What’s New This New Year
Now that we’ve closed the book on 2020 and begun the opening chapters of 2021, it’s time for a review of what’s new at the NOR.
We lost our beloved contributing editor Anne Barbeau Gardiner in 2020. She began writing for the NOR back in the 1990s, was a constant contributor of material of the highest quality for some 25 years, and was among our most popular writers. She is, frankly, irreplaceable. Beyond being a great writer, thinker, and defender of the truth, Anne was a remarkable person and, not coincidentally, a devout Christian woman. She will be sorely missed. We are grateful for all she did for the NOR, and we are grateful to David Mills, another contributing editor, for allowing us to publish his memorial to her in this issue.
Anne isn’t the only member of our editorial board we’ve lost in recent years. Renowned historian and contributing editor John Lukacs passed away in 2019. (Will Hoyt, another contributing editor, memorialized him in our Nov. 2019 issue.) Contributing editor Mitchell Kalpakgian, a longtime literature teacher and man after God’s heart, died in 2018. And, of course, later that same year, we lost the leading light in the history of the NOR, my father and founding editor, Dale Vree. We devoted nearly an entire issue, May 2019, to a remembrance of this great man, which featured perspectives on his personal life and professional impact from 12 different writers.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the recent deaths of two more notable figures in the Catholic intellectual world, Jesuit scholars who were faithful sons of the Church and known for their association with the NOR: the inimitable Fr. James V. Schall, who contributed articles to the NOR until a few weeks before he passed in 2019 (we published what I believe was his final written work, “Minding the Gap,” in April 2019), and Fr. Raymond T. Gawronski, a theology professor and seminary confessor who offered spiritual guidance to the NOR and its staff and contributed occasional articles and book reviews. Fr. Gawronski died in 2016.
We were saddened by the deaths of each of these remarkable people, and we commend their souls to the loving care of our Eternal Father. But don’t take these losses to mean that the work and witness of the NOR are dying as well. Far from it!
In 2020 we welcomed several new contributing editors whose work embodies the spirit of the NOR: the aforementioned Will Hoyt (who made his fame as the “Berkeley carpenter” beginning in the 1980s), Frederick W. Marks, Fr. John A. Perricone, Richard Upsher Smith Jr., Thomas Storck (whom we actually welcomed back as a contributing editor after a decade-long hiatus), and our celebrated columnists Casey Chalk and Jason M. Morgan. They join veteran contributing editors Tom Bethell, Judie Brown, James G. Hanink, Karl Keating, A. James McAdams, David Mills, William J. Tighe, and Alice von Hildebrand. Together, this group of writers and thinkers will help determine the direction of the NOR over the course of the coming years.
The changes to our editorial staff don’t end there. In 2020 we bid a fond adieu to assistant managing editor Teresita Wong, and we welcomed in her place Magdalena Moreno. Teresita, who performed admirably, found it difficult to keep up with the workload. We were blessed to find someone just as capable — and smackdab in the Vree family! Magdalena, a wife and mother of four young children, will assist her mother and longtime managing editor, Elena Vree, in steering the business end of the NOR. Eventually, Magdalena will assume the driver’s seat. The new year marks Elena’s 47th behind the wheel — a remarkable accomplishment. Those of you who’ve phoned our office over that timespan know her voice. Those who call in henceforth will get to know Magdalena’s voice. Try telling them apart!
Magdalena’s work, however, won’t be limited to office duty. She is also one of our newest bloggers. That’s right: In addition to expanding our cast of contributing editors, we’ve enlarged our lineup in The Narthex, the NOR blog. Our established bloggers, James G. Hanink (also a contributing editor listed above), Barbara E. Rose (our do-it-all web editor and book review editor), and Richard M. Dell’Orfano (the most prolific of the group), have been joined by newcomers David Daintree (director of the Christopher Dawson Centre for Cultural Studies in Australia), James Thunder (a former grand knight in the Knights of Columbus who is in the midst of producing a multipart blog series on “lay holiness”), and Jason M. Morgan (yes, the same one who writes the Cultural Counterpoint column and is now a contributing editor — he contributes across all platforms!). Once you’ve finished this issue, cruise over to The Narthex to read more great NOR content: newoxfordreview.org/narthex.
