END OF AN ERA
November 19, 2021
Catholic Voice to discontinue print edition
Local Catholic media outlet takes next step into digital age
One hundred eighteen years is a pretty good run – and it’s not over yet.
Since 1903, the Catholic Voice – and its predecessor, the True Voice – have covered Catholic life in the 23 northeast Nebraska counties that make up the Archdiocese of Omaha.
Along with the deaths and elections of popes, the Second Vatican Council, and many other stories of national, international and societal importance to Catholics and the Church, we’ve covered countless stories of local impact.
These include the construction and dedication of the archdiocese’s mother church, St. Cecilia Cathedral, papal visits to nearby states, local responses to world wars, famines and other crises, news from our parishes and schools, the ordination of priests and deacons, installation of our bishops and archbishops, Catholic events around the archdiocese, along with thousands of other topics.
But most importantly, we’ve shared stories of simple, abiding faith in God, and how that faith has animated the lives of our neighbors and fellow parishioners.
The Catholic Voice is commemorating this record of service to the Catholic faithful as it enters its next phase, becoming a solely online publication. This issue is the final one being published in printed form.
This is happening for several reasons, said Deacon Tim McNeil, archdiocesan chancellor and director of the Communications Office.
As printing and mailing costs have risen and advertising revenues decline, and the popularity of online news sources grows, more fully utilizing the Catholic Voice website, catholicvoiceomaha.com, makes financial and strategic sense, he said.
“This proposed digital strategy is not about the latest gadget or fad; rather, it confronts the current void of joy and authenticity on the secular ‘digital continent.’
“In place of this void, we have an opportunity to bring the fullness of the Gospel to the digital space, a home to countless millions who still converse, seek to clarify thought, and search for truth about life,” Deacon McNeil said.
Benefits of the new format include increased immediacy, with a regular flow of new stories rather than readers being required to wait for delivery of a monthly paper.
It also leverages the power of digital technology for reaching new audiences through an expanded online presence, promoted regularly through social media.
The Catholic Voice website also will be redesigned to be more appealing and reader-friendly, Deacon McNeil said.
But how do we say goodbye to a format enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of Catholic readers over multiple generations?
The Catholic Voice asked several people closely connected to the newspaper to reflect on the role it has played in the lives of our readers and in spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. We’ve also included reproductions of significant front pages over the decades.
We at the Catholic Voice look forward to continuing to serve the Catholic community with inspiring stories of faith that evangelize and spread the Good News to people throughout the Archdiocese of Omaha and beyond.
ARCHBISHOP EMERITUS ELDEN FRANCIS CURTISS
Archbishop of Omaha, 1993-2009
When I arrived in Omaha as archbishop in 1993, I was glad to learn that we had an archdiocesan newspaper that was reaching so many of our households throughout northeastern Nebraska. The Catholic Voice provided a significant way for our people to deepen their understanding of the Catholic faith and the personal relationship Jesus wanted with them.
Over these many years, the Catholic Voice (successor to the True Voice) proved to be an important instrument in spreading the Good News about Christ and his Church. It gave the archbishop regular contact with our people and the message he wanted to share with them. It informed readers about parish ministries and events. It contributed to the unity of the archdiocesan Church, and with the universal Church.
Now, in an age when so many young people (and some not so young) receive much of their information through various electronic media, printed communications are declining nationally. For some of us older people, we may find much of this modern media confusing at times, and a bit overwhelming.
But the world of communication is changing, and along with these changes, the archdiocese will now, through the Catholic Voice website, provide a communication tool that will be available to everyone whenever they wish to access it. This will give the archbishop regular media access to you, the Catholic faithful, and keep you informed about parish and archdiocesan news, and significant national events and those of the universal Church. Hopefully this use of digital technology will prove helpful to our people in promoting the renewal of Catholic life and the re-evangelization of people so needed in our world today.
With a culture that is increasingly secular and anti-religious, we need the use of modern technology to keep the message of Jesus and his Church in the public forum, in ways that can be heard by young and old alike. Please take the time to regularly access the Catholic Voice through its website, catholicvoiceomaha.com, as an important way to stay connected with the archdiocese and the universal Church.
