February 22, 2013


The Catholic press and new media

The Catholic Press Association has long observed February as Catholic Press Month, when it hopes to impress on Catholics the importance of the Catholic press in their lives.

Lately, though, the association has been giving greater emphasis to “the media” rather than just to “the press” because it recognizes that other media are quickly becoming more popular, especially among the younger generations.

Pope Benedict XVI recognizes that fact, too. On Jan. 24, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, the patron of the Catholic press and of journalists, the pope released his message for World Communications Day, which will be observed on the feast of the Ascension. The title of the message is “Social Networks: Portals of Truth and Faith; New Spaces for Evangelization.”

Auxiliary Bishop Christopher J. Coyne of Indianapolis has been taking advantages of the new digital media, mainly on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

That led to his selection in the Dec. 30 issue of the national Catholic weekly Our Sunday Visitor as one of “nine Catholics who have been outstanding examples of leadership, service and witness in the past year.”

He was praised for “leading the flock in the digital world” and, the article said, “Among bishops, Bishop Coyne is the clear online leader.”

We at The Criterion joined the digital age long ago with our online edition. You can access it at www.CriterionOnline.com each Wednesday to see what stories and features are in that week’s printed issue. If you can’t wait until your copy is delivered, you can read the stories, the editorial and some columns on Thursdays.

For years now, newspapers and other periodicals have been experiencing declining readership. Many, perhaps most, young people now get their news from the digital media. People who still read secular newspapers have seen them shrink in size.

The Catholic press has experienced the same thing. Our Sunday Visitor, which had a circulation of nearly a million back in the 1960s, now has a circulation of 38,000. National Catholic Register is at 24,706 and National Catholic Reporter at approximately 35,000.

The Catholic press isn’t dead though. According to the 2012 Catholic Press Association Directory, there were still 139 Catholic newspapers in the United States, with a total circulation of 5,098,010.

Most Catholic magazines have also seen their circulation shrink. One exception is the devotional magazine Magnificat, which has a circulation of 240,000.

We are not ready to give up on print media. We thank you who are reading this for continuing to support this newspaper.

We are convinced, as the U.S. bishops said in 1974, that a Catholic newspaper “remains the least expensive way of conveying comprehensive Catholic-oriented news and views on a regular basis to the largest number of Catholics.”

As you read this week’s issue of The Criterion, consider whether you could get the stories, columns and features from any other source. You certainly wouldn’t get them from the secular media or from most of the digital media, or even from your parish bulletin, as vital to parish life as that is.

Speaking of parish life, we have all seen statistics that tell us that the number of people who attend Mass on weekends has declined considerably. Of course, we hardly need those statistics when we contrast the number of people at Masses on Christmas and Easter with the number at regular weekend Masses.

These Catholics perhaps need the Catholic press the most. Where else are they getting any religious formation? We are reminded of the situation in Germany, where the circulation of Catholic periodicals is greater than the number of people who attend Mass.

When Catholics don’t get their news from their diocesan newspaper, they don’t understand what is going on in this country regarding their Church. This has been painfully obvious in the issue of restriction of religious freedom when polls showed that most Catholics had no idea what the fight was about.

When polls show that many Catholics favor redefining marriages or are cohabiting instead of marrying, you know that they aren’t getting their formation from the Catholic Church, including the Catholic press.

The Church must keep the Catholic press strong while finding new ways to use the news media to spread its teachings.

—John F. Fink

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