Now that I’m back from the Catholic New Media Conference in Boston, I have quite a bit to think about.
It is something of an understatement to say that I accumulated a great deal of information this past weekend. I listened to others’ ideas and experiences at the conference itself, picked up reading materials of all kinds, exchanged business cards and contact details, and so on. From the absolutely outstanding keynote address by Monsignor Paul Tighe of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, which you can watch in its entirety here, to all of the great swag which I shamelessly hoarded to the point where I had to check my incredibly heavy carry on when I got to Logan, there was a lot to take in.
For that matter, there was also much for me to actually do. The Catholic Weekend show live-streamed all day from the Boston Archdiocese Pastoral Center, where the CNMC was held. At various points during the day I jumped into co-hosting mode to chat with my fellow co-hosts, or to grab people attending the conference and sit them down, and put them on camera for an interview. I was also responsible for moderating the closing expert panel Q&A at the conference, which I enjoyed very much as I tried to get the audience involved, and hopefully maintained an appropriate balance of seriousness and humor (well, apart from when I addressed Bishop Christopher Coyne of Indianapolis as “Father” rather than “Excellency”, but he said he’d forgive me for that.)
Yet the most important thing I learned this weekend, even if it may sound rather obvious, is that all of this is really about relationships.
The types of relationships one forms as a result of producing media content matter a great deal. The most obvious relationships in this regard are those between those creating the content and the consumers of that content – i.e., one’s readers, listeners, or viewers. We have a responsibility to do the best we can to put out the best content we have if we want to grow and mature those relationships, for these relationships are based on trust. Otherwise, there are plenty of other sources which these readers, listeners, or viewers could turn to for information or commentary.
There are also the relationships which form among those of us who are doing the work. Whether they are fellow writers, contributing to the same publication we write for, guests appearing on the same show we appear on, or in any and all of the various ways in which content producers can find outlets for their voices in media today, all of these people had to start somewhere. We are all at different points along an experiential continuum. What is particularly gratifying and humbling to witness, and indeed to have benefited from personally, is the fact that some who have more experience can look back and offer a hand, a boost, or a bit of advice to someone less experienced, in a spirit of generosity and encouragement. And hopefully in the fullness of time, if that person succeeds, they will remember to do the same for someone coming up behind them, as well.
On top of all of this is the fact that, for those of us who produce and consume Catholic media, there is an even deeper importance to these relationships. For in the end of course, none of this matters if we are not trying to help other people get to heaven. We can and should go about doing so in different ways, for the simple reason that people are different: some people respond to certain types of content and some to other types. Think how many different Catholic religious orders there are, all trying to imitate Christ and become closer to Him, and all going about doing so in sometimes very different ways over the centuries. Yet all are working to build the kingdom of God in the best way that they know how.
Following the CNMC, I cannot escape the significance of the underlying realization that one must always be working toward doing what one does even better than before, for the sake of these intertwined relationships. In constantly striving to improve what we do, whether one works in media, plants corn, or designs rocket ships, all have the opportunity not only to improve skills and build relationships, but to connect and work more deeply with colleagues, mentors, and friends. And that, in the end, may just bring each of us into a little bit closer relationship with God.