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Stories you shouldn’t miss

July 6, 2011


Here’s a sneak preview of some of the stories you can read this week in the print edition of The Catholic Spirit and online at

• “Get a good read — on what’s happening at local Catholic bookstores.” Our Page 1 story gives a snapshot of the joys and challenges of operating independent Catholic bookstores in the age of Amazon and Don’t overlook the summer reading list suggested by the booksellers.

• Two articles have a Catholic Charities focus. Agency CEO Tim Marx writes about how the current Minnesota state government shutdown is a wake-up call to mend our civic culture. And, staff writer/photographer Dave Hrbacek spent time with St. Paul Homeless Connect — a one-day event that offers important services and resources in one location for people in need. Read about one of the event’s volunteers who knows personally the challenges faced by the homeless.

• This week’s “Outdoors” column by Dave Hrbacek features a priest who recently led a fishing retreat as an opportunity for men to pray and deepen their spirituality while spending time on the lake.

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The Catholic Spirit garners journalism awards

June 27, 2011

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The prospect of winning awards isn’t what motivates us Catholic Spirit staff members to produce the best newspaper and website that we can. We’re driven instead by the call to spread the Good News, to keep area Catholics informed about important issues in the church and to inspire them to live their faith to the fullest.

But it is nice when our work earns kudos from peers and fellow professionals. That happened last week at the Catholic Media Convention in Pittsburgh, where The Catholic Spirit garnered several Catholic press awards.

Two awards deserve special mention:

• Associate publisher Bob Zyskowski was honored with the 2011 St. Francis de Sales Award from the Catholic Press Association. It is the CPA’s highest award, recognizing an individual’s “outstanding contributions to Catholic journalism.”

• The Catholic Spirit won second place in the “general excellence” category for large-circulation newspapers. The award takes into account all aspects of a publication — from the writing and photography, to the design and editing. The judges called it a “clean, well-organized, well-edited paper” with “good local content.”

Other awards TCS received from the CPA were:

• 1st place — best editorial section for “This Catholic Life.”

• 1st place — best editorial on a national or international issue for “Woody, Buzz and the meaning of life” by editor Joe Towalski.

• 2nd place — best news writing for the TCS news team series “7 Principles for Planning,” which examined the challenges facing the archdiocese as it prepared its strategic plan for parishes and schools.

• 2nd place — best regular arts and leisure column for “The Outdoors,” by photographer/writer Dave Hrbacek.

• 2nd place — best coverage of the Year for Priests for a special section titled “Celebrating Our Priests.”

• 2nd place — best editorial on a local issue for “Health care policy: Whose side is God on? by Joe Towalski.

Other Catholic organizations also presented awards recently, and The Catholic Spirit was recognized by two of them:

• Dave Hrbacek was awarded the National Right to Life’s 14th Annual Excellence in Journalism Award for his story, “Electrician sparks life commitment by turning down abortion clinic job.” NRLC President Carol Tobias said, “We are proud to recognize Dave Hrbacek for his outstanding work and extend our deepest gratitude for his outstanding journalism on behalf of life.”

And from the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, TCS received three awards:

• Bob Zyskowski garnered first place honors in the “Visits to the Missions” category for his story package, “Venezuelans, priests celebrate 40-year gift exchange.”

• Staff writer Julie Carroll and Dave Hrbacek took first place in the “Mission News” category for their story “Situation in Haiti still critical.”

• Deacon Mickey Friesen, director of the archdiocese’s Center for Mission, received an honorable mention for TCS’ World Mission Sunday 2010 supplement.

Have an idea for a possible award-winning story? Contact us and give us the details. We always enjoy working on a good story!


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The editor’s life

November 30, 2010

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I’ve been a Catholic journalist for 18 years now — an editor for 12 of them. One of the most frequent questions I get from friends, family members and new acquaintances is: “What’s it like being the editor of a Catholic newspaper?” (Actually, two newspapers in my case — The Catholic Spirit in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and The Visitor, which I edit for the Diocese of St. Cloud.)

They ask, truly, because they’re not sure what a newspaper editor does these days, much less an editor like me who works for religious publications.

They assume it’s pretty challenging to publish newspapers that aim to serve the entire local Catholic community and not just a particular segment. They ask, “How can you print things that everyone will like all the time?” (Answer: You can’t.)

They think I must lead a pretty frenetic life that can be challenging for my spouse and kids. (Answer: They’re right. And please don’t ask my wife about it. She’s a photographer and graphic designer who works with me at The Catholic Spirit, and she’ll give you an earful about how I need to do a better job of balancing work life and home life.)

They wonder where we get all the story ideas that end up as news and features in our print editions and on our websites. (Answer: Where don’t we get story ideas from. E-mails, phone calls, letters, press releases, news team brainstorm sessions and casual conversations with people we meet every day are great sources for stories.)

In order to give readers a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what goes into publishing two biweekly newspapers and the two 24/7 websites associated with them, I’ve decided to post about it on this blog.

What’s new at the newspapers? How do we make decisions about what goes into print and on the web and what doesn’t? What’s it like working at a place where your job is to proclaim daily the good news of Jesus Christ? These are among the topics I’ll address in a few blog posts each week.

To be sure, editing a Catholic newspaper today is challenging on several fronts. But it’s a job — actually, I think of it more as a vocation — that I love to do, otherwise I wouldn’t be in this profession for 18 years and counting. The editor’s chair is also a wonderful vantage point from which to view the life of the church as it unfolds in our parishes, dioceses, nation and world.

I hope you enjoy the insights I’ll be sharing. I also hope you’ll be willing to share your own thoughts by commenting with suggestions, story ideas and other feedback!

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