In a crumbling letter discovered in a musty file, a writer praises the Catholic Standard & Times, which “has for many years been widely known … and admittedly is in the front rank of our Catholic weeklies. It has fairly won its reputation by its intelligent … and fearless advocacy and defense of teachings of the Church and its comprehensive presentation of Catholic news. It is a great power for good to religion, to our diocese and to every family … .” The author hopes to “persuade every family … to become subscribers to the official organ of the diocese.”
That writer was Philadelphia Archbishop Edmund F. Prendergast, in a hand-typed letter to the faithful Feb. 28, 1913. The words wring as true today some 97 years later, even if crafted in a more flowery style.
During this Catholic Press Month of February 2010, the paper’s mission remains as solid as its reputation for presenting Catholic news and catechesis of Church teaching. Everything else is different. An imaginative staff member of this Catholic newspaper a century ago might have dreamed of lay women and men working together each day with the latest technology to produce the weekly newspaper for paying customers in the Archdiocese and beyond. But he probably wouldn’t have imagined that the newspaper would be available on an electronic device 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for free.
This is the conundrum of the Internet, the cliff where newspapers have staked their claim. They reach new readers but realize little of the money necessary to produce news. Some newspapers have gone over that cliff into oblivion, while most hang on by their fingernails, watching print subscribers dwindle and online audiences grow.
One reads the signs of the times. Ten years ago, the signs said that paying for information on the Internet was a thing of the past. These days, more newspapers are exploring ways to begin charging for the information they produce. Since not a month goes by when a CS&T subscriber informs us that they wish to cancel their subscription because they can “read it for free” on our web site, we also are reevaluating that practice.
In coming months visitors to our web site, cst-phl.com, will continue to find rich content, but far less than that of the print edition. They will be invited to purchase an affordable digital subscription for all our content on the web site and on a variety of hand-held devices like e-readers (Kindle, iPad).
They’ll find information available nowhere else, such as weekly updates on funds collected in parishes for Haiti disaster relief, on insights into Catholic doctrine and a look at interesting local Catholics. It’s a mission that never grows old, even if the news delivery changes with the times.