In addition to adding bloggers, we’ve been busy augmenting our online Archives, which now encompass every issue from September 1983 to the present. That’s a total of 387 issues over 37-plus years — comprising thousands upon thousands of articles, columns, reviews, letters, and other features — and counting with each new issue. September 1983 is the date of the first issue of the NOR published by New Oxford Review, Inc., and the NOR’s first as a Roman Catholic magazine. (It had theretofore been published by the American Church Union as an Anglo-Catholic magazine.)
You can explore the NOR Archives by going to newoxfordreview.org/volumes. Online subscribers receive full access. Online subscriptions start at $29 for one year. Our discounted combo subscriptions (print + online) are the best deal, starting at $38 for one year. Online and combo subscriptions can be purchased only through our website: newoxfordreview.org/subscription.
We haven’t let these developments happen in the dark. As mentioned in our October 2019 issue (editorial, “The Final Sixth”), we have engaged a recommended and reputable digital marketing team to help drive traffic to the NOR website, a move made possible by the generosity of our readers, for which we are most grateful. And the results are in: Over the past year, we’ve seen a 31 percent increase in Google search clicks, an astounding 209 percent increase in clicks on our digital ads, and, best of all, a 127 percent increase in “conversions” (an action that follows clicking to our site, such as purchasing a print, digital, or combo subscription; making a direct donation; or signing up for our free daily emails).
One aspect of this drive has been to enhance our social-media presence. The NOR has been on Facebook and Twitter for a few years now, and I’m happy to report that figures are up there as well: The number of NOR Facebook followers has jumped from fewer than 2,700 a year ago to nearly 6,000 today, and the number of NOR Twitter followers has likewise increased from fewer than 1,200 to nearly 2,100. If you’re on either (or both of) these sites, please follow us: @newoxfordreview.*
We also recently established a presence on Instagram and Parler. The former is primarily a photo-sharing site and thus doesn’t quite suit our purposes, but we’ll give it a go and see what works. The latter bills itself as the “free speech” alternative to Facebook and Twitter, a safe haven for (mostly conservative) personalities and organizations that have fallen victim to the increasingly aggressive censorship that has come to characterize the mainstream social-media experience. Remarkably, that has never been a problem for the NOR. But you never know, with Facebook’s and Twitter’s “inscrutable algorithms” (to borrow David Mills’s phrasing), what might trigger a banishment or when it might come. To get ahead of the censors, we thought it best to establish a presence on Parler now, before it becomes a necessity. So if you’re on that site (or Instagram), check us out there as well: @newoxfordreview.**
While you’re online, surveying all things NOR, I invite you to browse the updated NOR Gear Shoppe. We recently overhauled the selections, introducing a plethora of new products with a slew of new designs (to go with old favorites like the “I’d Rather Be Roasting Heretics” line). So, for example, you want an NOR blanket? We now offer four types from among 18 different designs. That’s a total of 72 options. Take your pick! In addition to the ever-popular coffee mugs, T-shirts, and sweatshirts, we now offer NOR-themed water bottles and travel mugs, pajama sets and maternity wear, wallets and grocery bags, cufflinks and necklaces, keychains and car magnets, wine tumblers and flasks, Christmas ornaments and more (and don’t forget the blankets!). The NOR receives a tiny commission on each item sold. You can get to the NOR Gear Shoppe by clicking “About Us” at our website or by going directly to cafepress.com/newoxford.
Yes, there is reason to be optimistic about the future of the NOR. Things are looking up, for the most part. Our optimism, however, is tempered by a harsh reality.