DEACON RANDY GROSSE
Advertising manager and assistant editor, 2001- 2010; editor and general manager, 2010-2017
Over my 16 years at the Catholic Voice, I wrote often about the role of the newspaper as a public relations tool, a vehicle for evangelization, a source of news with a Catholic perspective and, I believe most important, a community newspaper featuring the people and organizations of the Catholic community of northeast Nebraska.
Throughout my time with the Voice, the newspaper served all those other purposes, but focused on the people of the archdiocese and how their faith – their relationship with Christ – was making a difference in their lives and the lives of others.
The Catholic Voice carried the message of faith and helped explain the faith and Church teaching. But inspiring people in their faith might have been the most important goal. And those stories about people living their faith – not in the pews, but out in the world – provided inspiration for many.
The Catholic perspective on faith also applied to the news of the day, and the Catholic Voice – and the Catholic press in general – has been the one, best source of that perspective for most Catholics. Other publications, including online sources, also provide that perspective, but none better or more consistently than Catholic newspapers.
Since the very beginning, the Catholic Voice evolved to meet the needs of the archdiocese and serve the people, adapting to the ongoing changes in newspaper publishing, and my time at the Catholic Voice was no different. While consistency forms a foundation, change drives impact, and change – in types of stories, graphic design/packaging news stories, formats and frequency, new special sections and advertising opportunities – was always on the table.
But at the heart of all that change remained one constant – our focus on telling stories about people, how faith impacted their lives, their approach to faith and how they translated their faith experience to their everyday life experience. And while many major national, international and local events were featured on the pages of the Catholic Voice, those stories about regular people were the most memorable and significant.
FATHER DENNIS HANNEMAN
Retired priest of the archdiocese; Catholic Voice columnist
My family moved into the Omaha archdiocese about 65 years ago. I clearly remember what a valuable resource The True Voice was as we began to discover the Church in northeast Nebraska. I was particularly interested in its content as I began my seminary studies in 1960. So many new names, faces, and parishes! I would have been lost without it.
The Catholic Voice has been a wonderful source of information and guidance to Catholics for many years. It has provided a regular voice for the archbishop as he leads and challenges us to grow in faith. It has helped us to better understand the programs and priorities of the archdiocese. It has invited us to learn about the very best practices of the parishes. It has given us information about upcoming events and enrichment opportunities. It has helped us with wonderful guidance in our spiritual lives through its columns and editorials.
A few years ago, I was asked to write periodic spiritual reflections on the Sunday Scripture readings. I have enjoyed this opportunity to share my thoughts, hopefully drawing readers to new insights and perspectives. (I must admit, though, that trying to accomplish this in 350 words or less was never easy!) Sometimes people that I see on weekends have commented favorably; for this I’m grateful to God who inspired me.
Now the format is changing. It may take a little effort on our part to open our electronic devices and navigate to the right page. Nevertheless, the Good News will continue to shape and form us, leading us to deeper insights and rich information about our faith.
This is the last time you will see the Catholic Voice as ink on paper. It is to be replaced by words and pictures on computers, tablets and television screens.
This transition sparks my memories of joining the Catholic Voice in 1987, where I served as editor for the next 10 years. Reporters wrote using typewriters, their copy keyed into a photocomposition machine which then produced the type to be placed on pages and finally driven to the printer to be transferred into metal to go on the offset press.
As the printed product evolved during my 10 years, the Catholic Voice worked to inform, inspire and influence, and to be a major force in the archdiocese. One example was the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council (APC). It was formed as a congress of parish delegates, educators and clergy, working through a two-year process of discernment, formation and activity to bring proposals to its biennial meeting. The Catholic Voice played a significant role in reporting on the APC from the first parish meetings to the final implementation of the Council’s priorities.
There were challenges and opportunities in advancing and supporting the faith lives of the people through the Catholic Voice. Much of this was developed in collaboration with the agencies and departments of the archdiocese. Several results were the offices of Family Life and Pastoral Planning.
The Catholic Voice also put an increasing emphasis on social justice issues, using its own reporting, commentary and analysis from the archdiocese’s Social Ministry Commission. Editorials took a quick focus on local news to advance the Catholic perspective on issues.
But, despite the changes of both yesterday and today, the Gospel message remains unchanged; and the Catholic Voice will remain unchanged in its mission to assist its readers in their faith journey.
