October 8, 2010

Criterion celebrates 50 years of sharing the faith

The first issue of The Criterion was published on Oct. 7, 1960. Archbishop Paul C. Schulte was the publisher of the archdiocesan newspaper.

The first issue of The Criterion was published on Oct. 7, 1960. Archbishop Paul C. Schulte was the publisher of the archdiocesan newspaper.

(This is a special, longer version of the same story that ran in our print edition.)

Criterion staff report

In its Sept. 23, 1960, issue, this announcement appeared in The Indiana Catholic: “Archbishop [Paul C.] Schulte has announced that with this issue The Indiana Catholic ceases to be the official publication of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.”

Two weeks later, on Oct. 7, 1960, The Criterion appeared for the first time.

With this issue, and periodically throughout the next 12 months, we are observing the 50th anniversary of the archdiocesan newspaper. (Related content: What was in the inaugural issue of The Criterion? Lots of news | Why are we named The Criterion? | Timeline of events from the 1960s)

The Indiana Catholic ceased publication because of a labor dispute at The Shield Press, where the paper was printed. The Shield Press, owned by J. Francis Madden, had formerly owned The Indiana Catholic, but Madden had donated the newspaper to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis in 1956 in return for a printing contract.

The agreement in 1956 stipulated that the newspaper could be returned to The Shield Press anytime within five years. When that company got into a dispute with a labor union, Archbishop Schulte decided to invoke that stipulation. The newspaper was returned to The Shield Press.

The newspaper that appeared on Oct. 7 was a new publication, even though its editorial staff was the same. The two weeks between the two periodicals were extremely hectic as the staff closed one newspaper and started another.

Msgr. Raymond T. Bosler, the founding editor of The Criterion, had been the editor of The Indiana Catholic for 13 years. He wrote this in his memoirs about the closing of one paper and the start of the other:

“We had to return to The Shield Press all of our extensive files and pictures and all the bound back issues of the paper. We had to contact all our advertisers, and ask them whether they would be willing to renew their ad in the new paper. We lost a fair number of these advertisers who wanted to get out of their contract with us. We had to refund money to all those who paid for the subscription to the paper as individuals and urge them to subscribe to the new paper. The bulk of our subscribers, however, were paid for by the parishes on a monthly basis. For these we had to cut all new Addressograph plates.”

He continued: “We hired two of the printers who had lost their jobs at The Shield Press. They somehow found two secondhand Linotype machines and had them installed within a few days. A headline machine, a small press for making proofs, and ‘turtles’ [the metal tables on which the pages were composed in those days] were delivered in time to publish the first edition. We had to shop around for a good printer and mailer. Somehow we got it all done.”

Where did the name The Criterion come from? Msgr. Bosler said that Father Paul Courtney came up with the name. Father Courtney was then a full-time professor at Marian College who also wrote editorials for the newspaper. His editorial in the first issue explained the name. Here is an excerpt:

“Webster’s Dictionary says ‘criterion’ means ‘a standard of judging, a rule or test by which anything is tried in forming a correct judgment respecting it.’ In short—a standard. It may seem a trifle immodest to label as ‘The Criterion’ a paper in which we editors express our views about numerous subjects, but if our readers will only accept the unofficial character we claim for our editorial opinions, the title ‘Criterion’ won’t seem too arrogant.”

Father Courtney went on to say, “The editorial opinions will be—well, the editors’ opinions. We don’t expect you will agree with all of them. In fact, we will be seriously concerned if we don’t, at least occasionally, arouse spirited disagreement.”

For years, the editorial page carried this statement: “The opinions expressed in these editorial columns represent a Catholic viewpoint—not necessarily the Catholic viewpoint. They are efforts of the editors to serve public opinion within the Church and within the Nation.” While that statement no longer appears, it remains valid for today’s newspaper.

Obviously, The Criterion wasn’t the first newspaper to serve the Catholics in the archdiocese. The first seems to have been The Catholic Record, which ceased publication in 1899. Then Catholics read an Indianapolis edition of The Columbian, owned by the Carroll family of Columbus, Ohio. The Indiana Catholic was founded as a private venture in 1910 by Joseph P. O’Mahony, who became its editor.

The name was changed to The Indiana Catholic and Sternenbanner in 1911 when it bought a small German Catholic paper in Evansville. It was changed again in 1915 to The Indiana Catholic and Record when it bought the subscriber list from The Catholic Columbian Record of Columbus, Ohio. Eventually, the words “and Record” were dropped.

