you don't release to the mainstream press. They'll be very thankful you did.
  4. Small Catholic media outfits are highly dependent on local bloggers for tips, so working with your bloggers is essential. They're usually well connected with small Catholic media outlets. For example, this blogger (yours truly) has some connection to ChurchMilitant.TV, and has appeared on one of their shows twice. You can be sure that any big news this blogger receives from his regular ordinary, or local bishop, will be passed along as a 'tip' to that small media outlet. The same goes for other Catholic bloggers. Each has their own special connection to some kind of small Catholic media. Once the story hits small Catholic media, larger Catholic media, and sometimes even the secular press, will take interest as well.
As the video above points out, the NEW alternative media has become essential in combating the forces of liberalism, modernism and unorthodoxy. Some Catholic priests have seen the value of this themselves and taken to the Internet with their own blogs and podcasts. Two prominent examples are Father John Zuhlsdorf and Father Dwight Longenecker. Both have enormous followings and have done little more than regular commentary on the latest happenings in the Catholic Church and the world. Assuming a bishop doesn't already run his own blog, it would be unfortunate for him to miss connecting with those bloggers already established within his diocese. As recent events in the Vatican proved, these connections are becoming more and more essential.


Taking this advice - wouldn't it just turn that blogger into a 'tool' 'mouthpiece' that the Bishop is 'using' 'exploiting' to shovel out propaganda/useful information?

Wouldn't the blogger lose their independence by entering into such an agreement/cabal? Why lose independence and credibility, just for the sake of getting a few extra page views?

David L. Gray
Shane Schaetzel said…
You make an excellent point David, but both the bishop and blogger must have an understanding, that agreement to publish a statement or interview is not an agreement to promote the bishop. For example; the blogger may release an interview or statement from the bishop, but then in a followup story, criticise or critique that interview or statement. Both parties must understand that it is the blogger's prerogative to do this. It's no different than than the regular press.

However, there is also an unspoken understanding that bloggers will be more likely to support episcopal messages that are orthodox and traditional, as most successful Catholic blogs tend to be both orthodox and traditional. In the end, the choice is left up to the bishop. Which media outlet does he prefer to talk to? One that is more likely to be friendly to his orthodox message (bloggers)? Or one that is less likely to be friendly to his orthodox message (the press)?