PROSPECT HEIGHTS — To celebrate the impact of Catholic journalism, The Tablet sponsored a special Mass for journalists on Saturday, Sept. 23. The Mass was celebrated at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in Prospect Heights by Bishop Robert Brennan, and Bishop Emeritus Nicholas DiMarzio, Msgr. Sean Ogle, and Father Christopher Heanue concelebrated.
In his homily, Bishop Brennan spoke about the importance of nonpartisan Catholic journalism by recalling the parable of the sower and the seed from the Book of Matthew, with the sower being God and the seeds being the words of truth that He spoke. Bishop Brennan praised The Tablet and Currents News for presenting informed and unbiased stories that are rooted in the Catholic faith.
The Tablet, which was named this year’s Best Weekly Newspaper in the U.S. by the Catholic Media Association (CMA), recently created a membership program that gives the paper’s dedicated readers an opportunity to support the preservation of Catholic journalism while at the same time becoming active members of The Tablet family.
While the Mass was open to the public, top tier Tablet Founder and Benefactor members were also invited to a special brunch that followed the Mass in the undercroft of the co-cathedral, which featured a keynote address from award-winning Catholic journalist Carol Zimmermann.
Zimmermann’s articles are featured weekly in The Tablet and almost daily on the website, and she spoke about her personal experiences as a Catholic journalist for more than three decades.
Her talk touched upon the changes she has witnessed in the field over the years, and why despite today’s challenges, preserving and expanding Catholic journalism for the good of the Church is more important than ever.
“I view the profession as a tangible way of telling how people of all ages and walks of life live their faith in the modern world,” explained Zimmermann.
“For many people, faith is part and parcel of their lives. It is why they became priests or religious or why they serve at soup kitchens or refugee centers. It’s why they pray the rosary outside abortion clinics or federal prisons where death row inmates are executed. It’s also why some seek refuge in prayer in the middle of the night at a chapel of perpetual adoration and why others gather with huge crowds for World Youth Days or papal visits,” she told the brunch audience.
Zimmermann joined The Tablet in January 2023 as senior national correspondent. She is based in Washington, D.C., and covers a range of national stories. She spent 30 years at Catholic News Service, which closed its U.S. operation at the end of 2022. She is also currently secretary and eastern regional representative on the board of directors for the CMA.
Zimmermann said that she believes that the Catholic press has a unique role and responsibility to tell stories of faith and how the Church is responding to local and national events and to let them stand for themselves without bias — something that is particularly important today when there are so many competing voices and partisan divides.
“By telling stories of what’s happening across a diocese, a Catholic newspaper, like The Tablet, not only informs readers and unites a large and diverse community but it also enables readers to see how their faith can play an integral part in modern life,” Zimmermann added.
The brunch program was emceed by Currents News anchor Christine Persichette, who signs off her nightly news broadcast by reminding viewers that “we are putting your faith in the news.” Persichette welcomed guests and explained that this was a special occasion because it allowed members to interact with print and television journalists “who enrich the life of the Church and its people through storytelling.”
Executive Director of News Content and Development Vito Formica, who earlier this year was a finalist for the Catholic Media Association’s highest honor, the St. Francis DeSales Award, explained to the members that “through our work, we are able to bring you these stories on many platforms. They inform, and form, our faith. They also spark debate and inspire others to emulate them and do good work.”
Formica called The Tablet, which has been in print since 1908, a legacy newspaper for the diocese, and heralded it as the last Catholic newspaper in the New York City area. “It’s our duty to protect and preserve this newspaper so that the service it has provided for the last 125 years can continue well into the future,” said Formica.
Formica expressed his gratitude for those who have enrolled in The Tablet membership program for their generous support which, he noted, “allows us to continue our work and offer a quality product, and also allows us to distribute this newspaper to a larger audience.”
He also called Currents News the only locally produced newscast from a Catholic perspective and announced that the program has been nominated for an Emmy for Best Evening Newscast in a Large Market, alongside secular nominees such as WABC, WNBC, and Telemundo.
A Q&A session following the brunch allowed members and their guests the opportunity to meet and interact with a panel that included Formica, Zimmerman, and Tablet Managing Editor Michael Gray.
Bishop DiMarzio, whose column “Walking with Migrants,” appears in The Tablet, stumped the panel when he asked why in the First Amendment of the Constitution does the first sentence mention freedom of the press and freedom of religion?
“What is the common element,” he asked, “and why is that there?” adding, “because the common element is the truth. Both are dedicated to the truth and if journalism doesn’t speak the truth then it is not worth anything, and the same with religion. If you are telling the truth, that’s the standard we have no matter how difficult it is.”
Bishop DiMarzio praised the Catholic press for “telling the truth, knowing what the truth is, and not just through rumors, with the real challenge being to find the truth and report it.”
The program concluded with a closing prayer from DeSales Media Group Chairman Msgr. Sean Ogle. According to Msgr. Ogle, one of the most essential attributes of Catholic journalism is how it differs from other forms of communication. “Catholic journalism is unique in the journalism world because it functions within the context of the great commission of Christ to go and teach all nations,” he said.
“So it has that special focus that secular journalism does not have. And that’s what makes it such an essential and valuable form of communication today.”
The Tablet’s Editor Emeritus Ed Wilkinson also attended the event. For more than 30 years, Wilkinson was at the helm of the newspaper as editor-in-chief until his retirement in 2018. He still writes for The Tablet and hosts the popular NET-TV series, “On the Block.” His new book, “Chasing Church News,” has garnered much praise and recently won second place in the 2023 Coffee Table Book category at the CMA Awards.
Wilkinson said that he was delighted to be part of the Tablet’s Mass and brunch for Catholic journalism, and explained how important it is to be with the many sponsors and members who have been so generous as to join The Tablet team.
“Traditionally, newspapers have relied on two sources of revenue: circulation and advertising. Today, that no longer pays the freight,” Wilkinson stressed.
“So, we need enlightened people, like our sponsors, to join us in our effort to provide the best in Catholic news coverage. We are grateful to them and to the many readers who continue to support our mission. We couldn’t do what we’re doing without their support,” Wilkinson added.
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