A project to reshape the future of Catholic journalism in Canada has just taken an unexpected turn. In the third iteration of the course, there are as many Americans as Canadians signed up.
Dominic Chan, director of technology and photo services for Canadian Catholic News, said on Monday that at the start of the 12-week course, “Telling Truth in Charity: Introduction to Catholic Journalism,” it’s evolving into a cross-border hub for aspiring Catholic journalists, with U.S. and Canadian students evenly represented.
“In the past we have had students from Canada, the U.S., and Colombia,” Chan said. “Now it’s equal numbers from Canada and the U.S.”
The Canadian Catholic News journalism initiative began a year ago when The B.C. Catholic and The Catholic Register began efforts to reinvigorate Canadian Catholic News as a vital news source. CCN was founded over 25 years ago as a news cooperative to facilitate content sharing among Catholic newspapers in Canada. At its height, CCN had about 15 news media across Canada and a bureau on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.
With the decline of Catholic newspapers in the country over the past decade, Catholic Register publisher Peter Stockland and B.C. Catholic editor Paul Schratz believed the service needed new direction. They were concerned about declining standards of journalism they saw when it came to reporting on the Catholic Church, particularly on the
Kamloops residential school story and the visit of Pope Francis to Canada in 2022 – a visit they covered jointly by embedding a CCN reporter in the Vatican news pool.
The course was designed in response to the need for writers for the relaunch of Canadian Catholic News (CCN) as a public-facing news website. Soon the two founding newspapers had the support of the Archdiocese of Edmonton, Catholic communications professionals Laura Ieraci and Dominic Chan, and Canadian bishops across the country.
The renewed CCN will provide news on the Catholic Church in Canada, issues of interest to the Catholic community, and a Catholic perspective on current events. “We knew we had to share stories for and about Catholics that weren’t being told,” said Paul Schratz, editor of The B.C. Catholic in Vancouver. “Finding writers who could do that was a challenge, so we decided to launch our own course, to train journalists in truth-based journalism.”
The first version of Telling Truth in Charity ran for eight weeks from February to April 2023 with 12 students from across Canada and the U.S. The second course, in fall 2023, expanded to 12 weeks based on feedback from the initial cohort and had more than 20 students.
The third session starts Tuesday, Jan. 23, with 14 registrants and a limited number of spaces left for the 12-week live-streamed course on ethical journalism. Tailored to the unique landscape of Catholic journalism, participants delve into Church teachings on social communications, theological reflections on journalism, ethics, and the distinctive qualities of a Catholic journalist.
So far, Canadian Catholic News is already accomplishing what it set out to do: developing journalists who can report on issues concerning Catholics across the country. Stories by students who have taken the course have appeared on the website canadiancatholicnews.ca. The site is also active on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Peter Stockland, publisher of The Catholic Register in Toronto and a former journalism instructor at Concordia University in Montreal, said he sees the difference in the journalism and the attitudes being brought to the craft by the students.
“The course works from the beginning on what it means to be a Catholic journalist,” Stockland said. “It has to be really Catholic. But it also has to be really journalism.
Catholic journalism “doesn’t mean just speaking about the Catholic world, although obviously that’s part of it,” he said. “It means writing about the world through Catholic eyes, experience, and faith. It means telling the truth journalistically but most importantly proceeding journalistically from St. Paul’s urging that if what remains are faith, hope, and charity, the greatest of them is charity.”
For information on the course or to register, visit canadiancatholicnews.ca/journalism.
Canadian Catholic News