February 7, 2020

Editorial

Catholic press and other media

“Historically, the Catholic press [which includes diocesan and national newspapers, and national magazines] has been the mainstay of the Church’s communications effort in the U.S. It remains at present the least expensive way of conveying comprehensive Catholic-oriented news and views on a regular basis to the largest number of Catholics.”

The above paragraph was a statement made by the American bishops back in 1974. Is it still true?

Each year, the Church in the United States has observed February as “Catholic Press Month,” although in recent years more emphasis is being given to “the media” rather than just to “the press.”

It’s a time when we encourage you to read Catholic periodicals, including, of course, The Criterion. As you peruse the issue you hold in your hands or read online, consider whether you could get these stories, columns and features from any other source.

The American bishops realized the importance of Catholic periodicals well before that statement in 1974. The first distinctly Catholic paper, The United States Catholic Miscellany, was founded in 1822 by Bishop John England of Charleston, S.C.

And at the second provincial council in 1833, the bishops wrote, “Sustain, as far as your means will permit, those publications, whether periodical or otherwise, which are calculated to explain our doctrines, to protect our feelings, and to increase our devotion.”

Polls and surveys indicate that fewer Catholics are attending Mass weekly. That should make newspapers like The Criterion even more important. Where else can Catholics get accurate information about Catholicism? They certainly can’t get it from the secular media or from most of the social digital media.

But we realize that many people, especially the younger generations, no longer read periodicals. Secular newspapers are experiencing lots of problems because of declining circulation. People who still read newspapers have seen them shrink in size. And many people are getting their news from social media rather than from newspapers, or even television.

The Catholic Church must reach people where they are. The Criterion joined the digital age long ago with our online edition. You can access it at https://www.archindy.org/criterion 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 of the columns on Thursdays.

We are not going to give up on print media though. We are convinced that, if a printed copy is available in a home, it is likely to be picked up by someone, perhaps by someone who has not been attending Mass.

The Catholic press is being supplemented—but not replaced—by social media. There are still 181 Catholic magazines and newspapers in the United States that have a combined circulation of 8,798,620. Of the 178 Roman Catholic dioceses in the United States, all but four publish either a newspaper or magazine.

Fortunately, there are some excellent Catholic blogs or websites for those who prefer social media to print periodicals. Those currently considered the 10 best are Catholic News Agency, National Catholic Register, EWTN, Catholic News Service, National Catholic Reporter, Integrated Catholic Life, Catholic Exchange, Crux, ZENIT and Catholic Herald.

Other favorites are Whispers in the Loggia, America Media, Crisis Magazine, and Catholic World Report. And, above all, we must not forget Word on Fire, the global media institute founded by Bishop Robert E. Barron of Los Angeles, the most successful media evangelist since Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.

There are also Catholic radio stations serving archdiocesan Catholics: Catholic Radio Indy at 89.1 FM and 90.9 FM, 91.9 FM in Terre Haute, 89.9 FM in Bloomington, 740 AM Sacred Heart Radio in Newport, Ky., and 1040 AM in Louisville, Ky. Catholic television is available on the Eternal Word Television Network.

From the above list of Catholic blogs and websites, you can see that some appeal mainly to traditional or conservative Catholics while others appeal mainly to liberal or progressive Catholics. The news websites try to cover everything Catholic.

We still must convince Catholics to take advantage of all the media available to them. When Catholics don’t get their news and opinion from their diocesan newspaper or any of the other Catholic media, they don’t understand what is going on regarding their Church.

We must do all we can to make sure these resources are available and continue to serve as tools of catechesis and evangelization for our family of faith.

—John F. Fink

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