Catholic New York Publishes Last Issue

Archdiocese replaces it with digital Good Newsroom

| 16 Dec 2022 | 04:13

Forty year old Catholic New York, which billed itself as America’s largest Catholic newspaper, shut down last month and has been been replaced by a digital offering called The Good Newsroom.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan broke the news to Catholics via an announcement on Facebook and via a post card mailed earlier this month. Staffers were told of the looming shut down back in May.

“I enjoy good news and I enjoy spreading good news,” Cardinal Dolan said. “Here’s the scoop. Most of us, all we hear is bad news about the church. We can’t deny that. We got to be realistic and honestly confront that. I think most of us do, don’t you? But the good news about Jesus and his mercy and his love is so powerful and that is what we want to highlight.”

The good news did not extend to the staffers of Catholic New York. All 13 staffers on the bi-weekly were laid off. At 40 years old, the publication was a relative newcomer to the world of diocesan newspapers because there was an independently published weekly entitled The Catholic News serving the archdiocese from 1886 until it folded in 1981. Across the river in the Diocese of Brooklyn the Tablet newspaper is 114 years old. And the Boston Pilot, billed as America’s oldest Catholic newspaper, has published continuously since Sept. 5, 1829.

“This is the column I hoped I would never have to write,” longtime editor in chief John Woods wrote in his farewell column. “As I sit here on Tuesday morning, our final deadline day, my assignment is to close up shop at Catholic New York, my workplace of the past 27 years and the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of New York since its founding by Cardinal Terence Cooke, then-Archbishop of New York, in September 1981.”

One insider said the staff was stunned back in May when they received the bad news. Staffers were given one week of pay for each year of employment and offered a $5,000 bonus if they stayed until the end.

The Good Newsroom is now being handled by the marketing department of the Archdiocese of New York.

Catholic New York actually replaced an independent publication called The Catholic News, published by the Catholic News Publishing Company, which now produces only phone directories for Catholic services.

But the closure of Catholic New York means for the time in 136 years there is no print publication for the archdiocese’s three million Catholics.

Attendance Slumped

Despite the large base of potential readers the publication like all print publications suffered through COVID when many religious services were forced to go remote only and attendance slumped and has not rebounded.

“As you might imagine, I’ve spent a fair amount of time since the archdiocese announced CNY’s closure on May 19 sorting through files, with many of the paper’s voluminous records in the process of being shipped to the archdiocesan archives at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie,” Woods wrote in his farewell note.

“My office was also the work home of my two predecessors, first Gerald M. Costello and then Anne Buckley. Both were among CNY’s founding triumvirate along with Arthur L. McKenna, who was the paper’s general manager for its first 25 years. All three were veteran and stalwart members of the Catholic press when they arrived.”

The paper’s circulation had dropped to just over 88,000 in the most recent reporting period, according to the Postal statement filed in October.

Some critics of the shut down said they felt it was because the paper, while published by the archdiocese, did not shy away from covering the sexual abuse controversies that rocked the Catholic Church over the past decade.

Dolan is his Facebook post insisted the Good Newsroom was “not going to run away from controversy or hide under a rock.”

But the offering on the web site include homilies from Dolan, a report on the Desmond Well Center and “Bronx Catholics Celebrate La Posada in Support of Immigration Reform.”

In the most recent Catholic Press Association awards earlier this year, Catholic New York received a third place overall award and was singled out for its special issue coverage surrounding the 20th anniversary of 9/11.