Dear Reader, Part 1
By Penny Wiegert
On page 8 of this issue you will read a story about the closure of Catholic News Service. I am using this column to share why this is important and what it will mean to you, our valued readers.
First, what is Catholic News Service?
In a nutshell, Catholic News Service is an organization that gathers news reports and provides them to subscribing news organizations, such as newspapers, magazines and radio and television broadcasters. Services like CNS are also referred to as a wire service, newswire, or news agency.  It is a source of aggregation of news, features, columns, graphics, photos and artwork from not just Catholic dioceses and organizations in the U.S. but also from everywhere Catholics are in the world. 
Catholic News Service has headquarters in Washington, offices in New York and Rome, and correspondents around the world. CNS provides the most comprehensive coverage of the Church today.
According to the history on the CNS website, “The United States bishops founded CNS in 1920, and it was clear from the start that they wanted it to be an authentic news agency. The founding director was Justin McGrath, a veteran journalist and managing editor of the San Francisco Examiner who also had worked at The New York Times and other dailies and was Washington bureau chief of the Hearst papers.
“McGrath brought in a team of editors and reporters from leading U.S. dailies to cover the turbulent news of the 1920s, such as the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan, the candidacy of Al Smith as the first major-party Catholic nominee for president, the story of communist persecution in Russia, the civil strife over British rule in Northern Ireland and the work of the American church in helping Europe recover from the ravages of World War I.
“Bishop Philip R. McDevitt of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, chairman of the bishops’ press department, summarized the news service’s philosophy in 1927. He said its main purpose was to provide Catholic newspaper editors with ‘full and accurate reports of happenings of interest to Catholics.’ He also said that because Catholics had freedom of opinion on ‘many subjects outside of the specific and definite teachings of the Church,’ the news service should be providing subscribers with factual information to help them ‘deal intelligently with questions which are open.’
“Through the years the news service’s expertise has also led it to develop other breakthrough products, such as Origins, the CNS documentary service that since 1971 has been chronicling the history of the Church through full texts of speeches, encyclicals, and other documents. And in the digital age, CNS has expanded to include video journalism and documentary production.”
The website history goes on to explain that “In 2009 the Office of Film and Broadcasting, an even older media office of the U.S. bishops, merged with Catholic News Service in order to consolidate and grow coverage of the ever-changing world of films, television, radio, books, gaming, and media policy.”
For those older than me, they remember the National Catholic Legion of Decency. The Legion was founded in 1934 to identify for Catholic audiences objectionable content in motion pictures and remained the basis for the Office of Film and Broadcasting. Movie reviews are published weekly, and many of those reviews are carried here for you in The Observer and represent the most popular part of the CNS public website.
CNS provides content through its global partners, such as Salt+Light Television in Canada, the Canadian Catholic Press, and other Catholic press agencies in Europe, Africa, and Asia. 
What you also may not know about Catholic News Service and its origins is that it has ties to the Rockford Diocese.  According to diocesan history, the first bishop of Rockford, Peter J. Muldoon, was “brought into national prominence through his extensive activities as Chairman of the National Catholic War Council, and his efforts during the post-war period in giving leadership and direction to the most important Catholic organization to emerge from World War I, the National Catholic Welfare Conference.” The NCWC would later become the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  This all took place at the time when the bishops created the news service.
All this service and history will end in two phases. 
Why does all this matter? See part two of this column next week to find out.