by Rita Piro
MOST ANYONE WHO attended a Catholic high school in the Diocese of Brooklyn during the 1950s and ’60s, will likely remember The Tablet Club. Each week, club members would distribute the latest edition of The Tablet to their classmates to be read and discussed in religion class, and then brought home to their families.
Members also delivered copies to local homes and merchants, to whom they would make a pitch for subscriptions and advertising. There were competitions among the schools with one receiving the annual Catholic Action Award for most subscriptions and ads sold.
Back then, The Tablet could be found on the coffee tables of most families in our diocese. Circulation was high and archival issues are thick with ads for all types of businesses and products. Clothing stores and gift shops were heavy advertisers in the weeks before Easter and Christmas as well as before First Communion, Confirmation and graduation.
When summer rolled around, families didn’t need to consult a travel agent. They just turned to The Tablet Vacation Guide to plan their stay in the Poconos or Catskills or at the Jersey Shore.
At one time, every U.S. diocese or group of dioceses published a newspaper offering everything from news of papal pronouncements to features on food and fashion. Recent years, however, have seen a steep decline in the readership of Catholic publications nationwide.
Catholic Media Research reports that just 26 percent of adult Catholics nationwide read a Catholic publication in print or digital form each month. Less readers mean less advertisers and both mean less revenue. The result is a limit on the number and type of features any diocesan newspaper can provide.
Our formation as Catholics never ends, and publications like The Tablet, along with networks such as NET-TV and the many excellent, responsible Catholic websites available, serve to support the development of faith at all ages and levels. Whether in print, broadcast, video or digital form, Catholic press and media are needed now more than ever.
As Catholics, we face an almost daily barrage of hostility, criticism and distortion of the truth from numerous media sources.
Today’s Catholic media, especially The Catholic Press, empowers our students to develop an understanding of current events in the context of faith. Responsible, intelligent and passionate Catholic publications, websites, broadcast programs and films are readily available on topics that can be integrated into all disciplines of study in our Catholic schools.
The Tablet is the voice of our diocese in print. Editors and staff members have always welcomed and applauded contributions from the youth in our schools, encouraging them to look at and understand our world through a Gospel lens. They are our future leaders in Catholic communications and media, in whatever form it may take.
Piro is a freelance writer for Catholic publications, including Liguorian and St. Anthony Messenger, and a native of the Diocese of Brooklyn.