Former Our Sunday Visitor publisher named CNS director, editor-in-chief

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Greg Erlandson

By Julie Asher

Erlandson, former president and publisher of Our Sunday Visitor, has been named
director and editor-in-chief of Catholic News Service, effective Sept. 12.

Msgr. J. Brian Bransfield,
general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, announced the
appointment July 20.

“Greg brings a remarkable
combination of management expertise, journalism skills and demonstrated service
to the church at the national and international level. I am confident he will prove
to be an important resource to clients of CNS,” Msgr. Bransfield said in a

Erlandson, 62, stepped down from
his position at OSV in Huntington, Indiana, after nearly 27 years with the
company. He was named OSV editor in 1989 and was promoted to editor-in-chief
of its editorial operations in 1992. He was named president and publisher in

“CNS is one of the gifts of the
U.S. church to the rest of the Catholic world,” Erlandson said in response to an
email asking for comment. “It is an honor to follow in the footsteps of so many
great directors of the news service, and I am humbled by the opportunity to
join our colleagues at the bishops’ conference in serving our fellow Catholics.”

“Catholic News Service has for
decades been the backbone of the Catholic press,” he told CNS. “It has enabled
diocesan media to have a dependable source of national and international news,
of great columnists and great features. It has also provided timely and
trustworthy reporting to a wide variety of Catholic publications and
organizations as well as to bishops and communicators around the world.”

Erlandson worked for CNS from 1986
to 1989. After a brief time in the Washington office, he worked at the CNS Rome
bureau until he left to become editor at OSV.

“So I expect to feel a little deja
vu,” he said, calling his time with CNS in Rome “life-changing.”

“My years in Italy changed the
way I viewed both my church and my country, and I will always be grateful for
the opportunity Richard Daw (then-CNS editor-in-chief) made available to me,”
Erlandson said. “I have always felt like I’ve remained part of the CNS family.
I’ve kept in touch with my colleagues in Washington and I’ve visited the bureau
whenever I’ve been in Rome.”

Since he was with CNS, the CNS
offices — in the USCCB headquarters — are in a different part of Washington
and CNS has new staff members, new resources — such as video and social media —
and “new challenges,” he said. “So this feels a tiny bit like coming home and a
whole lot like a brand new opportunity.”

Erlandson succeeds Tony Spence,
who resigned in April after 12 years as editor-in-chief. James Rogers, USCCB chief
communications officer, took over CNS administrative duties while a search
process took place for a successor.

Msgr. Bransfield thanked CNS
staff “for their focus and hard work during this period of transition” and thanked
Rogers and the search committee for their work.

Erlandson studied journalism at
the Graduate School of Journalism of the University of California at Berkeley.
He received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English literature from Loyola
Marymount University in Los Angeles. Early in his career, he was editor of the
National Catholic Register.

Over the years, Erlandson has
had an active role as an advocate for the Catholic press. He served as
president of Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada from
2011 to 2013 and continued on the organization’s board after his term.

He has been appointed twice as a
consultant to the USCCB’s Committee on Communications, and he has been a
consultant for the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. He completed a
stint in 2015 on a committee working to reform the Vatican’s communications arm
that led to the creation of the new Vatican Secretariat for Communications.

In June, he received the Bishop
John England Award from the CPA during the Catholic Media Conference in St.
Louis. Last February, he was inducted into the Association of Catholic
Publishers Hall of Fame for lifetime achievement. In 2015, he received the St.
Francis de Sales Award, the CPA’s highest honor.

He and his wife, Corine
Bischetti Erlandson, have four children.

Erlandson told CNS that his first
steps as editor-in-chief will be “to get to know the staff, to hear what they
have to tell me about the challenges they face. I have some learning to do.”

“I am a competitive person,” he
added. “I want to do my very best and to help others do their very best. My
goal is to serve our stakeholders, dazzle our customers and spread the good
news in the way that only solid Catholic journalism can.”

“When I last worked for CNS, no
one was talking about a 24/7 news cycle. There was no internet, no social
media, no Instagram and Twitter,” Erlandson continued. “The news
business has changed dramatically and if anything there is a glut of
information available now. … CNS must identify what its core competencies are,
what it does better than anyone else. I think that people are hungry not just
for information, but for context.”

He said CNS “is uniquely
positioned to be a reliable source for news and a trustworthy source for
understanding the context and significance of that news” to help readers “understand
this world in the light of faith” and how the church is “walking with them, to
use the words of Pope Francis.”

Declining Mass attendance and
sacramental practice and other challenges are facing Catholic news outlets, he
said, but “there have always been cycles in religious practice. The Cure d’Ars
(St. John Vianney) in 19th-century France faced far worse. So did St. John Paul
II in communist Poland.”

“The influence of religion, for
good and for bad, is visible every day on every front page,” he added. “We have
an amazing pope who has caught the imagination of the world. In the Middle
East, in Africa, In Turkey, in China, in the Philippines, in our own election
campaigns, religion is omnipresent.

“This is an exciting time, and
Catholics are in the mix everywhere. My old boss (at OSV), Bob Lockwood, said
that the only unforgivable sin in Catholic journalism was to make religion
boring. It should pulse with relevancy and engagement.”

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