A newspaper article once led Mark Twain to announce, "The report of my death was an exaggeration."
About three years ago, a WCR announcement that the newspaper was going through a process of revisioning led some readers to conclude that the paper was about to be closed. Well, we're still here and not a lot different than we were then, thanks to a strong vote of confidence from our readers.
Now, the WCR truly is about to undergo major changes. However, any reports you hear about our imminent death are truly an exaggeration.
The two largest changes for our readers in the Edmonton Archdiocese is that they will now have to pay for their own subscriptions (instead of having it paid by their parishes) and the paper will publish 24 times a year, rather than 44.
We've been scrambling the last couple of months to get the administrative apparatus in place to process what we hope will be many thousands of subscriptions from the Catholic faithful in the archdiocese. At this writing, the final pieces are still being put into place.
We hope the glitches will be few and far between. We hope also that we are correct in assuming that thousands of Catholics in central Alberta will want to continue reading the WCR. If not, the WCR's death may be imminent after all.
Another major change that affects the WCR staff more than our readers is our merger with the archdiocesan communications department. That integration of staff should give the archdiocese an increased ability to explore and develop new digital means of communication.
We have also been assured that while the newspaper is now fully integrated into the archdiocesan structure, the newspaper will retain its journalistic integrity. Integrity for a Catholic newspaper is surely something quite different than it is for secular publications, which are fiercely independent.
The integrity of a Catholic publication starts with a commitment to the mission of Jesus and his Church. Nevertheless, it also includes the principle that decisions about the content of the newspaper are free from undue manipulation and are made based on what the editor and other journalists believe our readers ought to know.
Truth be told, we would rather not have to make these changes. The parish assessment program has been putting the newspaper for 40 years into the hands of all registered parishioners in the archdiocese who want the WCR.
For many readers, the WCR has been the only regular link to the Church. We're not "forcing religion" on people; anyone who didn't want to receive the WCR has always been able to have delivery cancelled.
We also know of people who have been led back to regular church attendance through reading the WCR. For many others, the WCR is the only newspaper they read, and they read it, well, . . . religiously.
Nevertheless, the parish assessment program is costly. As well, so much of the money from that program goes, not into producing the WCR, but into mailing it.
On that score, reducing publication to every second week makes sense. We can produce larger papers every two weeks, still reach those who want to read the WCR and cut those exorbitant mailing costs.
The bottom line, however, is that the WCR is a ministry; it is a servant of the Church. We exist and have always existed at the pleasure of the archbishop. My pleasure at the WCR has been to work under three excellent archbishops. If the archbishop decides the priorities of the local Church ought to be placed elsewhere then we will work to make that happen.
It has to be emphasized that Archbishop Smith has not decided to kill the WCR, but rather to support it in ways different than it has been supported previously. We will now receive an annual grant of $350,000 from the archdiocese, something we have not had in the past.
My hope and prayer is that our readers will also continue to support the WCR in new ways and to read it more fervently than ever. As we enter this new era, we ask for your subscriptions; we ask for you to be attentive readers of the WCR; we ask you to support us with your prayers.