The cover of the Western Catholic Reporter on Sept. 12, 2016. The Edmonton-based Catholic newspaper, which has been publishing for over 50 years, will be putting out its final edition on Sept. 26. Screenshot/courtesy of The Western Catholic Reporter

Edmonton Catholic newspaper being replaced by online daily news portal

By  Catholic Register Special
  • September 14, 2016

EDMONTON – Born 51 years ago amid the optimism of Vatican II, Alberta’s award-winning Catholic newspaper, the Western Catholic Reporter, will publish its final issue Sept. 26.

The newspaper is being shuttered in favour of a new online strategy under which the archdiocese’s “current print and digital presence will transition to a daily news portal,” said Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith in a news release.

 This online “news portal” is to be the centrepiece for a new focus on digital communications, according to the statement.

“It is important that we find new and more effective means to engage our people, wherever they may be on their faith journey and wherever they may look for their news of the day,” Smith said in the release.

“Accordingly, I have directed that our Office of Communications be reviewed and updated. I do not mean this as a critique of current and past practices. On the contrary, these have been excellent.”

The Western Catholic Reporter, under long-time editor Glen Argan, has repeatedly been recognized for excellence by the Catholic Press Association of the U.S. and Canada, and by the Canadian Church Press.

Argan, editor since 1991, and five other staff members will be laid off at the end of the month.

 Smith, the publisher of the paper, acknowledged that the changes are “substantive.”

“They will result in impacts on staff, subscribers, advertisers and other stakeholders,” he said. “We will endeavour in coming days to ensure that these impacts are dealt with in a sensitive and respectful way.”

Closing the newspaper is part of a comprehensive reorganization of the archdiocese’s communication strategy, Smith said.

“The current media environment, the way stories are told, and the way people consume news are all changing rapidly,” he said in the news release. “In order that Christ be proclaimed, the Church must be fully conversant with this evolving environment and effectively present in the midst of it.”

The circulation of the newspaper peaked at about 32,000 under a subsidized program that offered the paper for free to registered parishioners. Two years ago that program was replaced by a paid-subscription model that resulted in 7,000 paying readers out of about 30,000 Catholic households in the archdiocese.

“This new vision and mandate will require time and patience to implement, but I am hopeful that we will begin seeing the fruits of our new direction before the end of 2016,” Smith said.

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