National Catholic Register

Arts & Entertainment

They’re Playing Our Blog

The mainstream media changes its tune

BY ERIC SCHESKE

April 23-29, 2006 Issue | Posted 4/24/06 at 10:00 AM

 

Mainstream media meets the blogosphere.

It’s kind of like “Godzilla Meets Spider-Man,” except Godzilla would have shown Spidey more respect in the early rounds.

Their relationship has undergone a swift transformation. When blogs first started catching on with the advent of free blogging software in 1999, Godzilla ignored Spider-Man.

When blogs topped the 1 million mark and started making things happen — exposing Trent Lott’s damaging statements at Strom Thurmond’s birthday party, calling Dan Rather on his dubious exposé of George Bush’s military record — the mainstream media huffed and puffed and dismissed blogs as a fad. Call that sequel “Godzilla Shuns Spider-Man.”

When blogs continued to pile scoop on top of scoop, and it became clear that the blogosphere had become an established player in the information game, the mainstream media called blogging “irresponsible” and “shallow.” (“Godzilla Attacks Spider-Man.”)

The charge certainly had some truth in it; lots of blogs are nothing more than rant outlets. But that didn’t stop the new medium from continuing to expand.

Well, now Godzilla has taken a new tack: The monster has started to work with its plucky little challenger. Call it “Godzilla Befriends Spider-Man.”

Many mainstream media outlets have started their own blogs, such as The Guardian (blogs.guard ian.co.uk/news), Business Week (businessweek.com/the_thread/blogspotting) and The Washington Post (blog.washingtonpost.com). Fox News has many blogs (foxnews.com/index.html#blogs), including an excellent one by a Catholic priest, Legionary Father Jonathan Morris (foxnews.com/fatherjonathan).

And it’s not just the giants of media. Many smaller print publications have gone to the blogs, too. A few regional newspapers, like North Carolina’s News & Observer (blogs.newsobserver.com) have blogs. The godfather of conservative journalism, National Review, has nine blogs (nationalreview.com). Its competitor, The American Spectator, blogs at spectator.org/blogger.asp. On the other side of the political spectrum, Mother Jones sponsors a blog at motherjones.com/mojoblog.

If you want to read good blogs by Christian print publications, I highly recommend First Things’ On the Square, which mostly features daily thoughts by Father Richard John Neuhaus and Joseph Bottum (firstth ings.com). I also like Touchstone magazine’s active and stimulating blog, Mere Comments (merecom ments.typepad.com) and Christianity Today’s entry, christianitytoday.com/ctmag/features/weblog.

Will this new marriage between print and electronic media survive? The heck if I know, but it’s interesting to see publications grapple to integrate a powerful new medium that continues to reshape the reading lives of Americans everywhere.

Chestertonian Charms

One of the most interesting things about blogs is their ability to carve out niches. We all know about the millions of political blogs and news blogs. There are also millions of blogs with a more narrow scope: local events blogs, sports blogs, literary blogs.

And sometimes you’ll find a vein of blogs with a very narrow field of interest: blogs dedicated to your favorite sports team, to automotive repair, to all manner of hobbies and crafts, to high schools.

Oh, and there are also several dedicated to that giant of Catholic apologists, G.K. Chesterton

It’s impossible to know for sure, but I would estimate that 20 or so Chesterton blogs have sprung up over the past few years. Some are quite clever, such as The Everlasting Blog (theeverlastingblog.blogspot.com), which is dedicated to Chesterton’s Everlasting Man, the book that EWTN’s Dale Ahlquist read on his honeymoon and that triggered his Chestertonian fever (and conversion to the Catholic faith). Unfortunately, the blog isn’t updated very often.

But many Chesterton blogs are updated nearly every day and provide a treasure trove of the man’s trivia and insight. As something of a Chesterton aficionado myself, I recommend Chesterton and Friends (chestertonandfriends.blogspot.com), which discusses not only GKC but also writers he influenced, including C.S. Lewis, Christopher Dawson and Owen Barfield.

I also enjoy GKC’s Favourite (francesblogg.blogspot.com). Note the clever URL: “Frances Blogg” was the maiden name of Chesterton’s wife. Also worth a visit are Flying Stars (mrsnancybrown.blogspot.com), Democracy of the Dead (dziowgo.blogspot.com), The Inn at the End of the World (thesixbells.blogspot.com), and the American Chesterton Society Blog (americanchesterton society.blogspot.com).

Chesterton stands as one of the largest Catholic literary figures of the 20th century. In his little book The Catholic Classics, Dinesh D’Souza lists Chesterton’s Orthodoxy as one of the top 10 Catholic books of all time. Thomistic philosopher Etienne Gilson said of Chesterton’s St. Thomas Aquinas: “I consider it as being without possible comparison the best book ever written on St. Thomas. Nothing short of genius can account for such an achievement.”

Catholics would do well to read Chesterton. Unfortunately, he is somewhat verbose and his style anachronistic for today’s Hemingway-influenced style of intense brevity.

The blogs listed above would be a good place to get doses of Chestertonian insight and wit. Who knows? You might even be prompted to buy a couple of the great man’s books.

As an aside, it interests me that there are virtually no blogs dedicated to other Catholic authors. I’ve searched and searched: no Hilaire Belloc, J.R.R. Tolkien, Malcolm Muggeridge, John Henry Newman, Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine. There’s a blog dedicated to Flannery O’Connor (flanneryoconnor.blogspot.com), but its level of activity is sporadic.

If you know of any blogs dedicated to major Catholic literary figures, I’d love to hear about them. Drop me a line at ejscheske@yahoo.com.

Reader Recommendation

Are you happy spring is here? Are you ready to return to the earth and sink your hands in its soil? Will the warmer months beckon you to more rural areas, to “get away from it all” and see a simpler life?

If so, you might be intrigued by Jeff Culbreath’s Hallowed Ground (hallowedground.blog-city.com). Hallowed Ground, in the words of Culbreath, “focuses on agrarian and small-town life, and how this kind of life harmonizes with the Catholic faith, traditional families, and strong communities.”

Culbreath is an interesting guy. Fed up with city life in Sacramento, Calif., he packed up the family and moved to a rural area and took up part-time farming. Hallowed Ground recounts his experiences.

If you’re acquainted with Rod Dreher’s popular book Crunchy Cons, you’ll notice a bit of “crunchy con-ness” in Culbreath’s decision to go rural. Culbreath’s writing is influenced by many great Catholic thinkers, such as Chesterton, Belloc and John Senior. He also incorporates ideas of the southern agrarian Richard Weaver, the media expert Neil Postman and the “grandfather of modern agrarians,” Wendell Berry. If you want to read a man who writes in the tradition of those great thinkers, you should stop at Hallowed Ground a couple of times a week.

Until next month, may your time with the Spider-Man of the new media be cut short by sunny spring days.

Eric Scheske blogs

at ericscheske.com/blog and maintains the Register’s

“Blog Watch” at ncregister.com.