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Inside NCR

For Christmas gifts, still a few NCRs left

How’s your Christmas shopping coming? Time is running out, just a week or two left by the time you read this. Without wishing anybody ill, I do hope you’re having a hard time finding those suitable -- not to mention affordable -- gifts. This may sound mean now, but you’ll thank me later.

Everyone knows you have avid readers among friends and family. Readers who say so much current reading matter is soft in the head. They’re probably Catholics looking for a few good reasons to hang in there, to venture farther, risk a bit, tease out the tangled skein. There are those all-grown-up kids who aren’t children any more, in their 30s and 40s now, and life is saying whoa to them, it’s time to stop and smell -- well, something.

Maybe sniff the transcendental again. Maybe discover in the world of hard knocks the exhilaration of fighting for causes, for underdogs, for justice and peace. And, as a bonus, news of the church, the rambunctious old church, that maybe is better after all than they remember it, something at the heart of it that lasted 2,000 years; news and views of life, too, the only life we’re likely to get, so we ought to take a good look at it as it flies by.

I know you’re not fooled by all this. I want you to take care of your gift problem by giving NCR to at least one on your list. They will think of you every week for a year when the paper arrives, full of beans and news and all alive and zesty.

If our readers, the most loyal and enthusiastic on earth, don’t spread the word about us, how else can we tell the millions we know are waiting to find us?

Sure, you read stuff like this here just a few weeks ago. I’m sorry to say it didn’t have the desired effect: Orders for subscriptions didn’t go through the roof. But there’s still hope. The experts say I have to remind you three times to get your attention. In case I don’t get back to it for a third time before Christmas, please read this twice. Thanks.

The flurry of complaints that -- along with compliments -- came chasing the redesigned NCR has abated. There may be several explanations for this: that readers got used to, or eventually fell in love with the new appearance they at first disliked; or that their misgivings were solved by key adjustments made by our talented in-house design team of Toni-Ann Ortiz and Matt Kantz.

The complaint that concerned us most was that our new typeface was too small. So we have enlarged it approximately to its previous size, with the added advantage that our new font, Stone Serif, is much more readable than the old one.

We are grateful to all our readers for your patience, comments, even complaints. You are, ultimately, what this entire production is all about. And your letters show you still like us. “It’s the content that’s most important, not the package,” went a typical letter.

We are confident that this new design, overall, has the right mix of practicality and panache to launch us on a new century and millennium, but we will continue to hear your voices and when possible make appropriate adjustments.

The bishops’ impressive document, Everyday Christianity: To Hunger and Thirst for Justice, is published in full in this issue. Those who wish to have it in its official published format, or to order in bulk may contact the U.S. Catholic Conference Office for Publishing and Promotion Services, 800-235-8722 (in the Washington metropolitan area or from outside the United States, (202) 722-8716). English: No. 5-116; Spanish (available winter 1999): No. 5-117; 20 pages; $1.50 per copy; quantity discounts available. Add 10 percent per order for shipping and handling ($3 minimum).

It’s extraordinary, all things considered, that this country has not had -- until now -- a labor party. Those wishing further information about the party could call 888-44LABOR, or see www.labornet.org/lpa/

Last week I wrote about the impending execution of Stanley Faulder. Sorry to say, no good news to report. Some had trouble reaching Texas Governor George Bush. All the 612 area codes should read 512.

Paul Jeffrey’s story provides a different look at the devastation caused by Hurricane Mitch.

Jeffrey, a United Methodist missionary assigned to Central America as a journalist to write about the region for religious publications, has been a regular contributor to NCR for several years. Readers may remember his compelling coverage of the Memory Project in Guatemala and the related murder of Bishop Juan Gerardi Conedera.

Jeffrey and his wife, Lyda Pierce, a theologian, were pastors of a local church in the state of Washington in 1984 when they decided to spend a year in Central America “learning from the poor. I guess we’re still learning,” said Jeffrey. The two stayed on, nine years in Nicaragua, two in Guatemala and the past two in Honduras. They have two children, Abigail, 9, and Lucas, 12.

Though Jeffrey often writes about grim subjects, he manages to maintain a sense of humor. “My goal in writing for NCR,” he said in a moment of weakness, “is to make you indebted enough to me that some day Sic will put a picture of my dog on his page.” Without wishing to speak for that dubious entity, I’d recommend Jeffrey send in a picture.

-- Michael Farrell

National Catholic Reporter, December 11, 1998