Former editor reflects on the state of journalism, role of the Catholic press

Albina Aspell, 91, former editor and publisher of The Catholic Post, newspaper of the Diocese of Peoria. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

By Albina Aspell

EDITOR’S NOTE: Now 91, Albina Aspell was on the staff of The Catholic Post for 21 years, becoming its first lay editor in 1982 and first lay publisher 10 years later. She is a pioneer for women in the Catholic press, a past president of the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada, and a recipient of its highest honor, the St. Francis de Sales Award. This column originally appeared in the Feb. 17, 2019 edition of The Catholic Post. To learn more about Albina, click here.

I’ve missed you . . .

It’s been 24 years since I stepped away from meeting deadlines and writing editorials here at The Catholic Post — a long time to rest, reflect, remember and appreciate the men and women who work for Catholic Church media, especially members of the Catholic Press Association.

And I thank Editor Tom Dermody, first for doing such a super job nurturing The Post during those same 24 years, and then for lending me this space to reconnect with readers and former colleagues in the CPA. Coincidentally, it’s a good time to wave the flag and beat the drum for national Catholic Press Month.

It’s subscription renewal time again and Tom and his talented, hard-working assistants — Jennifer Willems, Theresa Lindley and Sonia Nelson — hope and pray and pray and hope Post subscription numbers climb.

Because it isn’t just about church suppers and bake sales, the effort to write, produce and deliver news about our faith and our church is not always easy. Scandals in the church are as real as church suppers (but thankfully not as frequent!) and need to be addressed in print. Bad news happens. Ignoring it or an attempt to hide it will not make it go away.

News editors not only struggle with difficult editorial decisions, they also contend with rising postal rates and printing costs. Frequently understaffed, they may also fill in as reporter and photographer. Working for a newspaper — especially a church paper — is truly a labor of love.

A PRIVILEGE WITH GRAVE RESPONSIBILITY

As a veteran news reporter myself (the Cleveland News, 1945-1953), I was pleased and proud to join the Catholic Press Association in 1974. So, of course, I am saddened by today’s secular media which seems to be on a self-destructive path. Its lost credibility and current disarray suggest that perhaps some reporters may have forgotten — or were never taught — journalism’s primary holy rule: a press pass is a privilege that gives you the right to ask questions and otherwise dig for information that will be used in a public manner. It also carries with it a grave responsibility — that the information discovered will be used truthfully and completely, without editorial furbelows or personal opinion.

That’s still the backbone rule for journalists who love and respect their once-noble profession. Their work brings them so close to the joys and tragedies of life that they sometimes become either cynics or very prayerful people.

The following random lines from Harry Franklin Harrington’s “Prayer for a Writer” were posted on the bulletin board in the John Adams Journal in Cleveland eons ago. They inspired me then and I remember them still, and hope you enjoy the archaic language as much as I do.

Help me, O Lord, in a land of borrowed ideas to keep and develop what originality I already possess . . .

Forgive my indifferent spelling and my careless literary lapses, and prune my manuscript of faded phrases and dangling sentences.

Keep my mind well filled but never closed, and free me of conceit, buncombe and pose, so that I may do my daily stint honestly and thoroughly and without too much expectation of applause.

And when my typewriter is covered with dust, O Lord, add to my unfinished story a happy ending to all I have dreamed and thought and prayed.”

Again, thank you, Tom, for the use of this space. God bless you and all Catholic Press Association members, and make this the most successful Catholic Press Month in history.

 

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