by MICHAEL OTTO
Kiwi Catholic blog Being Frank is coming to an end after eight-and-a-half years of operation.
The blog’s administrators announced the decision last month after the last permanent contributor stepped down and there were “no authors left”.
“Best of Being Frank” items are being posted daily on the blog up until Good Friday in a “farewell tour”.
The announcement added that “you’ll hear more from us towards the end of Lent”.
Being Frank was launched by NZ Catholic in 2006, and became one of the most visited Catholic websites in the country.
It was sold to Icon Media NZ in 2009.
Icon Media’s Gavin Abraham said Being Frank became a place where lay Catholics “could share and debate their faith in a robust fashion”.
“There hadn’t really been such an outlet before and people seemed to embrace the idea, as evidenced by 55,000 comments over the life of the blog,” Mr Abraham said.
He admitted that the blog had presented challenges.
The Internet offers great freedom of communication and is widely accessible, but this can be a double-edged sword, he said.
People were asked to engage online debate in a “civilised, charitable manner” on a medium “not renowned for such behaviour”.
“We tried to strike a balance between allowing sharp disagreement and disallowing uncharitable comments.
“It was a hard balance to maintain at times.”
Mr Abraham is a former managing editor of NZ Catholic, and still works in Catholic communications.
Icon Media is still producing The 15th Station monthly news podcast, Mr Abraham said.
“We’ve just gone past 100,000 all time downloads,” he said.
Being Frank had 2443 posts up to mid-February.
Media man says Church is lagging
In connection with the decision to close the Being Frank blog, NZ Catholic asked Icon Media’s Gavin Abraham whether the Catholic Church in New Zealand and elsewhere had got the
message about having a digital/social media/online presence or not. Mr Abraham’s
reply is below.
The Church in most parts of the world is still playing catch-up in terms of its online presence and reach.
Our Protestant sisters and brothers are leaving us for dead in terms of engagement, in terms of the high quality material they are producing.
Pope Francis, as the world’s most followed person on Twitter, when combining his various
accounts in different languages, is an obvious exception to the Church’s lagging behind,
but dioceses and bishops’ conferences were late to the party and very few in the English speaking world have caught up.
There are obviously risks involved when engaging online, but with such communication
tools at his disposal, and at the risk of sounding clichéd, what would Jesus do? What would St Paul do?
Even simple things like recording homilies and posting them as a podcast or posted homily
texts as a blog can be effective.
A priest in rural New Zealand might reach 150 people in Mass on a Sunday; [he] could reach
1500 or 15,000 via the power of the Internet.
Bishops and diocesan administrators have sometimes been too reluctant to spend money
on digital and social media and even websites, especially in the early days of the Internet.
As I’ve already said, we’ve never recovered.