Interesting, one upshot of the latest World Press Congress held by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications is that we may be doing a lot of talking, but we’re not listening too well.

They took Catholic communciators to task. Good. Somebody’s got to set some standards.

The Internet has changed radically over the past six years and perhaps we in the Catholic press have not been aware of it. The interactivity, or rather the production of content made directly by users, has generated the most successful services in the last years: Wikipedia, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Flicker, Google News.

Or “open source” media.

Open Source is also a forum of interactivity and community production. And yet, if we turn to the Web pages of the Catholic Church, in general we can see how the vast majority continue as they were in 2004: Flat! They are without interactivity or only marginal interactivity. All seems to indicate that we, the Church’s communicators, have missed the bus of Web 2.0.

What happened, they asked? Here’s their take:

The model of production of content, whether videos, photos or articles, is based on an implicit concept: relativism. Given that there is no truth today, then whatever one says is indifferent; everything is valid, everything is at the same level.

Therein lies the problem.

The majority of the Web 2.0 companies have an objective: a business plan to make a return on their investment. It is a new business model on the Internet: on one side there are the users, and their frequently voluntary work [from my experience, all voluntary] who offer content that often contradicts what others contribute, and on the other side there are the editors, who have found a money-making machine.

So why do Catholic communicators fall short? Vatican specialists on communication looked into it.

Several studies have been made, both in the United States as well as France, on the reasons why the Web pages of Protestant denominations make a greater impact. Those I have read come to the same conclusion: Catholics “talk”; Protestants “listen.”

This is some very public examination of conscience. Very interesting, actually.

The original sin of many Catholic communicators is usually very widespread: the bishop, the parish priest, the Catholic journalist have an “idea,” find financing (from the Church hierarchy or from the laity) and launch a publication, television channel, Web page. Is this communication? Are we Catholics aware of what people are really looking for on the Internet?

Gooooood question.

Before, during and after the launching of a project on the Internet not only is it necessary to “listen” to the audience, but the audience must be made to participate. In fact, when one thinks of interactivity on Catholic Web pages what almost always comes to mind is a space in which people can send questions to a priest, which is fine. However, we must ask ourselves, do Catholics and surfers themselves only know how to ask questions of a priest? Is that their vocation as Christians in the digital era?

Glad I stumbled onto this. Good to examine how we’re relating to others.

The Church has created communities for 2,000 years. Now, the great marketing success on the Web 2.0 depends on the capacity to create “communities,” which later are reduced to groups of common interest to which it is possible to sell products of specialized announcers, who today are the ones who pay the most…

When a Church communicates on the Internet…in community, the reality moves from being virtual to something real…when from the virtual reality one moves to “encounter,” which is…what changes a person’s life.

That’s the goal of these interconnections. It’s a work in progress…

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....