Dear Reader, Part 2
By Penny Wiegert
I traditionally write a column once each month in the rotation with our other thoughtful writers. But I write again this week on a matter of great importance to you as a faithful Observer reader and subscriber. 
 
As announced in Washington on May 6, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have determined that Catholic News Service will cease operations after 102 years. The story was reported in The Observer’s May 20 issue on page 8.
 
Last week, I provided you a little background on the legacy of CNS. Now, I want to outline for you just exactly what it will mean not just for you as an Observer reader, but also as a Catholic consumer of media.
 
The Observer team has taken pride in the fact that the majority of its content is local. Local for us means that our coverage includes all the Catholic parishes, schools, organizations and issues facing Catholics in the 11 counties of northern Illinois that make up the Diocese of Rockford. We cover this primary beat of ours with our little staff of five full-time people who cover and report, write and edit, layout and design ads and pages, and proofread. We also share the duties of answering phones, filing, archiving, subscription drives, publishing the diocesan directory, providing content for social media, several websites and media relations. We also have one person who is shared with another department and sells ads, handles the circulation and manages the finances for two newspapers, websites and social media. We have several regular local freelancer writers and photographers and one very part-time designer and editor as well. That’s how we keep our primary local beat covered. 
 
But in addition to our local package, we try to bring you a generous slice of what is happening in the U.S. and around the world both in Catholic news and feature stories. That’s how we use Catholic News Service. 
 
Here is a brief list of what you, the reader currently enjoy in The Observer from Catholic News Service:
n News articles, photographs and briefs from all Catholic dioceses, events and organizations across the United States in English and Spanish.
 
– Faith Alive articles
 
– Scripture reflections (Speak to me, Lord)
 
– Guest columns from eight different columnists
 
– Cartoons
 
– Junior Observer scripture stories and matching illustrations
 
– Features published in our Forever Family, Seasoned Observer and Young Observer pages
 
– Monthly book reviews
 
– Weekly movie reviews and television listings
 
– High-resolution news and feature photographs from around the world 
 
– News briefs on our World and Nation pages
 
– Biographies, illustrations and photos on the saints of the Church (used on our Calendar pages)
 
As of December 2022 the above list will no longer be part of our Observer and El Observador content or ANY publication across the globe. CNS subscribers have been told that we will still have access to the news generated from the Rome bureau, the only one to remain open. That means The Observer will still have access to some international news and photos, primarily from the Vatican.
 
So this means The Observer will take some time to evaluate and restrategize its content. Don’t get me wrong, it is a healthy thing to evolve and change. The Observer has reinvented its format and content many times since it was founded in 1935. But having to do so without a high-quality, reliable and credible alternative to the content provided by Catholic News Service since 1920 will be a considerable challenge. The challenge will be especially profound because it comes at a time when publications are preparing to cover a nationwide, three-year focus on the Eucharist, the first phase of which will be on the diocesan level. Without the work of CNS in providing news on this national effort, it may not get the broad attention intended or deserved.
 
In the meantime, The Observer and El Observador are working closely with the Catholic Media Association in working on both impact and alternatives. Together we will explore ways to aggregate and share news and features around our nation and Canada so readers, whether they are getting news in print, online or both, will be provided with the very best in timely Catholic content that is factual, balanced, interesting, relevant and reliable. 
 
Our staff will do all we can to reconstruct a new product from the void left in the wake of the closure of CNS. We remain committed to bringing you Catholic news, information and inspiration you can get nowhere else. Thank you for your continued readership as we work on this transition.