Remember that bygone era when there were only three on-air national broadcast networks and — here in Los Angeles — another four local television stations? Current consumers of digital television would consider that a primitive state equivalent to cave paintings.
But I actually pine for them every now and then.
It was not a perfect system. Because of limited platforms, it was harder to find your niche either on the news or entertainment side.
If you were a musician, you worked in dingy clubs and high school sock hops for years until you got your break. An actor may have worked for years parking cars or waiting tables and doing local theater only to get one guest spot on “Bonanza.” Many talented people never got a break of any kind, yet some of the most talented artists and news reporters still managed to burst forth from this cauldron.
Now everyone is a star. And it seems I am the last person on the planet who does not have a podcast. There are literally tens of thousands of podcasts on every topic under the sun and many topics that do not deserve to see the light of day. It does not take much. If you have about 40 bucks you can get yourself a cool-looking microphone at an electronics box store, a little lighting from the same store and maybe a bookshelf behind you to give you gravitas and voila: you are a podcaster (obviously, you need a good internet connection, too).
Podcasters have a tendency to take themselves very seriously with anchorman desks like they were working at CNN, but they come off looking more like Ron Burgundy. I have watched podcasters that are comical — intentional and unintentional — but most of the ones I have found are trivial and listening to them has not proven an effective use of time.
And yet, they are legion.
I wish I could say the advent of technology and its ability to distribute information so quickly and cheaply would be a boon for the Church and her adherents. But when I look at the Catholic blogosphere, that dream vaporizes like when rubidium makes contact with water.
It seems anyone with a microphone, free time, and a copy of the Vatican II documents is now an ecclesiastical expert who needs to be heard. Before this technology got so far ahead of us, before a person with limited income could use the internet to have his or her very own “channel,” the economics of media was a natural roadblock to too many people with too many opinions.
You had to be really good on camera and have something positive to say — like Bishop Fulton Sheen — to be granted paid time on television. Now, if you get enough “likes” or your subscription numbers on YouTube are good enough, you can actually pay your utility bills off a podcast dedicated solely to how terrible things are in the Church today. The more anger, the more controversy, the more likes and the more clicks.
It is a feeding frenzy but unfortunately, we are eating our own. Taking a random sampling of your average Catholic blog, you would surmise that the Church is on her last legs. It is a world of gloom and doom with prophetic warnings about the End Times and the coming of the Anti-Christ.
The hosts of Catholic-themed podcasts run the gamut from laymen and laywomen, priests and religious, and everything in between. There are good ones more interested in lighting candles against the night than relishing in the darkness, and there are far too many podcasts that mislead and all too readily rely on anger as their fuel. If you put 14 of these podcasters in a room you will get 14 opinions on what is wrong with the Church, what is right with the Church, and what needs to be done in the Church.
At the risk of sounding like a podcaster myself, I know what needs to be done: Stop listening to podcasts.
If you are troubled by the way things are, say a rosary or pray a novena. Take solace in the irrefutable fact, not opinion, that Jesus promised to be with his Church forever. It is not always easy, it is not always pretty, but the Church traveling in its prison of time and space will do remarkable things and not-so-remarkable things.
And as flawed as his bride may be, the consistency of Christ’s promise must be our focus, and not how many “likes” we can get by yelling fire in a crowded cathedral.