A watershed moment for the Catholic Voice
By Dan Rossini
The discontinuation of the print edition of the Catholic Voice is a watershed moment – perhaps the biggest – in its long and venerable 118-year existence. Now, our archdiocesan publication ceases to be a newspaper and becomes something new: an online Catholic media outlet.
As for any defining moment, it’s important to look back to see how we arrived at this critical point, and also to look to what lies ahead.
Throughout its history, the Catholic Voice has been the primary – if not exclusive – source of news and information from a Catholic perspective for the faithful in the Archdiocese of Omaha. Our coverage has included the elections and deaths of popes; the ordinations and appointments of bishops, priests and deacons; news of our religious orders and congregations; construction of local churches and pastoral buildings; as well as a myriad of other activities and events in the life of our local Catholic community.
The Catholic Voice has also been an indispensable source of instruction in the faith. As The True Voice welcomed its new headquarters on Northwest Radial Highway in November 1966, Archbishop Gerald T. Bergan said in a front-page interview that the newspaper served as an essential tool for carrying out his teaching mandate.
“In the Archdiocese of Omaha far more people have an opportunity to read THE TRUE VOICE – which is really and truly the voice of the Archbishop – than those who have an opportunity at Confirmations or other functions to hear the spoken word of their Archbishop,” he said. Our current Archbishop George J. Lucas echoes this insight in his column this month. Throughout the years, this teaching office has also been extended to many of our other writers – one thinks especially of the insightful contributors on our Spiritual Life and Commentary pages.
Lastly, the Catholic Voice has been a source of inspiration for the faithful to deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ. Whether it was accentuating the necessity of personal prayer, highlighting the benefits of small faith sharing groups or reporting on the many opportunities to serve one’s neighbor, the Catholic Voice communicated the joy and peace of a life lived in communion with our Lord and Savior.
Over the last four-and-a-half years, we made efforts to make the newspaper an even stronger medium of evangelization. We focused less on straight news stories and those about the institutional Church, and put more emphasis on the benefits people received from its organizations, programs and initiatives, especially as they positively impacted their faith lives.
RECENT AND NEW CHALLENGES
The COVID-19 pandemic was especially hard on the Catholic Voice, with the administration’s call to reduce expenses by 20%. To do so, the newspaper became a monthly publication, which provided substantial savings in printing and postage costs. At the same time, it cost us dearly in advertising revenue.
Now, with the effects of the pandemic lingering, the archdiocese must be especially vigilant about its allocation of resources. Most Catholic Voice content has appeared on its website, catholicvoiceomaha.com, for years – and some of it even before it appears in print. There, everyone with an internet connection has access to it, not just those who receive the print edition.
But therein lies the challenge. While most people today get their news and information from electronic devices, this unfortunately does not extend to religious content. Faith Magazine, a media management and consulting firm that manages magazines and websites for dioceses and other Catholic organizations, reports that in its experience, very few Catholics in a diocese have ever visited its website(s).
If that proves to be the case here, then we will not get the content we need to nourish our faith lives. As an archdiocesan faith community, we have to be different. So if you haven’t already, please navigate to our website with your smartphone or computer now and take a few minutes to become familiar with it. Then please add it to your browser favorites, so that you can easily access it on a regular basis.
Since this is the last print edition of the Catholic Voice and also my last as editor, a few words of thanks are in order.
My heartfelt gratitude, first of all, goes to Archbishop George J. Lucas and Deacon Tim McNeil, chancellor, for giving me the opportunity to pilot one of the most respected and esteemed Catholic diocesan publications in the United States.
My thanks also goes to our staff, beginning with Associate Editor Mike May. Skilled in many areas, including writing, editing, proofing and organization, Mike provided invaluable leadership and service on our editorial team. Meanwhile, Feature Writer Susan Szalewski produced many thoughtful and well-written stories, while also contributing lots of intriguing story ideas that wound up in print.
While facing a gradual erosion of interest in print advertising, Advertising Representative John Donahue still managed to sell an impressive quantity of ads, filling each issue with important messages from our business and organizational collaborators. And the business side of our shop could not have succeeded without the efforts of Finance Specialist Linda Stehno, whose dedication, support and flexibility made our work lives easier.
As a result of the restructuring, John, Linda and I will be pursuing new endeavors. Please pray for us as we continue to pray for the archdiocese and its evangelization efforts in the days and weeks ahead.