The morning the impending closure of the domestic bureaus of Catholic News Service was announced May 4 began like many others over the years. I had received an email from CNS staffer Carol Zimmermann asking if we would be able to share our story on the trip Cardinal Dolan and the others in the New York delegation made to Ukraine, Poland and Slovakia leading up to the deadline for our last issue. Nothing unusual there as Catholic New York is a longtime client of Catholic News Service and we frequently share information and sometimes stories needed to service their clients at dozens and dozens of Catholic newspapers, magazines, other publications and dioceses, primarily across the United States and Canada, as well as other countries.
It’s a cooperative venture, made stronger by the participation of members, which is why we are always willing to do our share.
As it happened, that day was, in fact, very different. That morning, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced to its staff, including CNS, a dramatic reorganization of its communications department, which included closing the Washington and New York offices of Catholic News Service at the end of this year. The news itself arrived via a story that ran on CNS and is published on this page.
The Rome bureau, featuring news, information and photos about the Holy Father and the various offices at the Vatican, will remain open and will no longer charge clients for its services beginning Jan. 1, 2023.
There is more to the closures, of course, but our operations and how they will be affected by the loss of CNS’ national coverage are my primary concern as CNY’s editor. Readers should know the high esteem we hold for the work of our CNS colleagues in D.C. and New York. They are all personal heroes for the relentlessly good job they have done in less than ideal circumstances, especially in recent years when cutbacks meant that people who left often could not be replaced. They do the very best they can in true wire service fashion, with speed, accuracy and concision, “punching well beyond their weight” as the sporting expression goes, even while tending to videos, apps and social media feeds with the same professionalism that marks their other work.
It is not just Catholic publications that stand to lose when this decision comes to fruition. The bishops in the United States will lose an important and consistent amplifier of their collective voice as well as the overall work of the conference. Any of us can certainly think of many issues that will not be addressed as well as they were previously because CNS was on the story. I’m not saying there are no possible alternatives to CNS, but my experience and understanding say none are nearly as good or as thorough in their approach.
And so, a gaping hole will need to be filled when the CNS bureaus close. Look through any issue of CNY and you see at least three pages devoted to CNS coverage of international and national stories, and that’s just the beginning. Our website is fed daily, sometimes more than once, with stories from CNS, keeping it fresh and topical. That coverage extends into our Spanish monthly, Católico de Nueva York, featuring original reporting, frequently from Latin America, and translations of top stories. Then to movie reviews, which expertly combine a critic’s eye and knowledge with information and guidance essential for a Catholic audience. That office, which has operated from New York for decades in various permutations, is very much a historical loss in its own right.
Frankly the prospect of replacing all this good material is daunting to say the least, and has been discussed by Catholic press editors and communications directors in dioceses almost from the moment this decision was announced. One group to which I belong, the CNS/CMA (Catholic Media Association) Liaison Committee, has been actively weighing the impact of the decision and trying to gather information to respond and move forward. Absolutely no one is underestimating the challenge ahead of us. Please keep us all in your prayers as we strive to bring you the full diet of Catholic news, information and opinion that you expect and deserve.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here