After seven-and-a-half years at the helm of the enormously popular national radio show Catholic Answers Live, Patrick Coffin is stepping into the life entrepreneurial. A new media platform, led by a podcast called The Patrick Coffin Show, is now being launched through the Indiegogo crowd-funding site.
Patrick recently spoke with Catholic World Report about looking back, and moving forward.
CWR: First, congratulations on your new venture. It sounds like it’s going to hit a nerve, in a good way.
Patrick Coffin: Thank you, yes, I am stoked to launch this new thing!
CWR: Would you say it’s a radical departure from your work at Catholic Answers?
Coffin: Not a radical departure, more of an extension of what I’ve been doing during my time as host of the live show and our year-old podcast, Catholic Answers Focus. I am profoundly grateful to Catholic Answers for giving me a shot at hosting what the station managers across the country tell me is a consistently high-quality and popular show. Believe me, it’s a hard gig to walk away from.
CWR: How did you get the idea for your own show?
Coffin: Interestingly enough, it was venturing into the podcast world with Focus that made an inner lightbulb go off. I have loved addressing broader cultural questions, as I did with racism in my interview with Kevin Costner, or the power of faith and testimony with Joseph Fiennes, or the evangelical effects of music with Sir James MacMillan, the UK’s top composer. The idea began to germinate about going solo and building a media platform aimed at renewing the culture by renewing the person in the mirror.
CWR: Tell us more. What kinds of guests and topics will the new show feature?
Coffin: Well, I’m expanding outward from the center. In this case, the center is what I’m best known for—apologetics and evangelization. As a Catholic, those will always be close to my heart. But there is a way to reach people that isn’t direct, “on the nose,” evangelization. So I will be interviewing top social influencers in the areas of self-transformation, time management, better ways of dealing with marital conflict, new approaches to addiction, intentional leadership, and how to disagree in the public square without succumbing to the kind of toxic discourse we see taking root. I’m interviewing David Allen, who wrote Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity; James Hoggan, I’m Right and You’re An Idiot; memory improvement expert Harry Lorayne; and the poet laureate of California, Dana Gioia. For starters—let me keep a bit of mystery!
CWR: So it won’t be Catholic media, per se?
Coffin: Not really, if Catholic media is defined as explicit preaching and catechesis. I hope people don’t conclude that I’m leaving the Faith behind or anything resembling that. God forbid. What I want to do is create content that you can hear on iTunes and watch on YouTube that is fantastic, valuable, and that resonates with people who are tired of the way corporate media couches all events and issues: through the lens of politics. The talk radio industry is fueled by non-stop fighting about politics and politicians. Newspapers and TV networks, when covering religion, also rely on the tired left-right rhetorical model when they cover controversies within the Church. Everything is about conservative this versus liberal that. The idea that some ideas are true or false doesn’t occur to religion reporters hired by major newspapers or TV producers.
CWR: But how do you change that?
Coffin: You start by going upstream to the question of culture. All these fights—and you can add gay marriage, abortion, no-fault divorce, pornography, public education, the court system—are downstream from culture. This is reflected in the word “culture,” which comes from a Latin root meaning to till, but also to worship. Politicians, lawmakers, film directors, TV moguls, artists, CEOs—they all grew up in families. They have an original context that formed them morally and intellectually for good or for ill. So the new media platform I am building is devoted to the formation and transformation of the human person. It all starts right here: prior to marriage, prior to parenthood, prior to career choices, we are persons. And all persons, according to Aristotle and the Western realist tradition, naturally seek happiness. So I want to explore the difference between that which results in real, lasting happiness and the false substitutes that parade as the real thing.
CWR: It sounds like you’re going after the causes of the disease rather than cleaning up the symptoms.
Coffin: That is a very good way to say it.
CWR: Who do you consider role models?
Coffin: Great question. On the interview-skill side, I’m old school. I admire the way Jack Paar conducted interviews by making sure they weren’t “interviews,” but great conversations overheard by others, namely the audience. Dick Cavett is another. Actually, Cavett used to write for The Jack Paar Show and happens to be on my wish-list of guests for The Patrick Coffin Show. In the Catholic media sphere, my favorite has to be Al Kresta, who is as good or better than any “secular host.” He has a knack for getting behind the news, tracking the deeper trends at play, and he gets to the heart of what the listener needs to know. He’s also smarter than most of his guests—and his guests skew very smart!
My patron and spiritual father, however, is Ven. Fulton J. Sheen. We share not only an odd physical resemblance, but also a wide spectrum of interests, from the worlds of literature, history, and psychology, to art, philosophy, and, of course, theology. Sheen was a master communicator and master of the media forms he utilized. He and Chesterton were good friends—in fact, Sheen attended G.K.’s funeral in 1936. His Excellency was also the first televangelist, when it still had a good name.
CWR: What else will the platform provide?
Coffin: The main home-base is www.patrickcoffin.media, which will be linked it a sister YouTube channel. I’ll also be doing commentary on the news and cultural trends, and a myth-busting video series. I’m open to collaboration with other medial outlets, including syndication on terrestrial radio. The digital space is ever-evolving and morphing, so today’s expert predictions become the butt of tomorrow’s joke. My watchword is “open.” The first stage, though, is to build it as a membership site with additional exclusive content for members.
CWR: How can people stay connected and help you launch?
Coffin: It’s very simple. I created a short pitch video, a brief description of the mission, and some sweet perks as a way of thanking my beloved backers, here. The minimum giving level is only $5, but I’ll take an extra prayer as well.