As I've reported recently, when it comes to media, there are interesting things afoot in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Under Archbishop José Gomez, the archdiocese has established a social media presence like pretty much nowhere in the world (including the Vatican), with a 12-person team that both produces regular offerings of communication and evangelization on the archdiocese's social media platforms and offers communication support for all of the different aspects of the archdiocese, from individual parish and school websites to major archdiocesan efforts, like the yearly OneLife celebration of life event. The team even keeps one cubicle in the office free, so that anyone in the archdiocese can come and sit in, join the team.
In addition, as of almost a year ago, the archdiocese gained as one of its three new auxiliary bishops Father Robert Barron, priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago with his own global media enterprise, Word on Fire. Since the year 2000, Word on Fire Ministries has produced blogs, podcasts and YouTube videos about faith and pop culture that draw millions of viewers each year. His often critical commentary on culture is not without controversy; in a recent YouTube video he portrayed the growing use of trigger warnings in literature and presence of "safe spaces" on college campuses as forms of "hyper-political correctness." But his overall reach on the contemporary Christian media landscape is enormous, one of the largest in the world.
Two weeks ago, the archdiocese added another feather to its cap, with the announcement that the work of longtime Vatican correspondent John L. Allen Jr. would be included as part of the archdiocese's newly redesigned news source, Angelus News. Allen has been associate editor of Crux, which The Boston Globe launched in 2014 as a boutique news source focused on the Catholic Church. The site immediately became a must-read, with a savvy social media presence and a quick, interesting take on almost everything happening in church and culture.
Earlier this year (in a move that shocked pretty much everyone), the Globe released the operation, citing a lack of sufficient advertising dollars. Most of the staff was let go; Allen and Rome correspondent Inés San Martín found themselves hunting for a new home for themselves. Almost immediately the Knights of Columbus offered fresh backing, but readers noticed a change in the kind of stories Crux was producing. Gone was some of the independent reporting that Allen has been known for, in favor of more inside-the-church items.
Even so, Allen is always worth reading. And now Angelus, which draws largely from the Catholic News Agency and columnists like Barron and Ron Rolheiser, O.M.I., for its material, can also boast as being the only place you can find Allen and Martín's work in print. I suspect that won't be true for long, as other dioceses sense the opportunity to be had in printing them, but still, for now it's something fresh and new.
In retrospect, it’s hard to believe Los Angeles hasn't always been a media hotspot for the church, given its proximity to Hollywood. But it's certainly nice to see the archdiocese begin to come into its own. And with such an interesting confluence of talent, from Allen and Barron to the social media staff, it is exciting to think where it all might lead.