CNMC 2013: Relationships Matter

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.

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Flying Up to Boston: CNMC 2013

Tomorrow morning I head to Boston to speak at this weekend’s  Catholic New Media Conference (“CNMC”), sponsored by the Catholic new media pioneers over at the Star Quest Production Network (“SQPN”).  The CNMC is aptly described as “the world’s leading conference about Catholic new media and evangelization, bringing together people from all over the world to learn and to share their experiences.”  There will be a number of great speakers, and the chance to meet people interested in and working in new media from around the country and indeed around the world.  You can read more about the CNMC by following this link, and about SQPN by following this link.

Regular readers know that for almost two years now, I have been a co-host of the Catholic Weekend show on SQPN.com.  Catholic Weekend is a weekly podcast for the network community covering news, current events, and cultural issues from a Catholic perspective, mixing in both serious discussion and laugh-out-loud humor. I am deeply honored that SQPN has asked me to moderate the closing panel of the conference, and promise to do my best to bring out my Dick Cavett/Charlie Rose abilities in service thereof.

I am really looking forward to meeting people whom I have read, listened to,  and/or interacted with via new media for years, and to catch up with old friends made long ago through social media whom I do not get to see as often as I would wish.  In fact it feels more like I am going to a reunion of old friends, rather than  something completely foreign.  I hope to take away a lot of valuable information about how I can make the content I produce, like this blog, better for my readers, listeners, and followers.

Friday night there will be a tweep-up for those of you in the Boston area at JJ Foley’s Irish Pub in the South End of Bostons at 7 pm, co-hosted by the fabulous Sarah Vabulas of CatholicDrinkie.com and “Towering” Tom Pringle of CatholicOmnia.com.  The main events will be held all day Saturday for general attendees, while on Sunday there will be some special events for those who are attending via the V.I.P. ticket.  For those of you who cannot attend the CNMC but are interested in hearing the content of the conference, you can purchase a virtual ticket on the CNMC website linked to above.

Also on Saturday, for fans of the Catholic Weekend show, the plan at the moment is to set up a live-streaming station outside of the conference for a few hours in the morning.  That way we co-hosts of the show can take turns sitting down and talking about what we’re hearing and seeing.  We may even grab an unsuspecting conference attendee or two for a chat in front of the cameras.  Just go to the Catholic Weekend site linked to above on Saturday morning, and refresh as necessary; there will be people in the chat room who can tell you the rest once you get there.

For those of you who are not attending or participating, I would ask your prayers for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the discussions and work that will be taking place this weekend, not only in the CNMC salons but in the hallways and other meeting places where the participants will be getting together to share their views.  So much needs to be done to speak about the importance of creating a culture of life and virtue in a world which has increasingly turned its back on such things to embrace materialism and secularism.  We need to pray that His Providence will be able to use us, unworthy instruments though we are, to once more be able to reach out into this hurt and diseased world in order to heal it.

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Tabernacle (Eucharistic Pyx) from Spain at Bethany Chapel
Archdiocesan Pastoral Center, Boston

CNMC Boston: More Than A Meeting

With apologies for the admittedly dreadful pun, I want to share with my regular readers that I have been invited to participate in this year’s Catholic New Media Conference (“CNMC”) in Boston.  The conference will be held the weekend of October 19th, at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center.  Other announced speakers include writer, blogger, and Patheos’ Catholic portal editor  Elizabeth Scalia, a.k.a. @TheAnchoress on Twitter; Jeff Young, the blogger/podcaster/radio host who goes by “The Catholic Foodie”; one of my regular co-hosts at the “Catholic Weekend” show, podcaster, blogger, and teacher-of-the-year extraordinaire Maria Johnson; and new media guru – er, Cardinal? – CEO and Founder of SQPN, our fearless leader Father Roderick Vonhögen.

The CNMC always sells out, and tickets are strictly limited. so if you are thinking about attending, don’t think too long.  Seats are already going fast, with first preference given to Boston-area residents.  Thus the sooner you register, for whatever level of participation you are interested in, the better.  For those not able to attend the CNMC in person, SQPN is also offering you the chance to register for a “virtual ticket”, which will give you access to audio and materials from the conference even if you cannot make it there yourself.

I am really humbled to have been asked to participate at the CNMC, and look forward to finally meeting in person some of the people with whom I have gotten to know through social media.  This is true particularly with respect to the people I have met through SQPN, back when I was simply a fanboy of the network, downloading podcasts, hanging out in chatrooms, or leaving feedback.  I am also looking forward to learning from the experiences of those who work in new media, and what they see as the opportunities and pitfalls of these tools in the future.

Of course I do not engage in media creation for a living.  Rather, it is  something I engage in with free time I may have, away from my career and my home life.  Whenever I am asked to do something for someone else, like write for a newspaper or make a media appearance, it always strikes me as somewhat improbable that I would be the person they turn to, when they are professionals who do what I do, and so much better, in new media.

Yet in discussion with an author friend the other day at brunch, she pointed out that the way one find’s one’s apostolate is not necessarily the same process by which one finds one’s career.  Different aspects of who we are and what we are interested in, can come to the aid of someone else, whether in terms of providing them physical assistance, emotional encouragement, exposing them to information and ideas they may not be aware of, and so on.  Thus, in an example which for obvious reasons I find rather inspiring, a businessman can manage his investments and projects all week, and then go be a superhero on the weekends for sick kids who need a bit of cheering up.

Regardless, whether you create new media or simply engage with it, the CNMC is a great way to get ideas, network, and share your experiences and questions with others who have similar interests to yours.  I am honored to have been invited to participate, and I know both the practical and spiritual dimensions of what we Catholics do in new media are topics which all of us will be able to benefit from discussing together, and in-depth, as part of the New Evangelization to which Pope Benedict XVI called us.  Hope to see many of you there!

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