In late April, we noticed a dramatic jump in visitors to America’s website, as our national correspondent Michael O’Loughlin reported on an attempt—ultimately unsuccessful—to remove James Conroy, a Jesuit, from the post of chaplain in the U.S. House of Representatives. How long ago that seems now.
The Father Conroy story turned out to be a blip in an extraordinarily tumultuous year both in U.S. politics and in the church. Stories from Washington and the Vatican brought tens of thousands of new readers to America, but many other stories also sparked interest, from profiles of cultural figures like the comedian Jim Gaffigan (whose Catholic family was also the subject of one of our most popular videos) to wry reflections on proper behavior at Mass. America’s multimedia offerings also attracted record audiences, led by the new “Faith in Focus” video series and a conversation between America’s editor-at-large James Martin, S.J., and the comedian Stephen Colbert, who hosts CBS’s “The Late Show.”
The most-viewed America story of the year, by a wide margin, was an editorial withdrawing the magazine’s endorsement of Brett Kavanaugh for a Supreme Court seat, referring to his confirmation hearings as “a bellwether of the way the country treats women when their reports of harassment, assault and abuse threaten to derail the careers of powerful men.” Mr. Kavanaugh was accused of committing sexual assault some 35 years ago, when he was a student at the Jesuit-run Georgetown Preparatory School; and in addition to the partisan fight over his nomination, there was a debate over how Catholic schools prepare young men to behave in a society that is still marked by sexism and a lack of recognition for women’s achievements. Essays from the presidents of both Georgetown Preparatory School and Fordham Preparatory School on how they work to prevent a culture of “toxic masculinity” at their all-boys Jesuit schools were also among our most popular articles during the fall.
The second-most-viewed story, as measured by the total time that all readers spent on each article (a metric that rewards not only attracting readers, but keeping them engaged) was by Mr. O’Loughlin. He critically examined a letter by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the former Vatican ambassador to the United States, accusing Pope Francis of mishandling allegations of sexual misconduct against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. This was only one of many stories by Mr. O’Loughlin and America’s Vatican correspondent, Gerard O’Connell, explaining the sexual abuse crisis and its ramifications for the church.
The most-viewed America story of the year was an editorial withdrawing the magazine’s endorsement of Mr. Kavanaugh for a Supreme Court seat.
Just behind the Viganò story was an essay by Father Martin explaining church teaching on homosexuality—a topic that gained renewed attention as some in the church tried to link a “homosexual subculture” to the sexual abuse crisis. This was followed by a Short Take on criminal justice reform by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, written before she upset a 20-year incumbent on her way to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Democrat from New York. Not far behind was an essay by Jack Bentz, S.J., on the distressing number of Mass-goers who plant themselves at the end of pews: “We try to sit where we can have as little contact with other people as possible—choosing our seats at Mass as we would on a cramped trans-Atlantic flight with unpleasant strangers.”
As a way to show the breadth of popular content in America, we have listed the top story for each of the past 12 months from each of our three major sections: Arts & Culture, Faith, and Politics & Society (see below). In addition to Jim and Jeannie Gaffigan, the well-known names that popped up on the list include Bruce Springsteen, David Chappelle, Patricia Heaton and the author of the “Little House” books, Laura Ingalls Wilder. There was also an addition to Colleen Dulle’s widely shared series on the history of Catholic hymns, this one on “Be Not Afraid.”
America Media’s video team attracted record audiences on our YouTube channel, led by the “Faith in Focus” episode with Mr. Colbert, an explanation of Pope Francis’ new apostolic exhortation, “Gaudete et Exsultate” and a discussion about religion and civil discourse, with Father Martin and the New York Times columnist Ross Douthat. America’s podcasts also gained new listeners; the most popular episode of “Jesuitical” featured another comedian, Sarah Silverman, speaking on “Whether Hell Exists and Why She Loves the Jesuits.”
As for classic content from previous years, “10 Reasons to Oppose the Death Penalty” was once again the most popular, thanks to readers from the college-age crowd (presumably writing term papers), followed by a rundown of the “Top 12 Parables” from the Bible. Sadly, there were also reasons for prayers published in response to gun violence and in anticipation of hurricanes to find new audiences. We cannot predict what 2019 will bring in terms of news stories, but it is encouraging that our readers always seem to make time for both prayer and humorous takes on life.
