Catholic Press Speaks Out p.13

By: M.L. Stein The goals: striving to be more professional, increasing revenue sp.

THE 647 PUBLICATIONS of the Catholic Press Association are catching up to their mainstream counterparts in learning the grim economic realities of their business, a spokesman said at the groups's Los Angeles convention.
"Just look at our program," suggested CPA executive director Owen P. McGovern. "We are striving to be more professional while increasing our revenue."
The convention panels to which he referred were described as "Bootcamps" and bore such titles as "The Editor as Business Manager," "Ways to Make Money for Diocesan Newspapers," "Improving Your Customer Service/Fulfillment Operation," and "Using Computer Technology to Increase Advertising Sales."
McGovern said the Catholic press is facing the same problems as its mainstream counterparts: rising newsprint costs, declining ad revenue and increased competition for attention from broadcasters.
"I tell members they have to respect the business competition," McGovern said. Only lately, he added, have some Catholic newspapers hired business and advertising managers.
One recent innovation ? not new to general circulation newspapers but a milestone in Catholic publications ? is the introduction of a "one order-one bill" advertising network.
The network can draw from a formidable array of newspapers and magazines. CPA figures for 1995 released at the May 30-June 1 conference show a total of 647 Catholic newspapers, magazines, newsletters and foreign languages publications in the U.S. and Canada. Their total circulation, virtually all paid, is approximately 26.5 million.
The U.S. mix includes 197 non-daily newspapers, 166 of them published by local dioceses, five independent national papers and 13 Eastern Rite publications. Their aggregate circulation is almost six million. In Canada, there are 11 diocesan papers and two national ones, adding up to a circulation of 137,800.
In all, there are 274 CPA magazines here and in Canada for a total circulation of nearly 16 million.
Serving CPA members is the Catholic News Service (CNS), which lists 300 subscribers for a wide spectrum of church-related stories.
The Catholic press in general is facing "tough times," according to CAP president Anthony J. Spence, editor in chief of the Tennessee Register in Nashville.
"That's the dinosaur in the living room," said Spence, a former microbiologist turned journalist. "The Catholic press is by no means insulated from the economic problems of the secular press. Personnel and paper cost are skyrocketing like crazy and postal rates are unforgiving."
Not only is CPA advising members on the latest ways to market their publications but the newspapers and magazines are, like the general press, exploring alternative sources of revenue, Spence said.
He noted that most diocesan newspapers are expected to pay their own way. However, since the diocese is the publisher "there is a certain degree of partnership" between the church and a paper's lay editors and managers, Spence explained.
This means, he went on, that a diocese may provide some financial support, usually in the form of buying copies and distributing them to parishioners.
"But generally we are expected to be self-supporting and most of us are or we would be out of business," Spence asserted.
There have been casualties in recent years, he recalled, notably the Monitor, San Francisco's oldest Catholic paper, which folded in the mid-1980s.
In terms of editorial content, the CPA president said that, while all Catholic publications "share a common love and regard for the church," their reporting of social issues may vary according to "the agenda of the diocese" and prevailing community values.
For example, controversies over immigration and gay and lesbian rights are more likely to be addressed in metropolitan-located newspapers than those in rural Minnesota, he pointed out. (One of the convention sessions was titled "Covering Gay/Lesbian Issues in the Catholic Press" and was led by the Rev. J. Peter Liuzzi, who directs a ministry for gay and lesbian Catholics in Los Angeles).
"But it must be kept in mind that besides reflecting the agenda of the diocese, our publications are windows on Catholic culture and provide a forum for Catholics to talk about their lives," Spence commented.
A sampling of Catholic newspapers reveals broad differences in coverage of secular matters. In one recent issue, the 40-page Michigan Catholic, published in Detroit, carried a Page One CNS story about a Senate committee's vote on the nomination of Dr. Henry Foster to be surgeon general, a commentary on abusive relationships between couples and an account of a Detroit psychologist's 10 days as a relief worker after the Oklahoma City bombing.
The Catholic Standard in Washington, D.C. ran stories on proposed welfare reforms, the conflict in Northern Ireland and an editorial on the need to aid poverty-stricken children in the district.
A survey by the Diocese of Rome revealed that 75% of the Roman respondents believed that one can be a good Catholic without following church teachings on sexual morality was a front-page story in the New Catholic Explorer of Joliet, Ill. Among the stories in the independent National Catholic Reporter was one about a Catholic priest with five children getting a divorce, reportedly the first in America's Roman Catholic clergy. Father William Bry Shields, was a married, former Episcopal priest when he was ordained in the Catholic church in 1984.
The Catholic Lantern in Stockton, Calif., featured a first-person memoir of a mother whose son died of AIDS.
Portland's Catholic Sentinel published a Page One story and inside editorial on the efforts of church leaders to extend pastoral care and church membership to undocumented Hispanics.
The 16 newspapers examined also featured movie reviews, activities calendars, travel articles and social items along with an abundance of columns and homilies by the clergy on Catholic doctrine. The number of full-page ads and copious classified sections in some papers would draw the envy of any mainstream publisher.
Although echoing the economic concerns expressed by Spence, CPA editors interviewed were generally pleased with their jobs and their paper's market position.
"Some papers are struggling," said Christopher Gunty of the Catholic Sun in Phoenix, although adding that his newspaper, with a circulation of 90,000, is "doing well."
Joseph Sinasac, who left the daily Windsor Star to become editor of the Catholic Register in Toronto, observed, "We have to make it on our own but we're doing it."


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