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New vision, new era for the Catholic Herald

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Two years ago, I arrived in our Diocese and began working to serve its mission. My immediate task, per the request of Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, was to observe and assess what we were doing in the area of communications and publishing — which, in the Catholic Church, centers on evangelization — as well as how we were doing that good work. 

Bishop Burbidge and I discussed his vision and priorities for the Office of Communications and Catholic Herald, and we established several goals to improve our ability to inspire, educate, and inform the Catholic faithful in this Diocese. Those goals included expanding our digital media content and outlets, increasing the distribution of our print publication to 100 percent of registered households, and ensuring that we are operating as efficiently as possible.

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After thorough review, as well as consultation with the Presbyteral Council and the Bishop’s Executive Staff, Bishop Burbidge has accepted my recommendations to make the following changes to the operations of the Catholic Herald. 

Daily, weekly and biweekly content

First, going forward, the primary destination for timely, daily diocesan and Church news will be the Catholic Herald website, CatholicHerald.com. This will not be the only place for news, but it will be the primary place we direct parishioners for information on the Church and our Diocese. 

Second, for those who wish to receive weekly stories, videos and podcasts from the Catholic Herald, we will encourage subscriptions to our weekly e-newsletter. This resource already exists, but since it has not yet reached its potential, we will give it more attention. (On the Catholic Herald website, look for “Newsletter Signup” to join for free.)

Lastly, the Catholic Herald will move to a biweekly print publishing schedule for the foreseeable future. In the summer time, the Catholic Herald already uses a biweekly schedule. As such, we will essentially not return to our weekly publishing schedule this September.


Expanding our readership

As you might expect, going from a weekly to biweekly schedule saves money in printing and postage. We will be reinvesting those funds by expanding our current print distribution of 40 percent of households to roughly 80 percent of households, with no need to increase annual parish assessment for the Catholic Herald, and it will not require staff reductions. Due to various factors, including print and postage costs, we will know soon exactly how much our distribution will grow. While this publishing change does not reach the desired goal of 100 percent of registered households, it is a great improvement. 

More focus on teaching the Faith 

The 2017 Communications Survey clearly conveyed the desire of the faithful to understand better what the Church teaches (especially on contemporary issues) and why we believe what we believe. In fact, 57 percent said that information about the Church’s views on societal issues was “very important” and 28 percent said it was “somewhat important.” Sixty-nine percent of people ages 18-24 said information about the Church’s views on societal issues was “very important.” 

The Catholic Herald’s evangelistic mission

The need to connect the faithful better to the wisdom and richness of the Church’s teaching is obvious. The Catholic Herald will be aligned even more closely to the larger vision and mission of the Diocese with these changes. The focus will be more evenly shared with our evangelistic mission of drawing people closer to God, especially those who have fallen away from the Church and/or no longer participate fully in the Faith. The Catholic Herald must reach out to those struggling in their faith and who are enticed by increasing cultural secularization. By inspiring, educating and informing the Catholic faithful, as an extension of the mission of our Bishop, we will more completely evangelize our brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Growth in digital media

As we move in this new direction, the communications team and I will continue looking for innovative and creative ideas. This revised publishing schedule will give staff more time to devote to digital media, which has been growing rapidly across many platforms and shown tremendous promise. This potential was a major factor in identifying new operating models for our publication.

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Through the extraordinary generosity of Bishop’s Lenten Appeal and Catholic Communication Campaign donors, Bishop Burbidge made an investment in the area of digital communications early this year with the completion of a new, high-tech multimedia studio for podcast and video production. This studio has saved tremendous amounts of production time through its efficient build and has opened up new opportunities for interviews and storytelling. In fact, two multimedia producer roles were established with a sizeable portion of their time being devoted to studio production. The studio has elevated the ceiling of our potential. 

Thank you!

Many of you have reached out expressing support for some of the newer projects the department has launched or tested. Please know how grateful your encouragement has been to me and the Communications team at the Chancery. Thank you for your support. If you have questions, recommendations or suggestions, please feel free to reach out to us anytime. 


Atwell is the diocesan Chief Communications Officer.




© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019