Though we’re experiencing exciting online expansion, our print subscriber base continues to contract, despite our efforts to reverse that trend. We’re still employing the tried-and-true methods of seeking out new readers: display advertisements in other periodicals and direct mail. But those methods are expensive and don’t deliver the returns they once did. The typical direct-mail appeal costs upwards of $30,000, and we invariably lose money with each mailing. The typical display ad costs around $1,000; some pull well and pay for themselves while others are duds, sunken costs that aren’t recoverable. But we’re stubborn, so we keep trying.
That’s because we haven’t forgotten the promise we made to our readers years ago to keep producing the print edition of the NOR. We still believe that print publishing has a place in this world. For one thing, it offers a certain permanence and a tactile experience that online “publishing” can’t duplicate. And it’s a format singularly suited to deliver the NOR’s particular brand of journalism.
We were confirmed in this belief by Ted Rall, a nationally syndicated opinion columnist. More than 1,800 newspapers have shut down over the past 15 years, Rall notes, in what he calls an Internet-driven “media apocalypse” (May 13, 2019). The print publications that are “prospering” in this time of rampant old-media demise are those that have “doubled down on their commitment to detailed long-form journalism about ongoing issues. Graphically they contain no evidence that the Web ever existed. They carry words, lots and lots of them, occasionally punctuated by hand-drawn illustrations.” Sound familiar? Rall could easily be describing the NOR, in both its past and present forms, which are essentially identical.
“The future of print,” Rall goes on to say, favors the publications that have stuck with the “long-form” approach. “When news breaks we’ll read about it online, on our devices. A new generation of print outlets will supply after-the-fact analysis that goes on for thousands of words…[and] that require days (rather than minutes or hours) to research, compile and edit…. These publications don’t break news — they can’t. They deep dive.” That’s precisely what the NOR has done from day one and continues to do now. The medium best suited to this type of deep-diving, long-form analysis is print. And for a reason we’ve given over the decades for sticking with our non-glossy, black-and-white presentation: “It’s easier on your eyes,” as Rall says.
Print publishing is important for another reason, one I alluded to above: the pervasive threat of online censorship. Companies like Google, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter can, and do, silence voices at will, shutting down the accounts of, and refusing advertising from, those who don’t parrot the current politically correct paradigm. Try, for example, critiquing critical race theory or cutting against the grain of the transgender agenda one too many times. You’ll find yourself unpersoned in a flash, without explanation or redress.
The silencing of dissent isn’t limited to the online world. It takes place on college campuses, where guest speakers who question the dominant cultural narratives are “canceled” (disinvited or subject to unruly protest), and in corporate boardrooms, where employees who express unpopular opinions are summarily fired. The mob is quick and merciless.
And the mob isn’t content with merely silencing its enemies; its tactics now involve violence and assault. As the NOR has chronicled, anarchists, Muslim fanatics, and “anti-racist” race-baiters brazenly attacked Catholic sanctuaries and statuary in 2020. How long until Catholics themselves are targeted here in the U.S., where anti-Catholicism is “the deepest bias of the American people”?
When the time comes, don’t bother looking to our leaders for succor: Too many bishops, who reflexively bend to PC pressure, seem intent on wantonly misdiagnosing the problems of the day. How many bishops, for example, tripped over their crosiers this summer in their haste to issue statements against racism? That’s something way down the list of evils afflicting the Church at this moment, a Church that has long been called universal, as in here comes everybody.
Consider too how quick the bishops were to roll over and play dead for their civic masters. Worrying more about what might kill the body than what might kill the soul, they shut their people out from access to life-giving sacraments. You could count on one hand the bishops who openly questioned the government-mandated, anti-Catholic coronavirus restrictions. Most of them preferred the easy role of the king’s good servants to the more demanding one of spiritual leaders. Save for a precious few (notably Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco), they are a feckless bunch.
That’s why independent Catholic publishing is vital in these times. We need at least one voice willing to tell it like it is, that won’t merely parrot popular opinion but will point out the emperor’s nakedness, no matter the consequences. That voice can be found, online (for now) and in print (for how long?), in the NOR. To keep our voice from fading out, we need your help.