Most popular America stories by month
The top story from each of our three major sections (Arts & Culture, Faith and Politics & Society). as measured by the total time that all readers spent on each article.Only stories original to America Media are counted; each story is counted for the month of its highest readership only. Some content is posted on the America Media website before it appears in print.
“How Jesuits and Jedi are more alike than you might think,” Jason Welle, Dec. 13
“Dave Chappelle and the ‘imperfect allies’ the #MeToo movement needs,” Bill McGarvey, Jan. 12
“The enduring Catholic imagination of Bruce Springsteen,” Brian P. Conniff, April 30 issue
“Who was the Jesuit priest mentioned during the Royal Wedding sermon?” (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin), Angelo Jesus Canta, May 19
“Viganò’s accusations: What we know and what questions they raise,” Michael J. O’Loughlin, Aug. 26 (published in Sept. 17 issue)
“Review: ‘The Nun’ highlights the fear of losing one’s faith and identity,” Eve Tushnet, Sept. 13
“Brett Kavanaugh and toxic masculinity: lessons from another all-male Jesuit high school,” Christopher J. Devron, S.J. (president of Fordham Preparatory School), Sept. 19
“It is time for the Kavanaugh nomination to be withdrawn,” the editors of America, Sept. 27
“My ancestor owned 41 slaves. What do I owe their descendants?”, John W. Miller, Nov. 28
“Deployment to Iraq changed my view of God, country and humankind. So did coming home.”, Phil Klay, Nov. 11 (published in Dec. 10 issue)
Other stats on America magazine website content (Dec. 2017-Nov. 2018)
Most-viewed stories, by total time on page
1. “It is time for the Kavanaugh nomination to be withdrawn,” the editors of America, Sept. 27
2. “Viganò’s accusations: What we know and what questions they raise,” Michael J. O’Loughlin, Aug. 26 (published in Sept. 17 issue)
Most-viewed Dispatch stories
Most-viewed stories in 2018 from prior years.
4. ““Here I Am, Lord’: The little-known story behind a Catholic hit,” Colleen Dulle, Oct. 12, 2017
5. “The horror of ‘Room’ is closer to a documentary than a fantasy,” Michael V. Tueth, S.J., Nov. 23, 2015
Stories especially popular with various age groups
45-54: “It is time for the Kavanaugh nomination to be withdrawn,” the editors of America, Sept. 27
Stories read by twice as many women as men
Stories read by twice as many men as women
“Alan Jacobs: a Christian intellectual for the internet age,” David J. Michael, Spring Literary Review
Most popular videos
1. Stephen Colbert on faith, God and politics in the age of Trump (Faith in Focus), Nov. 15
4. Spiritual insights for L.G.B.T. Catholics, March 7
5. Jim and Jeannie Gaffigan on raising five children with faith and humor (Faith in Focus), Oct. 18
Most retweeted (from @AmericaMag)
While we previously endorsed the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh on the basis of his legal credentials and his reputation as a committed textualist, it is now clear that the nomination should be withdrawn.https://t.co/CXqVGkaTdY— America Magazine (@americamag) September 28, 2018
"By excluding LGBT Catholics, you are breaking up God's family. You are tearing apart the body of Christ."@JamesMartinSJ delivers an adress on how the Catholic Church can welcome L.G.B.T. Catholics at the 2018 World Meeting of Families in Dublin. #WMOF2018pic.twitter.com/QB5ljrrrgB— America Magazine (@americamag) August 24, 2018
House chaplain, a Jesuit priest, was forced out by Speaker Paul Ryanhttps://t.co/jMsAVIT0T2— America Magazine (@americamag) April 26, 2018
An Episcopal church in Indianapolis put statues of the Holy Family in a cage, similar to the ones used in detention facilities, to protest President Trump's immigration policies. #KeepFamilesTogetherpic.twitter.com/adJohrRkxN— America Magazine (@americamag) July 5, 2018