Letter-Writing Workshop Introduction


Today's talk is hosted by the Father John A. Hardon Media Apostolate, which promotes the use of the media for evangelization and for defending the faith. For those who aren't acquainted with him, Father Hardon was a Jesuit priest and theologian who died in the year 2000. Father Hardon gave wonderful retreats to which people flocked in great numbers, and he was responsible for many conversions. On occasion, he visited St. John Cantius Parish.

He was also a prolific writer-he wrote some 200 books during his lifetime. Someone also called him the "Father of Internet Evangelism" because he stressed the importance of using modern media for imparting Catholic truths. He felt that it was great to convert people one at a time, but even better to reach thousands, as modern media allow us to do. Father Hardon also stressed that what you consume with your eyes and ears becomes a part of you, so it's important that it be good material. He advocated careful choices of television, reading, and movie-viewing.

Now on to the workshop. Before we begin, I want to give some background that underscores why we're doing this. Here's an issue of the Chicago Tribune, a paper familiar to all of us. Now, whatever you might think of the Tribune, the fact remains that a lot of people read it. The Trib has 694,000 subscribers to its Wednesday through Friday edition alone.

Now, let's say you write a letter to the Tribune's editor on a Thursday and it gets published on a Friday. Let's say a quarter of those subscribers are out of town that day and don't read the paper. Let's say others read the paper, but overlook your letter. Even if only two-thirds of those subscribers see your letter, that's 462,000 readers, not including people who buy that day's edition from a newsstand or from a box on the street, or who pick it up from the seat next to them in the airport. That's a lot of readers!

Now, let's say your letter's about 3 1/2 inches high and one column wide. To buy that amount of space for the same day in the same section would cost you $1319.50. I'm not sure where they get the fifty cents, but that's what it would cost. So if you successfully publish a letter, you not only bring a Catholic viewpoint to 462,000 readers, you do it for free. That's power, and that's why we're having this workshop. If enough of us do that often enough, we CAN help shape public opinion.

On to Matt Abbott. Matt is a Catholic journalist who contributes to the Wanderer and other publications, including websites such as Michael Rose's cruxnews.com (Michael Rose is the author of Goodbye, Good Men), Catholic.org and others. He has also been published in Homiletic and Pastoral Review. More to the purpose here. Matt has been remarkably successful in getting his letters to the editor published for some years now (he began doing this in 1998) in the Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, the New York Times, and in other outlets. So he knows what he's doing. Please welcome Matt Abbott.

Copyright 2004 Terry Sullivan