Catholic paper to become monthly; magazine to launch

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In the Catholic Standard and Times newsroom , managing editor Sarbina Vourvoulias consults with editor Matthew Gambino. The diocese is converting the weekly to a monthly and starting a magazine.

After 116 years - and a decade of declining circulation - the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is converting its weekly newspaper to a monthly and launching a glossy magazine.

Begun in 1895 with the merger of two diocesan newspapers, the Catholic Standard and Times was delivered to more than 100,000 homes in the mid-20th century. Today, with paid circulation about 31,000, "we're reaching just 7 percent of households in the archdiocese," editor Matthew Gambino said Tuesday.

In response, the archdiocese is preparing to launch a monthly magazine, Phaith, that it will distribute at no charge to about 350,000 households starting this fall.

Phaith - the name a merger of Philadelphia and faith - will be printed in full color on heavy stock, and feature stories about Catholics "alive in their faith and alive with Jesus," Gambino said.

With only about 30 percent of area Catholics regularly attending Sunday Mass and receiving the sacraments, he said, the magazine's mission is to engage marginal and uninvolved Catholics "and attract families to deeper examination of their relationship with Jesus. That, we hope, will lead families to a more frequent practice of their faith in the community of the church."

Phaith will feature stories by Philadelphia-area writers about the local Catholic community, but will be published by Faith Catholic of Lansing, Mich.

The Standard will continue to offer news of the archdiocese, Gambino said, but with publication coming only monthly, the archdiocese will use its website, www.cst-phil.com, as its primary outlet for breaking news.

Under the new plan, households may subscribe to the newspaper for $15 a year, down from the current $30.

Monthly publication is expected to yield significant savings on mailing, according to Gambino, who said mailing costs total nearly $500,000 a year. With subscriptions and free distributions - 150 to each parish, high school, and nursing home - the archdiocese expects to double the Standard's circulation to about 60,000, a number it anticipates will attract more advertisers.

To further save money, the archdiocese will lay off five full-time employees, including one longtime reporter, on Friday. Gambino will remain as editor.

The last weekly issue of the Standard will be June 30, with bi-weekly issues in July and August. It will begin as a monthly in late September. Phaith will be mailed out at the middle of each month, according to Gambino, and the Standard at the start.

A new design for the Standard two years ago brought a small bump in circulation, Gambino said, but results did not meet the archdiocese's expectations.

In 2000, the paper had a circulation of 85,000, although much of that was underwritten by parishes rather than paid for by household subscriptions. During the last decade, many parishes opted out of that program to cut their own costs.

 


Contact staff writer David O'Reilly at 215-854-5723 or doreilly@phillynews.com.