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Inside NCR

We have designs on the future

Since its founding in 1964, the National Catholic Reporter has been consistent in its mission to proclaim and embody the eternal message of renewal and transformation that is near the heart of Christianity and was most eloquently expressed in our time at the Second Vatican Council.

This world is in flux, though, so the presentation of the message is shaped by the ebb and flow of events, tastes, personalities and other signs of the times. Newspapers, like everything else, change. While the essential story remains the same, ever new and ageless, the style of writing changes and so does the visual appearance of the paper.

This newspaper was born on great big sheets -- called broadsheets. After a few years the format was changed to the smaller tabloid page. In the past 34 years the design has undergone many transformations. These are most evident on the front page but not confined to that. Some years ago, for example, we moved from squeezing as many stories as possible onto the front page to a more user-friendly easing of the reader into the paper with visual enticements and other signposts.

We have been working on yet another new design, and the first of the newly designed issues is in your hands(or will soon be). It is not a startling change, rather another nuanced step in a gradual evolution. We hope readers will be comfortable with it. We have no doubt that some will like it and others won’t -- and we heartily invite you to express your opinion either way.

I’ll leave you to make most of the discoveries for yourselves. However, a couple of points may hint how the process worked. On the occasion of our last redesign, in 1989, we put special emphasis on the NCR logo. We did so for various reasons, especially for the fact that that’s what most people seem to call us anyway. Now, 10 years later, we have returned to an emphasis on the original National Catholic Reporter. Most staff members argued that’s a better statement of who we are. No doubt, many of you will still talk about NCR, and we’ll know what you mean, and it does trip better off the tongue.

Another wrinkle is an index on page 2. Some said readers don’t need it, others said readers are in a hurry nowadays, want to be helped to find their favorite page or author. If so, we aim to coddle you.

Unlike the picking of popes or the practice of infallibility, we have no confidence that the Holy Spirit takes a direct hand in the design any more than the content of Catholic newspapers, including ours. So we searched most of the known universe and finally found design expert Tony Sutton.

Although we found him in Ontario, Canada, Sutton is by birth -- and accent -- British: a globetrotter who spent years in the journalistic trenches, including 14 years in South Africa in the dangerous business of exposing the evils of apartheid, before setting up New Design Associates in Ontario in 1991.

A consultant who travels the world in the course of his everyday business, Sutton is editor of Design magazine, also editor of a publication called Nine on Ten, a reference to an easy to read size of type, and has recently established his own book publishing business.

We are grateful to Tony, whose two visits to Kansas City caused a tornado of creativity and energy. He has threatened to monitor us from far Canada lest we fall below the high visual standards to which he has challenged us.

The design project will be carried on, and perhaps elevated to a higher plane by NCR’s own Layout Editor Toni-Ann Ortiz and Layout Assistant Matt Kantz.

Cross Currents (www.aril.org/) has been one of the most prestigious intellectual magazines on the Catholic scene for 48 years. Founded by Joe and Sally Cunneen in 1950, it has promoted an adventuresome and cutting-edge Christianity.

Sally, after some years, went on to be an author, lecturer and college professor, not to mention a mother.

And now, on. Oct 1, Joe is retiring as coeditor. Also retiring are two other Cross Currents coeditors who came aboard in the meantime: Nancy Malone and Bill Birmingham. They are all to be honored Oct. 4 at a shindig at Barat House, Purchase, N.Y. The occasion will be an appropriate mix of the intellectual -- addresses such as “Does Faith Have a Future?” -- and the convivial (meaning dinner and such).

Joe Cunneen has been NCR’s movie critic for several years, an undertaking from which he is not retiring. We wish Joe, a man of galactic interests and talents -- one of his favorite projects is championing French priest novelist Jean Sulivan -- a happy retirement, if that’s what it is. We commissioned our in-house artist, Celebration Editor Pat Marrin, to “do” Cunneen for the occasion.

The events that led to this week’s cover story began with a Plowshares action on May 17 -- the 30th anniversary of the 1968 burning of draft files by the famed Catonsville 9 -- when five brave souls took hammers and vials of their own blood and set upon a B-52 bomber at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington. Our story focuses on two of the five, Frs. Frank Cordaro and Larry Morlan, who passed through the NCR offices this summer on a national consciousness-raising tour.

The story of Asia’s economic disarray is an eye-opener in many ways, and a reminder of the church’s willingness to shout for justice when others are trying only to maximize their profits or cut their losses. Author Dennis Coday writes in a cover note: “Although the powers-that-be can sometimes dismiss church people/activists as ‘flaky’ on real world issues, the issues presented and stands taken at the Seoul Forum cannot be so easily dismissed.”

World opinion seems to be falling in line with the church people at Seoul, Coday explains.

For example, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad announced Sept. 1 that his country would impose strict currency controls within the country. Meanwhile, in a Sept. 7 cover story in Fortune magazine (www.pathfinder.com/fortune/pfortune/0907edd.html), MIT economist and free-market guru Paul Krugman denounced IMF policies in Asia and advocated that Asian countries impose currency controls temporarily to halt further economic deterioration.

The Young Feminist Network story is of special interest at a time when young people are alleged to be losing interest in the church. The group can be contacted through the Women’s Ordination Conference at 703-352-1006, or by E-mail at woc96@aol.com.

-- Michael Farrell

National Catholic Reporter, October 2, 1998