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Catholic Universe Bulletin ends 141-year run in Cleveland July 3

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A house ad that appeared on the Catholic Universe Bulletin's website advertised the paper's long history. (Screencap)
A house ad that appeared on the Catholic Universe Bulletin’s website advertised the paper’s long history. (Screencap)

By Dennis Sadowski Catholic News Service 

WASHINGTON — The Catholic Universe Bulletin, which has delivered news and information about the Cleveland Diocese to parishioners for more than 140 years, will close its doors in July.

The July 3 edition will be the last, said Robert Tayek, diocesan communications director.

Word of the closing was delivered to the six members of the newspaper staff June 3 by Bishop Richard G. Lennon.

Marianne Babnik, representative of the Northeast Ohio Newspaper Guild at the paper, said the news was confirmed in a letter received later in the day from Joseph Polito, CEO of the Catholic Universe Bulletin Publishing Co.

The letter said the publication “will cease its operations and close for business at the end of business on July 3, 2015, and the employment of all its employees — including those represented by the Guild — will end at the same time.”

“I don’t know what to think right now. To me it’s in God’s hands,” Babnik told Catholic News Service June 4.

Tayek attributed the closing to “the slide in subscriptions and readership” that many print publications have experienced in recent years as people seek “new means of communication and getting their news and information by other means, particularly electronically.”

The paper’s paid circulation had declined to about 10,000 this year, he said. At its peak in 1963, the Catholic Universe Bulletin’s circulation topped 122,000.

“I think we did support the UB as far as we could go with it. It took a tremendous amount of subsidy over the last five years at least,” Tayek said.

A six-times-a-year magazine will replace the paper, Tayek told CNS. Tentatively called “Northeast Ohio Catholic,” the magazine will be produced in partnership between the diocese and Michigan-based Faith Catholic.

The newspaper’s editor, Carol Kovach, will become the editor of the new magazine, Tayek said.

The magazine will be mailed without charge to 230,000 households across the eight-county diocese spanning northeast Ohio, Tayek said, adding that the diocese continued to discuss how to its new publication and outreach program.

“What we were finding is the publication will be different. It’s going to be more of an evangelization tool, not a strict information tool,” he said. “Subsequently it has a better shelf life in the homes whereas the newspaper has very little shelf life and it wasn’t going to be an effective way to communicate.”

A survey of parishioners across the diocese found that they wanted a publication that helped them in their daily lives, Tayek explained.

The Guild employees will be offered severance in accordance with the contract it has with the company, according to Polito’s letter. Babnik said Bishop Lennon told the staff efforts would be made to help them find other positions in the diocese.

The Catholic Universe Bulletin has its roots in the Catholic Universe, which the diocese began publishing July 4, 1874. A rival publication, the Catholic Bulletin, appeared in 1911 as an education tool of the diocese’s Catholic Young Men’s clubs. The two papers merged to become the Catholic Universe Bulletin in 1928.

The paper enjoyed tremendous growth in circulation and influence in Catholic households after World War II. From 1951 to 1954, it was judged the best Catholic paper in the country by the national Catholic Press Union.

Posted June 5, 2015

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