The newspaper went bankrupt during the Great Depression, and J. Francis Madden, a certified public accountant, was named receiver. He founded a new corporation, The Indiana Catholic and Record, and entered into agreement with Bishop Joseph E. Ritter—who would become archbishop in 1944—on the best way to handle the paper. Twelve priests were named to a board of directors, and Father Joseph Clancy was named the editor. However, he only wrote editorials and Madden functioned as the editor.

In 1934, an editorial criticized clergy appointments that year. Soon afterward, Father Bernard X. O’Reilly replaced Father Clancy as the editor.

When Archbishop Schulte became the new archbishop in 1946, he and Madden came to a new agreement. Msgr. Bosler was named the editor. Fred W. Fries was added to the staff as the managing editor in 1952.

Madden’s company bought The Shield Press in 1955, setting up the events reported at the beginning of this history.

Msgr. Bosler remained editor of The Criterion until October of 1976. He was editor of the archdiocesan newspaper for nearly 30 years, during the episcopates of Archbishop Schulte and Archbishop George J. Biskup.

He established a reputation as an excellent editorialist, especially on such topics as human rights and interfaith relations. His editorials and Father Courtney’s editorials received awards from the Catholic Press Association. He was honored by local Jewish organizations for promoting human and civil rights, and improving interfaith relations. His editorial stands even drew the attention of Time magazine.

Msgr. Bosler was also active in numerous civic organizations, but they don’t have a direct connection with the history of The Criterion.

The first decade of The Criterion, the 1960s, coincided with the Second Vatican Council from 1962 to 1965. Msgr. Bosler attended each session of the council as Archbishop Schulte’s theological adviser. He was named a peritus (official council theologian) at the council so he had a ringside seat, so to speak, at the greatest religious event of the 20th century. He became well acquainted with many of the bishops at the council as well as with his fellow periti, many of whom filled important positions in the Church after the council.

Naturally, Msgr. Bosler’s experiences at the council strongly affected what he reported or wrote for The Criterion. This was reflected in a syndicated column that he wrote for 10 years. It appeared in The Criterion and more than 30 other Catholic newspapers. It was titled “The Question Box,” and was the precursor of the “Question Corner” column currently written by Father John Dietzen, which is syndicated by Catholic News Service.

In 1975, Msgr. Bosler was absent from the staff due to a sabbatical to help him recover from a heart problem. Beatrice Ackelmire, who had been on the staff for about 10 years, was the acting editor and Father Thomas Widner was added to the staff as the associate editor. Fries continued as the managing editor.

In October of 1976, Father Widner succeeded Msgr. Bosler as editor. Msgr. Bosler continued as an editorial consultant and a member of the board of directors.

At the time, The Criterion was located on West Georgia Street in downtown Indianapolis in a formerly abandoned building more than 100 years old. It had been a boys’ school at St. John the Evangelist Parish.

Fries wrote a weekly column originally titled “Tic-Tacker,” but later called “The Tacker.” It was a column of names and events, tidbits submitted by readers and news items that Fries collected from parishes and clergy.

While Father Widner was the editor, The Criterion was switched from a broadsheet to a tabloid, as it remains today.

Father Widner’s first hire was Peter Feuerherd. At the time, he was the only paid reporter. He later worked for three other Catholic newspapers and the American Bible Society. He now does freelance writing and part-time work as the communications director for the New York Province of the Society of Jesus.

Valerie Vance Dillon then joined the staff as the news editor. Recognized as a talented writer and communicator, she also wrote a column for the Knights of Columbus magazine Columbia. She served as the acting editor while Father Widner was on a lengthy sabbatical in 1981. Later, she was named the director of the newly created Family Life Office for the archdiocese.

During Father Widner’s editorship, the paper invited individuals, both clergy and laity, to contribute op-ed pieces. As a result, Father Widner said, “at various times we were mired in controversy.” Father Widner wrote a regular column titled “Living the Questions.”

Father Widner resigned as editor in 1984. Later, he joined the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), and served for a while as an associate editor of America magazine. Today, he is the rector of Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School and director of spiritual formation at Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary, both in Indianapolis.

Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara hired John F. Fink (known familiarly as Jack) as editor, and he reported to work on July 15, 1984. He was 52 and had spent his career as a Catholic journalist at the Catholic publishing company Our Sunday Visitor in Huntington. He had been the publisher for 12 years, and the opening at The Criterion occurred when he had decided that he should get back into editing.

Fink began to write a weekly column with the July 19 issue and has continued to do so for 26 years. In his first two columns, he spelled out his ideas of what a Catholic archdiocesan newspaper should be and do. Those columns are summarized here because The Criterion continues to try to follow those standards.

The mission of The Criterion, he said, “is to give the Catholics of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis all the information they need to live their lives fully as Catholics and to make the prudential judgments needed to fulfill their Christian responsibilities.”

