You are always in our prayers here at the Catholic Herald, and now more than ever in this strange moment. The pandemic has of course affected the media too: some countries have banned publications altogether, while several titles – including L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s own daily – have suspended printing. The trials of journalism are a minor matter compared to everything else that is happening, but there is a change here which we would like to tell you about.
From next month, the Catholic Herald will be a monthly magazine. It will be twice as long as the current version, and we hope even more enjoyable to read – as well as significantly less expensive for an annual subscription. We will also be greatly expanding our online coverage. I would like to explain why we think this makes sense, and why now. I am also very keen to reassure you, as subscribers, that you will not lose out financially.
Why are we doing this?
The most inspiring part of working at the Herald is the messages from regular readers, some of whom have been with us for decades. Your stories stay in the mind. The subscriber who told me that at her church, when they bring the Blessed Sacrament to the housebound, they take along a Catholic Herald too. The young man who said that reading the Herald website was “the catalyst” in his returning to the Church after years away. The priest who rang to thank us for printing a novena before St John Henry Newman’s canonisation: the whole parish was praying it.
It’s clear, from these conversations, what people value about the Herald: news coverage which takes for granted the truth and beauty of Catholicism; features which expand the mind; spiritual writing which helps us to live the faith. We’re always asking ourselves how we can do more of these things. In recent months, I have begun to think that the right way is to become a monthly magazine. At the moment our resources are directed into the production of a 40-page weekly. Meeting that print deadline every week takes a lot of energy – energy which could otherwise be given to finding the best writers, and working with them to produce the very best articles for both print and online.
I have also been struck by how much reading habits are changing. Friends say to me of their subscriptions to various weeklies, “I love the magazine, but by the time a new issue arrives, I’ve only just started the previous one.” It’s not that people are reading less, not at all: but they are reading more online. So why not publish more online, and at the same time try to improve the print magazine?
The idea seemed too revolutionary. But when I tentatively mentioned it to colleagues, I was pleased by the response. My predecessor as editor, Luke Coppen, said that given the pandemic, the thought had been on his mind too. The key thing, he remarked to me, is that “the Herald’s essence stays the same while the form changes.”
The pandemic has made this a more pressing question. During the lockdown, we can’t sell the magazine at the back of churches – so we have to rethink everything about distribution. Meanwhile, working remotely makes the weekly production process even more challenging. Becoming a monthly will give us time to expand the magazine’s range of articles, and to increase our web coverage with more news and analysis from around the world each day, regular online features, a weekly newsletter and a podcast.
I’ve paid for a weekly subscription, and you’re giving me a monthly magazine. How does that work?
This point is very important. The current magazine is 40 pages; the new one will be 80 pages. So in the average month, you will receive half as many pages as you do currently. Therefore, we are more than doubling the length of your subscription, at no extra charge. If you have two months left on your subscription, we are extending that to five months. If you have 12 months left on your subscription, we are extending that to 25 months.
The Herald has been weekly since 1888. How can we justify changing it?
Any decision this big will have pros and cons. But we think there are overwhelming arguments why this will be better for the readers. All we can ask is that you judge it on the results. The next edition, the Easter issue of April 10, will be the last weekly edition; the first monthly will come out on around May 10.
Please be in touch over the next few months: what would you like to see more of in the magazine and/or online? Write to us, or preferably – given the current complexities of the postal system – email me at [email protected] I will read every single message, and I will do my best to reply.
Please know that we are here to support you, month in and month out, as we all try to make sense of these times in the light of faith. And please keep the magazine in your prayers.
Yours in Christ,
Dan Hitchens, Editor
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