There are no billionaires underwriting our endeavors. The NOR doesn’t have, and has never sought, the type of institutional or foundational sponsorship that other media outlets enjoy. To do so would be to sacrifice our independence, making the NOR a mouthpiece for ideologues with dubious agendas or ecclesiastics with weak stomachs. That would undermine the very reason for the NOR’s existence: the uncompromising articulation of truth from the orthodox Catholic perspective, in fields as diverse as literature and film, science and theology, and history and current events. As my father was fond of saying, “The NOR is free to tell it like it is.”
But freedom comes at a cost: The NOR’s sole means of support is, and always has been, its readers; it is for them we write and to them we answer (and we do! see the letters column in any issue, this one included).
In order to keep the NOR’s voice strong and clear, we need to pump up our print subscriber base. Subscribers are the lifeblood of any publication, and we’re desperate for an infusion. But that requires resources we don’t have right now. That’s why we must, once more, appeal to you, our faithful readers. We’re holding fast to the promise we made to you to keep the presses running, despite the warning signs and worsening odds. But we can’t do it alone. Can we count on your help to keep it going?
We’re anxious to get 2021 off to a strong start. Our revamped editorial board and regrouped blogroll are poised and ready to address all the challenges facing the Church in our time. Our online endeavors are enjoying unprecedented (for us) success. What we need now is to ensure that the print component of our apostolate doesn’t lag too far behind the online component. To that end, we must continue our search for new subscribers through direct mail and display advertising.
If you too believe that an independent Catholic print publication like the NOR retains value in these times, let us know it by lending your support. Would you consider giving a gift subscription to a friend or relative, or making a contribution to assist our new-subscriber drive?
Gift subscriptions to the NOR’s print edition can be purchased through our website at newoxfordreview.org/subscription.
Donations may be mailed to New Oxford Review, 1069 Kains Ave., Berkeley CA 94706. (Make checks payable to New Oxford Review.) Credit-card contributions can be made online at newoxfordreview.org/donations. The NOR is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization; donations are, therefore, tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.
I thank you for your apostolic zeal. Please remember the NOR’s staff and writers in your prayers.
*UPDATE 1: On January 8, 2021, after this editorial was written and first published, Twitter permanently banned President Donald Trump and purged (so the official story goes) the accounts of anyone linked to or supportive of QAnon, a loosely organized group of rightwing conspiracy theorists. Many organizations have seen their number of Twitter followers drop, some by a significant amount. The NOR wasn’t unaffected: We lost approximately 120 followers, over five percent of our total. The NOR, of course, has nothing whatsoever to do with QAnon; the sudden drop in our followers is puzzling and largely inexplicable. I can only surmise that an untold number of Trump supporters have canceled their Twitter accounts in protest of the President’s ban or that their accounts represent the collateral damage of Twitter’s overeagerness. It remains a mystery.
**UPDATE 2: On January 9, Parler was deplatformed. Its web host, Amazon Web Services, “suspended” the social-media site, and Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store removed Parler’s downloadable smartphone application. In effect, Big Tech has shut down Parler. Why? For allegedly failing to police its users’ “hate speech.” Parler was known as a haven for conservatives who had become barred from or disenchanted with mainstream social-media sites.
Pending Parler’s ability to re-establish itself (it has sued Amazon, accusing it of breaking anti-trust laws), the NOR will seek out other alternative social-media sites, of which new ones are popping up fairly frequently. For the time being, the NOR’s Parler page is, of course, inaccessible.
In sum, Big Tech had its Reichstag moment when Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6. The question now is how zealous the censors will be in their efforts to silence the types of online “speech” of which they disapprove.
©2021 New Oxford Review. All Rights Reserved.
To submit a Letter to the Editor, click here: https://www.newoxfordreview.org/contact-us/letters-to-the-editor/
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