Gen Z Catholic media observations

by PILAR MACKINNON

As part of an internship with NZ Catholic, I was asked to review a range of popular Catholic and other denominational newspapers and websites to assess their appeal or otherwise to a younger audience. Having read through six recent publications, I have found that there is a surprising range in terms of the content of these news mediums and how easy they are to engage with.

            Pilar Mackinnon

I began this process by looking at two Catholic newspapers and one Anglican magazine. Newspapers in general are a bit outdated for a younger audience, as many of us today get our news from websites or newsletters online rather than from physical papers. This seems to be reflected even by the companies themselves, as these newspapers and the magazine appeared to be written with a slightly older audience in mind.

The Southern Cross had many features and advertisements regarding schooling and education. It also had many stories about changes in the community that are more central to parents and adults. However, they did have a broad range of articles, and a few key stories that I found especially interesting.

The Anglican (NZ) magazine had plenty of coverage on what was going on within the Church in terms of its members, and the focus was very central to the Church itself. It did not discuss anything happening in the wider community, and had one segment specifically targeted for youth, but without that element it would not have been particularly engaging.

I found The Catholic Weekly from Sydney the most intriguing of all the papers, as it had quite a good range of articles about topics that are current and of interest to young people, like arguments about same-sex marriage, developments in science, etc.

The websites showed a similar pattern, but were overall more interesting. I especially enjoyed reading through the National Catholic Register from the US, because its articles were focused on applying moral and ethical reasoning to their news, and I think that is something that could be intriguing to a young audience, as that is something that is beginning to be addressed less and less (in a religious sense) and this would be a good opportunity to let young people be exposed to that sort of argument.

Because of the nature of online availability and the wide selection of news sites to choose from, some were easier to dismiss than others.

Crux Now was one of those for me, as even at a glance it clearly features mostly negative stories, which I quickly found off-putting. This is something that has been criticised on social media, especially by younger people over the past few years, meaning a constant feed of negative news stories is not likely to hold our attention for long.

The flexibility to curate the type of news that we can receive also means that young people are most likely to enjoy news sites that can deliver all our needs in one go, which is definitely something that I prefer for the sake of efficiency. This makes diverse, dynamic, and organised sites much more appealing.

I found this in The Catholic News Agency (US), which has articles on issues that are happening directly within the Catholic Church, and as well as international issues. The site is organised in a way that allows the reader to pick and choose quite easily what they want to read, and has sections aligned with what part of the world you are from.

However, my favourite of them all was The Tablet (UK), because of the way that it addresses ongoing and relevant issues in the world today, that are still relevant to Catholicism. It includes international, diverse, and controversial topics which most Catholic news agencies would shy away from. Their stories hold much more active arguments in comparison to other sites which are simply reporting news, and makes The Tablet much easier to engage with, because young people are used to having a social media presence and making our opinions heard. This direct approach is one that I found very appealing, and their way of addressing hard-hitting topics is something that I think most young people will find particularly satisfying.

Pilar Mackinnon is a young Catholic and is a student at the University of Waikato.

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