The first obligation of an archdiocesan paper, he said, is to report what is happening within the archdiocese as thoroughly as possible. National and international religious news come second, but it must be reported differently than what is found in the secular media, with “more background material, more analysis of the meanings of the events, and often corrections of false impressions of facts by the secular media.”

However, it is not enough, he said, for a Catholic newspaper only to report and analyze the news. Quoting the late Pope Paul VI, he said, “The Catholic press must understand that it does not have only the function of informing, as do other newspapers, but also of forming the readers with a real love of the Church, and a loyalty toward the faith, the entire faith.”

Still another essential purpose of a Catholic newspaper, he said, “must be to present the doctrines and moral teachings of the Catholic Church in ways that will encourage readers to become better Catholics.” That’s the function of columns that offer spiritual and moral guidance as well as education in the faith.

As for editorial opinion, he said, “It is essential that a Catholic periodical always remain within the bounds of Catholic teaching and tradition. This does not mean, however, that the newspaper should not reflect the ferment or dissent which exist in the Church. There are many areas where a plurality of opinions is quit legitimate, such as, to take only one example, the application of social justice principles to particular situations.”

He said that, under his editorship, The Criterion would support the statements and teachings of the pope and the U.S. bishops on all doctrinal, moral and social justice issues. It would avoid the extremes of progressivism and conservatism, and hold to a middle course. However, it would also be attentive and sensitive to other points of view on controversial issues because “you can’t give an accurate picture of what actually is happening in the Church if you present only one side of a controversial issue.”

Fink quoted the post-Vatican II document “Communio et Progressio” that said of the Catholic press: “At one and the same time, it will be a mirror that reflects the world and a light to show it the way. It will be a forum, a meeting place for the exchange of ideas.”

In addition to his weekly column, Fink also wrote the newspaper’s editorials.

When he began as the editor, The Criterion’s staff was composed of Jim Jachimiak and Cynthia Dewes. Dewes worked three days a week and was responsible for writing the obituaries, “The Active List”—now called “Events Calendar”—and proofreading. She also wrote feature stories and her column, “Cornucopia,” which continues to be published twice a month.

Jachimiak commuted to Indianapolis from Franklin every day, and eventually took a job with the Franklin Daily Journal. Before that, though, Fink hired Richard Cain, who later went on to be the editor of other Catholic diocesan newspapers.

After Jachimiah left, Fink hired Margaret Nelson, who later was promoted to senior reporter.

Mary Ann Wyand succeeded Cain when he left to become the editor of the Catholic newspaper in Green Bay, Wis. With Nelson, Wyand and Dewes on the staff, Fink was the only male in the editorial department. When Dewes retired, he hired Elizabeth Bruns and, later, Susan (Bierman) Etter.

In order to try to cover the archdiocese better, he also hired Peter J. Agostinelli, who wrote parish profiles by travelling throughout the archdiocese. He handled that job for several years before the Communications Department hired him. After Fink retired, Agostinelli became The Criterion’s managing editor.

During his 12½ years as editor, Fink served two archbishops. Archbishop O’Meara never wrote a speech and preferred speaking extemporaneously. Archbishop Buechlein wrote everything down. Archbishop O’Meara declined to write a column for the paper as much as Fink urged him to do so. Archbishop Buechlein began writing and continues writing a weekly column called “Seeking the Face of the Lord.”

During Fink’s first meeting with Archbishop Buechlein after he was named the archbishop on July 14, 1992, he told Fink that he would write a weekly column as he had been doing as the Bishop of Memphis. In his 18 years as publisher of The Criterion, Archbishop Buechlein has written a column for 932 consecutive issues (yes, 932 and counting) and has never missed a deadline!

One of the first things that Archbishop Buechlein did after being installed was to begin a process to develop a long-range strategic plan for the archdiocese. The Criterion reported all the meetings and the discussions that led to the plan’s promulgation on Sept. 9, 1993—the first anniversary of the archbishop’s installation.

A reorganization of archdiocesan offices and agencies was an integral part of the strategic plan, and that affected The Criterion. In 1960, when Archbishop Schulte began The Criterion, he founded it as a separate corporation from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. The Criterion Press Inc., publisher of The Criterion, had only one stockholder, the Archbishop of Indianapolis. However, the corporation’s bylaws called for a board of directors that met periodically to advise the archbishop.

For day-to-day supervision, The Criterion was in the same secretariat as the Communications Department, the Development Office and Catholic Cemeteries, all of which reported to the chancellor.

