National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Issue Date:  May 9, 2003

NCR launches its next generation Web presence


Quietly, somewhat unnoticed, in the wee early hours of April 4, big changes came to the Web site that the National Catholic Reporter has maintained since 1996.

Avid NCRonline readers (there are a couple thousand) noticed the changes immediately. The old, utilitarian site has been replaced by a sleeker, more comprehensive and more interactive site.

The changes are not just in design, but also in content and intent. They reflect a renewed commitment to incorporating the Internet and new media tools into NCR’s traditional journalism mission, according to Tom Fox, publisher of the National Catholic Reporter.

“The new NCR Web site represents a major step forward in our company’s desire to serve our readers and enhance our peace and justice mission,” Fox said.

“Through the use of new technologies, over the years we have greatly speeded up the rate at which our editors gather information. Now, using some of the same technologies, we are speeding up the rate at which they can deliver that information,” he said.

In a Web column posted to herald the new site, NCR editor Tom Roberts wrote: “Like most publications large and small we have struggled, and continue to wrestle, with how NCR can use new technology as a tool to advance our journalism mission. ...

“With this new Web site, we aim to extend our reach. And perhaps our scope. Our founders, a mere 40 years ago, could not have imagined the possibilities that have evolved for both gathering and disseminating news,” Roberts wrote.

The new site has a number of exclusive features:

  • From Where I Stand, a weekly column from Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister.
  • The Word From Rome, a weekly posting of news from the Eternal City by NCR’s own John L. Allen Jr.
  • The Peace Pulpit, the transcripts of the homilies that Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton delivers at his parish, Saint Leo’s in Detroit, each Sunday.
  • Global Perspective, weekly columns in which guest columnists reflect on world events as they see them from their unique corners of the world.
  • Today’s Take, a daily Web column that allows an NCR staff member to comment on issues and events affecting the news and people’s daily lives. Today’s Take is posted by 10 a.m. every weekday.

Visitors to the Web site can sign up to receive e-mail notifying them when each of the weekly columns is posted. Visitors can also sign up for e-mail notification of breaking news stories or special updates that appear on the Web site when NCR posts stories of significance to readers.

Subscribers can receive e-mail notification when each new issue is posted online. These e-mails contain a direct link to the site for automatic log-in. (See box below for details.)

The bulk of the new Web site will continue to be the stories that also run in the print edition of the newsweekly, but these are enhanced with photographs and graphics, features that on the old site were limited.

A new feature of the new Web site is a powerful search engine that opens up NCR’s archive of stories, integrating the print edition and the Web site in a seamless whole. “It is significant that users will be able to search the entire body of work, print and electronic, all the columns and perspectives, from the same spot,” Roberts said. “That is truly one of the awesome powers of the Internet.”

Something visitors to the new site will find that was not on the old site is some stories marked “Premium Content,” which is available to subscribers only.

News stories and editorials will continue to be available to all visitors, in keeping with the NCR mission, said Sr. Rita Larivee, NCR associate publisher and chief architect of the new site.

“We speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. We also give access to news and information to people who cannot afford access,” she said.

NCR tries to make as much content available to the widest number of people possible, “but we also have to be good stewards, which means we can’t give everything away,” she said.

Operating a Web site is not without costs, Larivee said. Balancing free content with content available by subscription helps meet some of those costs while not abandoning NCR’s commitment to providing access to information.

Other factors also keep some content restricted. “We do not have reprint permission for everything that appears in the print edition,” Larivee said. This includes some syndicated columnists, stories from news services, photographs and cartoons.

“These have to be limited to paid subscribers,” Larivee said.

Roberts said, “As a not-for-profit, we are not driven by the need to have an ever-increasing pot of money at the end of the day. But we don’t completely escape bottom-line concerns.”

According to Fox, the evolving Web site reflects the realities of the church and the world NCR covers as a news organization. And increasingly, he said, that means literally covering the world.

“The church has become an ever more inclusive, global community in our lifetimes. NCR is responding, as best it can, to serve this evolving global audience. We’ve built our Web site with these thoughts in mind.”

Registered NCR subscribers can access at no additional charge

Subscribers to the print edition of NCR can access the premium content of the online edition at no extra cost. But you must register first.

See the back page of this pullout section for a step-by-step guide to help you register.

Donít forget to sign up for e-mail notification. Every week that NCR goes to press, subscribers who sign up for this option will receive a courtesy e-mail letting them know when each new issue is posted online.

This e-mail contains a direct link to the current issue that will automatically log you in with your user name and password.

Dennis Coday is an NCR staff writer and editorial coordinator for the NCR Web site. His e-mail address is

National Catholic Reporter, May 9, 2003

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