Can Pro-Life Media Change the World?

It’s a question I’ve reflected on for a number of years. Let’s set the stage with a few recent news articles.

And you know, the list goes on and on. From my experience, the majority of level-headed pro-life individuals support education as a primary weapon against the broken societies from which stem these anti-life situations. (Along with prayer.)

Abercrombie and Fitch adWhat role do media play in this fight? I would argue that media producers have a great amount of responsibility. For some reason, it seems that proponents of anti-life situations produce some really stylish, attractive media. Take MTV’s famous safe sex commercials, Trojan Man commercials, Planned Parenthood’s Teen Talk, and the plethora of movies and TV shows featuring no-consequence, casual sex. Even Abercrombie & Fitch ads and magazines like Penthouse, Cosmo, and Playboy. People love this stuff, and frankly, I don’t blame them.

Why? Because it’s slick, user-friendly, high-quality production. It makes them feel good. It’s easy to use, easy to obtain, and seamlessly integrated into pop culture.

I decided to do an experiment to check my theory. I’m pretending I’m pregnant, young, and looking for help on the internet through a Google search. Do pro-life sites have lower-quality media?

Result of Google Search 1: “abortion”

I’m scared and I want to know how to fix my problem. So I search for abortion. The pro-life movement is in luck. This website is featured in a highlighted Google ad at the top of my search result page. It’s made by a pro-life group. But that’s basically where their luck stops. This website looks like it was made for a middle schooler in the nineties. The text is cheesy. There are weird animations that I can’t read thanks to their poor design. I’m looking for something more professional and valid. Do these people think my situation is a joke?

The first listed result was a Wikipedia entry. Since it doesn’t pertain to our study here, we’ll skip it. Next, Planned Parenthood’s website. Wow, this looks really professional and well-designed. It also has a look similar to the media that I like to consume as a young adult. The headline beneath the picture says, “Abortion is a safe and legal way for women to end pregnancy.” There’s a nice photo of a woman doctor explaining something to a girl. I can relate to this, and I trust this source.

Result of Google Search 2: “pregnant help”

This  first result did not particularly interest me. It’s not terrible, but it belongs in the nineties. I’ll skip it. This website seems to belong to a non-biased source. It gives information on abortion as well as adoption.

Pregnant help The second result was this site. I really like the design. It makes me feel a little safer. There’s even a button down below that says someone is there to talk to me if I need help. They have information that answers some of my questions, but it looks like I will have to call them if I want more help. Some of their information is vague, but I think they can help me. This site is sponsored by Carenet of DuPage, a pregnancy services center associated with several pro-life groups.

Just to explore some more of the media out there, I conducted two additional searches:

Results of Google Search 3: “adoption”

First result. Are you kidding? How am I supposed to find anything on this website? Usability nightmare, design failure. Next, please.

The next result took me here IF I found the dropdown menu hidden in a banner ad that said, “Pregnant, Need Help?” It reminds me of a website for something they’d sell on an infomercial. I’m not sure if I can trust them with this.  They really seem like they’re trying to sell me something, by the look of this and by their text.

All the rest of the results didn’t seem to apply to pregnant young women. At this point, I may have searched for Planned Parenthood since I’ve heard their name so much. Their website looks great, as we have already seen. Here’s the front page:

And the pro-life sites out there? Let’s be frank: Pro-life publications, web media and other efforts are usually either touchy-feely nice or in-your-face-preachy, and almost always poorly designed.

Google Search 4: “pro-life”

Top site results shown. (Also check out the Majella Society‘s website. I love the mission of the Society, and I love St. Gerard, but I absolutely do not even like this website.) Don’t these prove my point?

SUMMARY: With one exception in this entire experiment of common or top-ranked sites, the pro-life sites are just sad to look at. If you’re not on the bandwagon and you’re deciding which wagon to jump on, you’ll probably choose the one that looks the cleanest, most professional, and most accessible, won’t you?

SOLUTION: It’s up to life-supporting groups to take the initiative. Find a good designer. (If you’re not sure that you can distinguish a good designer from a not-so-good one, show their portfolio to some friends and compare their pieces to some of the popular secular media you’re used to.) I know there are plenty of pro-life designers and programmers out there who are looking for ways to use their skill sets for causes they care about. Below are some places to look (or simply contact me). Stay tuned for future entries featuring Catholic media groups and individuals who are skilled, knowledgeable, and experienced.

Resources:

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2 responses

  1. You couldn’t put it any better. It is deplorable, the state that much of the Catholic presence on the Internet has become. We need to be forward-thinking in our ministry on the web, and not be stuck in the ’90s, as you have put it (and is true).

    While we may not have the budget that others have when it comes to technology and design, we have the help of the Holy Spirit, and the passion of the faith. Let’s put that to good use!

  2. I enjoyed this article so much. It resonated with me on a deeper level because this is exactly what I feel called to do – use design to change hearts and minds to the true, the good and the beautiful. It is definitely going to be an uphill battle as the shapers of the culture seem to have a head start and a firm hold on people’s attention but with God’s help we can change the world. One advantage we do have is that is has never been easier to get our hands on the same resources and means of impacting the culture. And blogs such as this one is a wonderful tool of keeping us all on the same page. So yes, let’s get to it!

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