Touting YouTube's Catholic Potential

New Medium Offers Pro-Life Sound Bites

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FRONT ROYAL, Virginia, NOV. 13, 2007 (Zenit.org).- YouTube has been a great boon to the nonprofit community because with it, a video can be instantly available anywhere in the world, says media producer Colin Mason.

Mason, director of media production for the Population Research Institute (PRI) in Front Royal, spoke to ZENIT about the success the organization has had using the medium to spread its Catholic message.

PRI launched its first YouTube video in June as an introduction to its work and research. Its effectiveness led to a new effort called the "Viral Video Campaign."

The first video of the campaign, a 51-second pro-life video called "The Human Race" asks the question: "Humanity is rushing toward the future. But where are we headed?"

Mason said: "We've been having a good deal of success with YouTube and it has been responsible for a big chunk of the traffic on our Web site. People have expressed a lot of support for the videos -- their quality, message, etc.

"We believe that these short, punchy videos are crucial in raising the YouTube generation's awareness of life issues."

Width and breadth

Inside Catholic, formerly Crisis Magazine, has also just released a 57-second spot on YouTube with a pro-life message, "The Baby in the Box."

Brian Saint-Paul, editor of Inside Catholic, told ZENIT: "YouTube provides both a stable video format that anyone can watch, and a means of getting your video out to a huge audience.

"We've had a great response. I watch the viewer count tick up each day [...] and it will continue to do so as long as YouTube exists."

"Thirty years from now," Saint-Paul explained, "people could still be watching -- and benefiting from -- our videos. That's a wonderful thought."

Cardinal's message

Cardinal Justin Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia, is the first prelate to use the new media to reach his flock. During Lent 2007, a series of reflections on the Gospel given by the cardinal were posted on YouTube.

"The first video the cardinal posted was one of the most watched on YouTube," Donna Farrell, communications director at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, told ZENIT. "The reaction to the cardinal's reflections was amazing. We heard from people all over the world, Australia, the Philippines, Italy, and many in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, including one self-described '15-year-old skateboarder.'"

Since that initial success, more homilies, statements for the archdiocese, and even Cardinal Rigali's appearance at Theology on Tap have been posted.

"YouTube is a place where people communicate a multiplicity of things, and certainly, from the viewpoint of the Church, we have a desire to communicate Christ." Cardinal Rigali said. "We have the message in the Gospel -- the uplifting message of Jesus, a wonderful message of hope, of love, and of faith."

Versatile resource

As with any public media, YouTube is a mixed bag, but many great resources can be found among its hundreds of thousands of videos.

Among them are the tributes to the life of Pope John Paul II after his death, while footage of the historic announcement of the election of Benedict XVI is also available.

"When it comes down to it, people like media," concluded Mason. "They like sound bites and video clips that entertain them during breaks or off-hours. So, if we can harness that power, the power of the short, pithy video clip, we can use it to raise awareness of our cause."