Front REINHOLD LEHMANN
THE Catholic news and periodical press in Germany is in a state of crisis marked by declining influence and circulation. On the surface, the picture is good. With the total Catholic population almost 30 million, the overall Catholic press circulation conies to nearly 16 million issues every month—the diocesan press alone accounting for 12 million copies weekly. And as a whole, it is a financially profitable field.
But in the past year, widespread dissatisfaction concerning the Catholic press has conic to the fore. In general. it boils down to increasing calling into question of the current role and function of Catholic newspapers and periodicals.
One of the most common complaints is that the 22 diocesan weeklies in effect serve as the propaganda organs of the individual bishops and do not present an adequate picture of the Universal Church, its mission and its ecumenical endeavours in this day of the ecumenical council.
The diocesan press lost much confidence when it was brought to light that many of the weeklies arc censored by priests on orders of the bishop—in effect, that prominent Catholic journalists are not trusted.
A recent meeting of editors in Stuttgart brought out the complaint that a great proportion of the money earned by the diocesan weeklies is not used to improve them. but rather siphoned off and used for other diocesan projects.
The journalists held that earnings from advertising and subscriptions should he used to increase and improve editorial staffs, increase news coverage, and improve the printing and picture presentation. The time has conic, the editors said, for the paper to stop being "the milk cow of the diocese".
One Sunday every year a collection is taken tip for the Catholic press. But it does not rouse much enthusiasm, because no report is made to the public that the money is really used to support the Catholic press.
This general malaise has further impact because of the fact that circulation has been declining. In the past year alone, the average circulation for the diocesan weeklies
decreased by 7.000. •
One problem is that virtually no Catholic newspapers or periodicals are available at news-stands. To get them, people have to he in contact with the clergy--generally buying them at church doors. And many
periodicals are pushed not for their content, but rather as a charity appeal --emphasising that this or that newspaper is sold to support the missions or other worthy causes.
One result of all this is the fact that many Catholic families now subscribe to a good Protestant weekly which was founded several years after World War 11, Christ mid Welt (Christ and the World).
Catholic intellectuals have appealed from time to time for a consolidation of Catholic activities in the press field — a merger of forces to improve quality.
Journalists at the recent Stuttgart meeting declared that the only way to achieve any real impact is to produce periodicals which are equal in quality to the secular press.