With the reorganization of archdiocesan offices under Archbishop Buechlein’s strategic plan, The Criterion was placed in a new secretariat called Planning, Development and Communications. Later, after another reorganization, the secretariat was renamed the Secretariat for Communications.

In 1996, following Fink’s announcement that he would retire at the end of the calendar year, Archbishop Buechlein appointed William R. Bruns, who was then the executive director for communications for the archdiocese, as the executive editor of The Criterion while retaining his responsibilities as the executive director for communications. Before joining the archdiocese’s central administration in 1994, Bruns worked in the corporate communications for Eli Lilly and Company for 26 years. He had also been a member, and eventually president, of the board of directors of Criterion Press Inc.

At the same time, the archbishop named Agostinelli, then the archdiocesan associate director of communications, as the managing editor of the newspaper. As mentioned above, prior to his communications position, Agostinelli had served as an assistant editor of the newspaper.

The executive editor/managing editor structure represented a new organizational approach for The Criterion, which previously had only an editor-in-chief.

The managing editor would handle the day-to-day tasks of producing the weekly newspaper. This allowed Bruns to hold two positions—to oversee the newspaper as well as to continue to head communications in general, e.g., media relations, publications and the Catholic Communications Center.

The newspaper continued to strive for a 50/50 ratio of editorial copy to advertising copy for each issue of the paper, although it never quite attained that goal. A policy was developed of adding pages to the standard 16 pages per issue only if there was enough advertising in a particular issue to cover the increased costs of the additional pages. The goal was to avoid having to be subsidized by the archdiocese and to hold the line on subscription-rate increases for both individuals and parishes.

It was also during this period in the newspaper’s history that Archbishop Buechlein asked to have his weekly column translated into Spanish. The burgeoning Hispanic population of the archdiocese was estimated at that time to be approaching 90,000 people.

In 1997, Daniel Conway, the associate publisher, suggested that an editorial committee be formed to research issues and write editorials for publication in the paper. Members of the committee, approved and appointed by the archbishop, were Conway, Bruns, Fink, Dillon, Lawrence “Bo” Connor, the retired managing editor of The Indianapolis Star and a former member and president of the board of directors of Criterion Press Inc, and Father Daniel J. Mahan, then the pastor of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis.

Editorials also began to be signed by their authors to “identify for readers who is speaking for the newspaper.” However, the editorial policy stated, “All editorials, by definition, reflect the position or point of view of the newspaper and its publisher. In a Catholic newspaper, readers have the right to expect that editorial opinions are based on the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church and its application to daily life.”

At the end of 1997, Conway, the secretary for stewardship and communications and associate publisher of The Criterion, left the service of the archdiocese to become the director of development for the Archdiocese of Chicago. Bruns was named the secretary for communications while retaining the responsibilities of executive editor of The Criterion.

In 1999, Agostinelli, the managing editor, left the service of the archdiocese, and was succeeded by Greg A. Otolski, the business editor of The Courier-Journal of Louisville. Otolski had been a newspaper editor and reporter for 16 years, and had worked for The Jasper Herald and United Press International. In 2002, he was promoted to the editor and Bruns was named the associate publisher. The role of the executive editor was eliminated.

Otolski became the fifth editor of the newspaper in its then 42-year-old history. Bruns, who continued as the secretary for communications, kept some of his former editor’s duties, but devoted more attention to the business side of the newspaper.

During his editorship, Otolski hired both Brandon A. Evans and Jennifer (Del Vechio) Lindberg as staff writers. When Lindberg left in 2004, he hired Sean Gallagher, a regular columnist for The Criterion, to succeed her.

In late 2005, in anticipation of Bruns’s retirement in March 2006, Archbishop Buechlein appointed Otolski the head of the secretariat for communications, associate publisher of The Criterion and director of archdiocesan communications. Michael Krokos was hired as editor. At the time, he was the assistant editor of The Herald Bulletin, the daily newspaper of Anderson, Ind. He was also a former editor of two Catholic newspapers—The Catholic Spirit of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and The Catholic News & Herald, the newspaper of the Diocese of Charlotte, N.C.

John Shaughnessy, a reporter and columnist at The Indianapolis Star, was hired as the assistant editor of The Criterion in late 2005. As part of The Criterion’s staff reorganization, Evans became its online editor.

Though the staff has changed through 50 years, the newspaper’s mission remains the same. The Criterion continues to be the archbishop’s primary tool of evangelization.

The staff also continues to produce 50 issues per year, but they now use the newspaper’s online presence at www.criteriononline.com more and more as a resource for readers.

(Contributing to this history of The Criterion were former editors John F. Fink, Jesuit Father Thomas Widner and William R. Bruns.)

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