Publisher pledges to relaunch Catholic News Service, two months after shock shutdown

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Portland, Oregon— Two months after the U.S. Bishops’ Conference announced it would end Catholic News Service operations in the United States, Our Sunday Visitor announced on July 6 that it would launch a new iteration of the service in early 2023.

The announcement, made by OSV editor Scott Richert, came during the Catholic Media Conference in Portland, Oregon, where Catholic editors, reporters and other media professionals come together for four days of educational sessions. , networking and spiritual reflection.

Between lunch and the July 6 keynote, an OSV promotional video described the new service – which will be called “OSV News” – as the harbinger of a “rebirth in the Catholic media”.

OSV News will host the current CNS website, CatholicNews.com, which will continue to host the CNS digital archive. It plans to provide national and international news, editorials, commentary and features. Richert told NCR that OSV also intends to offer original content in Spanish.

The news service business is “in our DNA,” Richert said. “We were the first supporters of the CNS and the Catholic Press Association [now the Catholic Media Association] and helped the dioceses to create their own newspapers. The new information service “is a responsibility we take very seriously,” he said.

In addition to the stories it generates, OSV News will feature articles from an assortment of content partners, including the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication and Catholic website Aleteia. Like CNS, OSV intends to work with diocesan publications to syndicate content through OSV News.

Richert said the OSV wanted to hire about 10 new employees, as well as a number of freelancers, to generate coverage. Correspondents will work remotely from various locations.

Current CNS subscribers will need to resubscribe to OSV News, Richert said. “And when they go online on January 1, the website will have the same content platform but a different look,” he said.

OSV News will host photos from CNS “whenever possible,” Richert said, and plans to feature new images as well. “Good photos are a priority for us,” he said. Pricing for the news service will be announced in September.

The U.S. bishops, citing financial concerns, shocked the Catholic publishing world on May 4 with plans to close CNS offices in New York and Washington, D.C., at the end of 2022, with only the office of Rome, covering Vatican and international news, remaining. The century-old news service, known for its crisp reporting and fast-paced, non-ideological coverage of national news, is highly respected and a staple of diocesan newspapers and national publications.

“We were as surprised as everyone by the news of the closure,” Richert told NCR. “We huddled that day to think about what we should do and two weeks later we approached the USCCB with our plan. They were very enthusiastic.”

All new content from the CNS office in Rome – operating independently of the OSV under the direction of the Episcopal Conference – will be available to OSV News subscribers. Dioceses or episcopal conferences that are not OSV News subscribers will be able to access CNS Rome content provided by bishops for free, according to Richert.

The closure of the CNS and what comes next was a hot topic at the Portland rally – the first in-person Catholic press conference since 2019. While chatting over meals, some staffers from diocesan Catholic newspapers said that they would likely turn to the Catholic News Agency after the shutdown, while others hoped a new transmission service would emerge. Catholic News Agency, known as CNA, is owned by Catholic media conglomerate EWTN.

An ad hoc Catholic Media Association-CNS committee was created at the Portland meeting, and a July 7 morning roundtable on the CNS closure is planned.

For several weeks, rumors have been circulating among Catholic publishers that the OSV might take over a news service, and longtime CNS employees were not shocked by the OSV’s announcement. Like many in the Catholic media, they always absorb the news.

Carol Zimmermann, a reporter for the CNS national office, said OSV News “wasn’t a complete surprise.”

“There has been a lot of talk about continuing the work that Catholic News Service has done for customer newspapers once we close in late December,” she said. “What was a surprise is that the OSV will even use CatholicNews.com and have full access to our archives.”

She said that as a Catholic journalist she is happy that Catholic news is continuing, “but also as a journalist I have questions about how this will play out.”

Chaz Muth, media editor for CNS, said he too had “a lot of questions about what OSV News will look like.” He pointed out that a major concern of editors of Catholic publications was that the vacuum left by the CNS would be filled by ideological coverage, including the Catholic News Agency.

Muth said the OSV is perceived by some to have a centre-right ideological bent.

“Does the OSV have an ideological bent? Of course. Is it huge? No,” he said. “The hope is that they’ll do objective reporting. I’m waiting to see what the staff will be like, what the coverage will be like.”

Richert told NCR that OSV News is committed to providing objective reporting and wants to support Catholic publications and a “vibrant Catholic media.”

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