The Problem With Patheos – The Follow Up

It’s follow-up time!  I had planned to write this earlier, but there was that stupid national election thing last week that…well, never mind about that.

A little over six months ago, I wrote a post titled “The Problem With Patheos”, in which I described and detailed a number of reasons why I don’t particularly care for the site. Most of the reasons dealt with the “Roman Catholicism” Library page, where the information is squishy and the facts are…not.  My intention had always been to follow-up within six months or so, so here we are…a little over six months later.

Late last month, I took a peek to see if any changes had been made – several Patheoi left comments saying that Elizabeth Scalia, the Editor-in-Chief of the Catholic portal, was going to be told of my concerns (and I’m sure of other folks as well) and that changes would be made. I took them at their word, and figured six months would be enough time to make improvements.

Well, nothing had changed.

But rather than rip a follow-up post devoid of facts and full of assertions just to generate controversy, I emailed Elizabeth for an update, a portion of which is below:

Dear Elizabeth:

A little over six months ago, I wrote a post at Acts of the Apostasy in which I gave some reasons why I’m not a fan of Patheos – briefly, the presentation of inaccurate information given in the Catholic Library section, a “squishy” essay on a Catholic perspective on abortion, and several other points. I also included some reasons why I wouldn’t write at Patheos, which are my personal opinions, with no judgement towards those who choose to accept your invitation to write there.

The link to that post is below.

http://actsoftheapostasy.wordpress.com/2012/04/18/the-problem-with-patheos/

I’m presuming you’re familiar with that post, as both Mark Shea and Kat Fernandez and Kathy Schiffer left comments stating that you were going to be made aware of the issues I brought up, and that changes – hopefully – would be made. I’m taking them at their word, as faithful Catholics, that you were made aware of those issues, and so I’m following up from that post: do you agree or disagree that the Catholic Library section could be made more accurate? If so, is there a plan in place to affect those changes, and how long will it take for those changes to be made? And if you don’t agree, why not?

And then I waited for a response. My email was sent on a Friday, so I was prepared to wait through the weekend before receiving her reply.

Well, to her credit, she replied that afternoon. That impressed me – because I’ve heard she’s extremely busy – but more than that, it’s a testament to her character that she regarded my email important enough to answer quickly. Here’s most of what she said, shortened for space (I left out all the sobby parts about how distraught she was that I wouldn’t join the Patheos team. It was just too embarrassing to include. What?):

Thanks for writing, asking about this. You can rest assured that I know you are working in good faith here, as I still have your emails from autumn of 2010 asking me to link to some of your stuff here at Patheos, so I know you have no animus toward the site, and it’s mainly the library that’s frying your beans.

To some extent it’s frying mine, too, but it’s not something I can do much about at this point. When Patheos was first formed, the library was put together by academics who were volunteers who didn’t have as much time to devote to it as they’d wished.

It’s never been what I would like. The thing is, while I “own” the channel I do not “own” the library. All of the libraries are under the purview of a different, small team which is also responsible for many other things. When I came here, I mentioned that I would like to fix it and Patheos was open to it but then we exploded and time/attention became at a premium. Even working 15 hour days, keeping up was impossible, and smaller, non-dynamic issues like the library kept going to the bottom of the list. Last spring we had a long meeting about the library, and the process from that meeting is still unfolding.

Patheos is the best organization I have ever worked for — they’re great people who, much like Rome, really do want to do their best for everyone — but they are very much like Rome, too, in that everything takes longer than the world thinks it should.

On the library issue, a process with me writing a proposal, proposal being accepted; a budget being discussed and finally established. A review of possible names we could go to to review and redo the library. We whittled that down to certain names who we believed could be trusted to accurately represent church history, then they had to be approached, and asked to work within our budget. Those interested had to put in their own submissions. Those submissions had to be looked at. Finally, with a budget and a plan, a decision was made and the contractor began. Then the contractor had problems. We got to the point where it was, “do we give contractor more time or do we begin this whole process of finding a new one, again.” Given how much time that takes, it seemed wiser to give her more time. Also, simply from a Christian point of view, it seemed like the right thing to do.

So, you see, this is not a case where I can just run in, change a few lines of code, and voila, it’s done. If it were that easy, I’d have done it. It’s not my property and there is a process, and as with all organizations and projects, sometimes things happen — like a contractor having an issue — that are beyond anyone’s control. My great hope is that we’ll have a fixed library for Christmas, but if we don’t then we likely will have to re-start our process of looking for a new contractor.

So there you have it.

Also, I’m pleased to see that they’ve dumped the link to the National Catholic Distorter and replaced it with one to the National Catholic Register. That’s an improvement in and of itself – the Distorter doesn’t deserve any additional traffic or recognition.

Now, some might consider her response a brush-off, or “the buck stops elsewhere”, or a “blame it on the bureaucracy” sorta answer.  Well, that’s your opinion, and you’re entitled to it.  For my part, I disagree.  I’ve worked for large organizations in the past, and rarely did anything get done as quickly as anyone preferred.  I’m giving the benefit of the doubt here, in as much as there’s any doubt.  So, no drama or controversy as far as I’m concerned.  Now, I’m not taking any credit for this.  I’m just a small time blogger with a big mouth. Elizabeth makes it clear in her response that changes have been in the works for some time.  I doubt the changes will be implemented before Christmas – and Hurricane Sandy has turned life upside down and sideways for Elizabeth (I emailed her a second time, and I got an auto-response basically stating as such) – so my guess is that the Library won’t be upgraded til mid 2013.

With all that being said, I still have concerns with the Patheos business model…but that’s a post for another day.

And I’ll still rib them as being the Blorg – because that’s how I roll.

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8 responses

  1. Pingback: Why Fish on Friday Unknown Famous Converts Canon Law Patheos | Big Pulpit

  2. I’ve worked for large organizations in the past, and rarely did anything get done as quickly as anyone preferred

    I’ve worked for small organizations, and it’s not much different.

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