Each biweekly issue of Catholic New York is sent to approximately 129,000 subscribers, either through the U.S. Postal Service or via bulk delivery to parish churches here in the archdiocese. Almost all of our readers are members of parishes, and while we have a couple thousand individual subscribers, a great majority receives the paper by belonging to their parish.
Our readers make us the largest circulation Catholic newspaper in the United States. They also give us a great responsibility to faithfully and accurately communicate news and information to our audience.
We accomplish this in many ways. One is through articles reported and written by staff reporters Juliann DosSantos and Dan Pietrafesa, news editor Christie Chicoine and me, and by freelance writers. We also have columns and editorials provided by various freelance and staff contributors, and photos taken by talented photographers spread throughout the archdiocese.
Our reporting goes well beyond the boundaries of the archdiocese, and for the bulk of our national and international reporting, including coverage of Vatican and papal news, we rely on Catholic News Service, the U.S. bishops’ own news service, dating back to 1920.
Aside from the capable and talented reporting and editing staff at the home office in Washington, D.C., the CNS Rome bureau based at the Vatican and stringers around the world produce an indispensable collection of material that helps to fill the wire section pages of our newspaper and keeps our website, cny.org, fresh each day.
The director and editor in chief of CNS is Greg Erlandson, who besides being a top-rank journalist is also one of the truly deep thinkers in the Catholic Press Association. Before coming to CNS last year, he had worked for Our Sunday Visitor for 27 years, culminating as president and publisher of the national Catholic publishing company.
He regularly delves deep into the whys and hows of Catholic publishing, as he did when he recently delivered the annual Cardinal John Foley Lecture at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. The cardinal, who died in 2011, was himself a legendary figure in Catholic publishing, serving as editor of the former The Catholic Standard and Times newspaper there from 1970 to 1984 before he went on to serve as president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications at the Vatican for 23 years. (I’ll sum up Cardinal Foley in short form by saying how he served as a friendly counselor to many editors and others in the Catholic Press to whom he could easily relate because he was once one of us and never forgot where he came from.)
Erlandson, in his talk, quoted Cardinal Foley’s words from the final CPA convention that he attended near the end of his life. “You have a special bond with the people to whom you communicate. You owe them respect. You should treat them with dignity. You should challenge them to goodness. You have a great opportunity to influence the lives of others.
“They look to you for information, for formation, for inspiration. Please never fail to give them these types of encouragement…this sacred bond which should exist between you and your listeners and your viewers.”
In the clear, vivid style that marks his writing, Erlandson broke down for his listeners Cardinal Foley’s instructions about Catholic media’s role as a source of information, formation and inspiration. Because of space constraints, I’ll focus on what Erlandson had to say about formation. Formation in the faith may not be the first thing you think about when you pick up Catholic New York, but as Erlandson says—and so do I—the news, analysis, features and opinions of Catholic publications may “help form more adult Catholics than any other method or tool.”
Erlandson went on to say that “the role and responsibility of formation on the part of Catholic media were at one time a given.”
“Publications saw this as their primary ministry in the Church,” he said.
If you look at many of Cardinal Dolan’s columns, including the one about Catholic burials this week, there is often a component of formation in the words he writes. The cardinal knows too that CNY reaches readers in every parish of the archdiocese.
Take a look at Claudia McDonnell’s Vantage Point columns, or Mary DeTurris Poust’s LifeLines, or Father Lorenzo Ato’s Si Eschuchas Su Voz on the Spanish pages, or Father Bob Pagliari’s Holy Homework on cny.org, and you will often see some element of Catholic faith or practice identified and explained for readers.
As Erlandson notes, the need for formation “is greater than ever before because Catholic readers are less formed than ever before.” It is good to hear one of our industry leaders point forward in a direction in which Catholic New York is heading.