December 27, 2010

The WCR Revisioning Survey received a remarkable response, for which we thank you. The final data set included 1,831 different surveys. This is several times more than would be expected for a study of this kind, and we are very grateful.

The in-depth nature of the questionnaires combined with the fact that so many responded means that the results will be very reliable and with a very low margin of error. We have already learned a great deal, and plan to use the findings as we strive to improve the coverage we provide to our readers.

The data was gathered to serve the revisioning process, which was begun by the WCR board of directors under a mandate from Archbishop Richard Smith, the publisher of the WCR. The revisioning process is planned to be completed by June. We will keep our readers updated over the time ahead and certainly once the report is completed.

Survey respondents average 61 years of age, and about half of all readers are younger than 61 and half are older. This is well below the average age of readers of other diocesan newspapers.

Interestingly, it is close to the same average age as the last study of the WCR about 10 years ago.

Readers indicated that the main reason they read the WCR is because it engages their attention and give them a sense of connection with the Catholic community. The main priority of our readers when they approach the WCR is to read news about the Catholic Church in Canada and around the world (39 per cent), news about the Archdiocese of Edmonton (24 per cent), and to learn more about faith, and faith and daily life (16 per cent for each).

Respondents say they most read the letters, news in brief, editorials, Community Calendar, Father Ron Rolheiser and the other columnists, in that order of frequency. About six per cent of all those who returned surveys report that they are from outside the Archdiocese of Edmonton.

While readers naturally express many different viewpoints on the columnists in the paper, most expressed their highest satisfaction with Ron Rolheiser's work.

Readers strongly affirmed continuing to publish the WCR (84 per cent), and want to continue to read the newspaper in a print format. Only two per cent of all readers say they "very much" read the newspaper online.

Readers strongly support keeping news coverage open to the Catholic Church throughout Western Canada rather than simply focusing on the Archdiocese of Edmonton.

Most readers (75 per cent) understand that the paper is sponsored by the archdiocese to serve the Catholic community rather than an "official newspaper" meant to always reflect the thinking of the archbishop on matters of the day, or to focus on letting people know about the work of the archdiocesan offices.

Since 1965, when the WCR was founded by Archbishop Anthony Jordan and led by its first editor and later distinguished Canadian statesman, Douglas Roche, it has worked to develop a formula that reflects the interests of its readers around broad-based news and theological reflection.

The WCR, in other words, is distinguished for providing excellent content produced by professional journalists who have a deep Catholic commitment and an eye to the societal and Church issues that matter to its readers.

This content is printed and delivered to 35,000 Catholic homes 44 times a year and posted in searchable form on the Internet. The revisioning project under the leadership of our board is working to develop a vision whereby the WCR's unique qualities are enhanced in order always to serve you, the reader, better.

Thanks again to all our readers for your support. Do not hesitate to continue to send ideas and suggestions. We read everything, even if we cannot acknowledge it, and though the time for answering the survey is past, we always care about what you, our reader, think about our work.

Do not hesitate to share other ideas, thoughts, or concerns.

(Ron Baier is chair of the WCR board of directors.)