Many thanks for splitting this off from the other thread musicus. Well, as you have done this, I may as well set the ball rolling with my thumbnail sketch of the state of ‘Catholic periodicals’ in Britain today. As I see it, we have two principal weekly publications: The Tablet and the Catholic Herald. This is a personal perspective and maybe it will open some debate on the topic.
The Tablet: It comes in a handy A4 format and comprises contributions from regular columnists, guest writers, interviews with well-known individuals plus reports and news items. With a strong interest in Catholic social teaching it rightly focuses on a range of humanitarian issues at home and abroad. I would suggest its internationalism is rooted in a United Nations type of world view. It also has a tendency towards publishing gossip, while trying to appear high-minded and distant from the puerile - much as The People (Sunday tabloid) prints gossip and nudge-nudge stories while claiming to stand aloof from the overt salaciousness of the now-defunct News of the World. There are problems within the Catholic Church, but gossipy tittle-tattle, verging on sensationalism does nothing to resolve them. Likewise its sycophantic attempts to append the Church to the Olympics were gut-churning.
Catholic Herald: Broadsheet format and arguably old-style broadsheet mentality – for good or ill. Again a mixture of regular opinion columns, guest writers, interviews plus reports and news. In contrast to TT its world view is very much focused around the Church as a supranational organisation. Consequently its international coverage can be somewhat patchy – certainly in comparison with TT. Nonetheless its coverage of Aid to the Church in need, in some of the most troubled areas of the world, is welcome. CH is undoubtedly a bolt-hole for many of those who label themselves ‘traditionalists’ and some of the related commentary is hectoring, bombastic and at times – it appears to me – lacking in Christian charity. It has a somewhat fawning / sentimental approach to some peripheral matters such as the SSPX and various obscurities.
Looked at from a secular, political perspective, where do these periodicals sit on a Left-Right axis? They are the work of men and women, not God, so I see no problem in subjecting them to analysis within the framework of political science.
The CH strikes me as firmly on the High-Tory Right: socially conservative and anxious about change - at times oozing Daily Telegraph curmudgeon-ness. Positioning TT on the Left-Right axis is more challenging! I would describe it as Centrist in outlook, as it places primacy on individual conscience and individual rights. Where issues conflict with the Church (or indeed Scripture) TT seems often to take the side of individual conscience. Some view TT as a publication on the political Left. To me this notion suggests wishful thinking by those of us on the political Left, who have been losing ground to Centrist and Libertarian ideas (focused on the individual person and their rights, rather than on the solidarity of all humanity) at least since the end of the Great War.
As with much journalism – certainly dating back to The Times and Manchester Guardian in the nineteenth century - the two principal publications purporting to serve Catholics in this country both seek to go beyond reporting and commentary and actively campaign. This, of course, reinforces partisanship. Whether ‘traditionalists’ and ‘progressives’ are drawn to the CH and TT respectively, or whether they are repelled by the other is a moot question.
Having a choice of press is always better than having no choice. However, if we read only what we assume we will like, are we in danger of becoming what George Dangerfield described as (in a semi-religious context), ‘simple minds all waiting to be outraged’?