Los Angeles, Calif., Feb 4, 2014 / 16:35 pm
John David Long-Garcia, the new editor-in-chief of the Los Angeles archdiocese's The Tidings Corp., says he hopes to build on Catholic newspapers' mission of bringing people "closer to God and closer to each other."
"The truth about who we are as human beings is incomplete if it we don't understand who God is. That's all part of what the mission is in Catholic journalism," Long-Garcia told CNA Feb. 4.
"What I believe about The Tidings and what I believe about Catholic newspapers in general is that we share the mission of the Church in saving souls."
The Tidings, the L.A. archdiocese's newspaper, was founded in 1895. It is the oldest Catholic newspaper on the U.S. West Coast, reaching an estimated 230,000 readers each week. Vida Nueva, a Spanish-language monthly, has an estimated readership of 115,000, according to 2012 figures from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Long-Garcia, a veteran Catholic journalist, previously served as editor of the Diocese of Phoenix's newspaper, The Catholic Sun, for nearly 10 years. He is now entering the largest U.S. archdiocese and one of the largest dioceses in the world – Los Angeles is home to more than 4.3 million Catholics in a total population of 11.2 million.
In his new role, he will oversee both archdiocese newspapers, their websites and their social media. He will also supervise the publication of the archdiocese's annual Catholic directory, The Tidings reports.
David Scott, the archdiocese's vice chancellor for communications, said Long-Garcia's appointment is "a bright new moment for us."
"J.D. Long-Garcia is probably the finest Catholic editor in the country right now. And he 'gets' Archbishop Gomez's vision for the new evangelization and the role our newspaper should play through reporting, cultural analysis and fostering Catholic identity and engagement," Scott said in The Tidings.
Long-Garcia told CNA that Catholic newspapers should be "unabashedly Catholic." They can help their readers "love God and love each other better by reporting, by strong, solid journalism, by telling the truth. Part of that truth includes the truth about Jesus Christ."
"We can take our lead from Pope Francis and the way he's engaging the changing culture, to share the good news about the gospel and share the great joy that we find in our Church," he said. "Our Holy Father has demonstrated how effective it can be to tell the truth with joy and a heart full of love."
In the course of his career, Long-Garcia has covered the Catholic Church's work in Iraqi refugee assistance in Syria and Lebanon, according to The Tidings. He has reported on West Africa's drought and famine relief, as well as earthquake relief in Haiti. He has reported on immigration issues related to the U.S.-Mexico border and from within Mexico itself.
The Arizona Newspaper Association named Long-Garcia "Journalist of the Year" for 2013 among non-daily newspapers in Arizona. He has received more than 60 awards for his writing, layout and photography.
Long-Garcia, however, is quick to praise God.
"I would say that most of my success, I can't take credit for. Most of my success has been by God's grace," he said, praising the effect that adoration of the Blessed Sacrament has had in his life.
Included in Long-Garcia's educational background is a master's degree in philosophy from the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, as well as a master's degree in theology from the Graduate Theological Union.
A lay Dominican and a member of the Knights of Columbus, he has also taught Scripture and Church history and has been a catechist for children.
Born in the Dominican Republic and raised in the U.S., Long-Garcia is bilingual in English and Spanish. He stressed the "paramount" need for Spanish-language Catholic publications, given the continued growth of the Hispanic population.
"The Catholic press is Latino as well, including myself," he said.
In his view, Spanish-speakers in the U.S. are often immigrants who tend to prefer printed publications.
"Their culture is one in which they're more accustomed to having the printed page, as they are riding the bus or the subway or at home," he continued. "It's a huge responsibility to pay attention to their needs."
Long-Garcia said he believes the medium of print will still continue to be necessary, but the Catholic press also has to adapt to provide social media content and websites that are "very well-designed and appealing and easy-to-read."
The Catholic press should also take care to provide shorter stories when necessary, he added.
"Twitter is 140 characters," he said. "If you're going to write a 2,000-word feature, it had better be good or nobody is going to read it."