Nuts and bolts

| January 5, 2011 | 0 Comments

Everything you need to know about how we get the newspaper to you

Readers often ask how we construct each issue of The Catholic Spirit. How do we find story ideas? How do we choose which ones to report and print? What about photos? And, where does our national and international news come from?

The analysis here of one page in our Nov. 4, 2010, issue offers some insights into how we do what we do to keep you informed about what’s going on in this archdiocese and in the Catholic Church around the nation and the world.


On the top of some of our pages, we feature a quote that connects with other content on the page. In this case, we used something from a document entitled, Gaudium et Spes (Joy and Hope), published at the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council in 1965. We use a variety of sources, both Catholic and non-Catholic. It may be a quote from a saint, or a pope or from someone in the news. It’s a way to, hopefully, draw readers into the content found on the page.


Reporter and news editor Pat Norby wrote a story about a development in the archdiocesan strategic planning process. From the time the planning process was announced by Archbishop John Nienstedt, until it was revealed to parishioners in the archdiocese Oct. 16, our staff continually published stories, letting readers know what was happening and what kinds of changes might occur. And, it doesn’t end there. We will continue to document what happens as parishes and schools make the changes outlined in the plan and tell you what the archbishop and others say about the process.


Photographer Dave Hrbacek travels around the archdiocese to record important events that show what Catholics are doing in their parishes, schools and communities. In this case, he photographed the prayer service that concluded the ecumenical 40 Days for Life vigil at Regions Hospital in St. Paul. Archbishop John Nienstedt was on hand to lead prayer and stand in solidarity with pro-lifers of all faiths. It is an issue the archbishop is passionate about. He takes many opportunities to rally Catholics and non-Catholics to defend life at all stages. Hrbacek and photographer Dianne Towalski try to capture both the people in the pews and local Catholic leaders to tell an important visual story about life in the archdiocese.


An important component of each issue of The Catholic Spirit is advertising. About 25 to 30  percent of the newspaper’s content is devoted to advertising. In some cases, the advertisers are Catholic organizations such as the Catholic Community Foundation, which hopes to draw Catholics to join its efforts to “support financially the spiritual, educational and social needs of our Catholic community.” In other cases, they are businesses and organizations seeking a Catholic audience, with practices that run parallel with Catholic values. These advertisers are an important part of our end product and we value their financial support.

Frankly, it all starts with you — the readers and members of the 213 parishes in the archdiocese. Editor Joe Towalski receives some 100-plus phone calls and e-mails each week with news tips coming from people in the pews and those who work for Catholic organizations, parishes, schools and the archdiocese itself.

With the help and feedback of the rest of the news team, the list is narrowed down to the top 10 or so ideas, which are then assigned to either staff members or freelance writers. In some cases, sources are identified for interviews. In others, reporters must try and track down the right people for interviews and commentary.

Perhaps, the greatest challenge of all is squeezing everything we want to say into a limited amount of space, usually 24 pages consisting of 1,296 column inches. It can be agonizing to trim stories — sometimes in half — or eliminate them altogether. In addition, many of those inches are taken up by our loyal advertisers, without whom we could not exist. That is one aspect of putting out a newspaper — any newspaper, be it a small weekly or a large metro daily.

A question we often get asked is: Why wasn’t a story about (blank) published in The Catholic Spirit?

Thankfully, we have devised an effective means for dealing with space issues — our award-winning website, Led by a team of two talented web specialists, we not only can post much more content than we could ever fit into our bi-weekly newspaper, we also can get it on the web immediately, as opposed to waiting for our next issue. In that sense, we can function like a daily newspaper, putting important stories, photos and information in front of our readers quicker than at any other time in our 100-year history.

Just six months ago, at the annual Catholic Press Association national convention, The Catholic Spirit received an award for the best diocesan newspaper website in the country. That goes along with the second-place award for our print edition, not to mention a handful of individual awards.

Yet, the most rewarding thing for our staff of 20 employees is knowing that we have served you, the reader, and given you interesting and informative content that is both enriching and inspiring to your faith. As we look back and celebrate what we have accomplished over the last 100 years, we look ahead to being the Catholic newspaper you can count on for the next 100 years. And, as always, we welcome your feedback.


We receive hundreds of story ideas each month.

Here is how to send your ideas to The Catholic Spirit

FAX: (651) 291-4460
Mail: “Story Idea” • The Catholic Spirit
244 Dayton Ave. • St. Paul, MN 55102

Send CALENDAR items by noon Thursday, seven days before the next publication date

FAX: (651) 291-4460
Mail: “Calendar”
The Catholic Spirit
244 Dayton Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55102

Send Letters to the Editor
FAX: (651) 291-4460
Mail: “Letters to the Editor”
The Catholic Spirit
244 Dayton Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55102

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Category: 100 Years