By MOST REVEREND WILTON D. GREGORY, Archbishop of Atlanta | Published August 20, 2009
Newspapers of all sorts far and wide are facing significant financial trauma. Some of the oldest and most revered dailies are recognizing and attempting to respond to the universally changing horizon of the media. And many of them have grown leaner while others have ultimately ceased publication. Cities that once boasted two daily newspapers are now facing the prospect of having none at all. And all of this is happening at the very moment when communications have never been so vital, widespread or valuable. Printed newspapers may be going the way of the telegraph. It too was once the state-of-the-art method of getting messages transmitted.
Catholic newspapers everywhere, like their secular counterparts, are facing the same challenge that the print media is facing. Communications have taken a decidedly electronic shift. People, myself included, now scan dozens of daily news publications online. The Internet has become the vehicle of choice for communications. Cyberspace has challenged the printed newspaper in ways that now pose serious threats to even the largest publishers. Our own Georgia Bulletin is no exception.
One of the recommendations that has come from our strategic planning process is to transform the way the Archdiocese of Atlanta communicates with our people. We are working to develop our Internet presence in the homes and offices of our folks. This will take time and some creative designing on our part—and perhaps much patience on your part. We want to begin a transformation that will eventually lead to having The Georgia Bulletin completely electronically offered to every home in this local Church within five years, but we want to move in that direction in stages rather than all at once in view of the fact that some folks will need time to make the adjustments.
Our young people will have no trouble making such changes, and chances are many of them already find the news that they seek about the Archdiocese of Atlanta on the Internet. Yet others among us will need to move more slowly—many people do not use or even own a computer.
Beginning this month, The Georgia Bulletin will be published every other week. Our staff will use the extra time to enhance the Web presence that will increasingly contain the information that we send to our people. There will be a reduction in the annual fee charged to the parishes for The Georgia Bulletin since the expense of mailing the paper represents a significant cost associated with a weekly publication. We have already begun offering online advertisements to help cover the cost of this new initiative.
This Internet publication will allow us to do many things that a printed edition simply cannot offer. We will be able to publish information when it becomes available rather than to wait for the weekly edition. We will greatly expand our ability to use graphics and photographs. Reporting local events will be more timely and detailed. The possibility of interactive encounters with our people will make our publication that much more engaging for our staff as well as for all of you—we hope!
The Catholic Church in North Georgia has grown tremendously during the past few decades, and we need to find ways to communicate with you about the issues of Faith and the moral challenges that all Catholics face at this moment in history using the best vehicle available—and that is clearly in cyberspace.
We are not alone in facing these challenges. A couple of weeks ago, while I was in Phoenix for the Knights of Columbus’ convention, the Archbishop of another important diocese asked me about our newspaper. I told him that we were reviewing the recommendations that came from our planning process and that would mean changes in our Georgia Bulletin. He asked me if he could have his own staff speak with our folks about what we were considering doing in the future because they were asking the same questions and facing the same challenges. I told him that we would welcome such a conversation both to share what we have learned and to learn from another diocese. The pressures that face print publications are the same everywhere in the secular world as well as in the Church.