Although the Catholic Courier Weekly is being discontinued for economic reasons, its chief functions — providing regional feature coverage and a weekly column from Bishop Matthew H. Clark — will continue under different formats.
Diocesan pastors and pastoral administrators were notified in a Jan. 3 letter that the final weekly edition will be issued Feb. 23-24. Localized, human-interest stories that have typified those newspapers will now become a part of the Courier Monthly, beginning with the March 5 edition. According to Karen M. Franz, the Courier‘s general manager/editor, the monthly will add a third, “zoned” section containing four or more pages for each of three regions.
The Courier Weekly has existed since 2004 as a four-page issue — inserted into parish bulletins — for the regions of Monroe/Livingston, the Finger Lakes and the Southern Tier. Franz said the weeklies have been especially popular with readers in the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier regions due to the increased local content they offered.
“We were able to do stories that would not have been included in the format under which we operated prior to 2004,” Franz said. Because Rochester is the seat of the diocese, much of the Courier‘s news coverage historically has been concentrated on Monroe County, she explained.
However, Franz said the weekly editions never garnered sufficient advertising support. Combined with a dramatic increase in the editions’ distribution costs beginning in early 2007, the deficits incurred by Courier Weekly rose from $9,000 in 2006 to nearly $79,000 last year. Franz added that somewhat greater deficits were being projected for 2008 and thereafter, and for that reason, the Courier‘s board of directors reluctantly decided to terminate the weekly format.
“The weeklies were never a money maker, but they might have continued for another year had our overall 2007 advertising been stronger,” she said, noting that the last few years have been difficult ones for all newspapers. Franz said that shifting the regional coverage to the monthly edition will preserve the well-received regional content while freeing up resources for other initiatives and holding down circulation costs to parishes.
The monthly, which is mailed to all 116,000 Catholic households in the Diocese of Rochester for which a valid address is available, also was launched in 2004.
Planned regional features for the March monthly edition include:
* Finger Lakes — A “Mission From the Heart ” project involving Sacred Heart and St. Ann churches in Auburn and Owasco. This effort strives to enhance education and relieve poverty for people living in the Village of Don Juan in the Dominican Republic.
* Southern Tier — An immigration-services program that has begun through Catholic Charities of Tompkins/Tioga. This feature is part of an ongoing series profiling various Catholic Charities initiatives across the Tier.
* Monroe County — Frank Pettrone of Greece and Nazareth Academy student Gretchen Smith, who are both working to promote the rosary. Pettrone makes at least one rosary each day, which he gives away to area groups; Smith has received the Girl Scouts’ Gold Award for organizing the making of more than 100 rosaries which were given to troops serving overseas.
Franz acknowledged that reducing the frequency of the Courier‘s print editions could hamper timely reporting and consistent communication to parishioners from Bishop Clark. For that reason, she said, the new Courier initiatives also will include:
* Enhancement of the newspaper’s Web site (www.catholiccourier.com), including more frequent posting of news and features.
* Establishment of a weekly e-mail newsletter that will direct recipients to the Web site for Bishop Clark’s weekly column, breaking news, a calendar of events and other time-sensitive material. The newsletter was due to be launched in mid- to late January.
* Optional e-mail distribution to parishes of a printable, weekly document containing Bishop Clark’s column and a regional calendar of events.
Father Robert Schrader, pastor of Rochester’s Peace of Christ Parish, lauded the move to build the Courier‘s print coverage exclusively around the monthly edition, saying that particular version is superior to the weekly bulletin insert “for several key reasons.” He noted that the monthly reaches all registered Roman Catholic homes in the diocese and not just people who go to church; the monthly’s additional space allows for more in-depth coverage; its 12-county coverage gives a better overall view of the diocese to readers; it covers more of the national and international church; and it is better supported by advertisers.
“With the balance of the monthly edition and the daily updates on the Internet edition, Catholics in our diocese have news media that are both as comprehensive and as timely as a diocese can offer,” remarked Father Schrader, who is a member of the Courier‘s board of directors and its editorial committee.
EDITOR’S NOTE: To sign up for the e-mail newsletter, send an e-mail to LatestNews@CatholicCourier.com; those who sign up by Jan. 31 and provide their mailing addresses will be entered in a drawing for one of five 7.1 megapixel Nikon CoolPix digital cameras.