By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T

PHILADELPHIA – You’ve read an article in the newspaper and thought, “Wow, that was really good, I’d like to send a letter.” Or perhaps, “That writer doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I’m going to write a letter.” But then, one thing leads to another and you never get around to writing it.

News flash – with the Catholic Standard & Times it’s gotten a lot easier, thanks to the new and improved web site at The web site is available on the publication date and displays not only all the locally generated stories with many of the pictures, it also provides instant access for readers to comment on the story, adding their own opinion or further facts.

“We are still doing experimentation and tweaking,” said Matthew Gambino, director and general manager of the CS&T.

In addition to the ease and convenience, the new web site format opens itself up to many other possibilities, including opinion polls and story reporters’ further comments, among other features.

A quick check at noon on the web site last Thursday, the first day of operation, showed there was already a reader’s comment on an editorial.

The menu of options offered were News, Features, Cardinal Rigali’s weekly message: the Word Became Flesh; Opinion, Editorial, Year of St. Paul, Catholic Spirituality, Hispanic Catholics, Sports and Profile. After most stories there were links to other current or recent stories on a similar topic.

Classified advertising broken down by category was also available. There are future plans to also provide larger, display ad space to advertisers for a fee, Gambino said.

One of the most fascinating features is an archive of issues going back to 2004. Through this it will be possible to pull up old stories one wants to re-read without charge.

What the web site does not offer is stories obtained from other sources. But among the links is one to Catholic News Service, the Washington-based wire service that provides most of these stories, and many are archived through their web site.

Rather than reinvent the wheel through programs developed by an in-house web master, the CS&T utilizes templates provided by Bullet Link, a Houston- based specialist in newspaper web sites. Bullet Link also provides the necessary file server space, according to Gambino.

But to ask the obvious question, if you can read most of the newspaper online why bother subscribing?

“It’s not an exact duplication of the paper,” Gambino said. “Research has shown web sites do not adversely affect circulation, and if there are things in the paper you can’t get online, it will boost circulation.”

Visitors do not pay to access the site, and “it will remain free,” Gambino said. “We want to communicate with people.”

Check out the web site and if you have a comment, please feel free to offer it. If it’s positive or negative, it doesn’t matter. Of course, if your comment is negative, don’t forget, be civil. Remember the heat President Harry Truman took, when, after reading a harsh review of his daughter’s singing debut, dashed off a letter to the editor saying he would like to come after the critic with a baseball bat. Always count to 10 before you hit “send.”

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.