Peter Finney, Clarion Herald editor, wins Cardinal John P. Foley Award

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Peter Finney Jr., who is executive editor/general manager of the Clarion Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, is the recipient of the 2021 Cardinal John P. Foley Award from the Catholic Media Association.

The Foley award recognizes demonstrated excellence and innovation in Catholic storytelling in the preceding year, with work presented on various media platforms, including — but not limited to — video, podcasts, photo spreads, blogs, or a multimedia melding of platforms. It’s one of the highest honors given by the CMA.

The announcement was made June 8 during the 2021 Catholic Media Conference, which was held virtually using digital technology for the second year in a row as a precaution during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Wow, that’s incredible,” Finney said after his name was announced. “This last year was quite interesting. Through the difficulties in lockdown, it gave us an opportunity to acquire new skills. Sometimes it takes a lockdown or a tragedy to find out how much people value a Catholic paper.

“Cardinal Foley was an incredible icon of Catholic communicators,” he continued. “I’m just honored to receive the award” named for him.

The late Cardinal Foley, who died in 2011, was admired for his media expertise, serving as an editor of Philadelphia’s archdiocesan newspaper, a host and producer of the “Philadelphia Catholic Hour” on WFIL radio, head of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. Also, for many he was known as the Vatican’s “Voice of Christmas” in his role as English-language commentator for the pope’s midnight Mass for 25 years.

Greg Erlandson, director and editor-in-chief of Catholic News Service, has called Foley an “indefatigable supporter of the Catholic press” who always “remained a journalist at heart, and he believed strongly in the importance of this professional vocation for the life of the church.”

Finney was one of seven finalists for the 2020 Foley award.

The other six finalists were Jim Davis of the Florida Catholic, Miami; Cassie Magnotta of Glenmary Challenge; Jennifer Miele of The Catholic Accent, Diocese of Greensburg, Pennsylvania; Katie Prejean McGrady of Ave Explores/Ave Maria Press; Matt Riedl of the Arlington Catholic Herald, Diocese of Arlington, Va.; and Katie Rutter, a freelance multimedia journalist specializing in Catholic media.

“Catholic storytellers don’t feast on bad news,” Finney’s Foley nomination letter said. “They revel in chronicling how individuals, through the gift of faith, persevere.”

“That is certainly exemplified through Peter’s storytelling this year. From pro-life pharmacists, to a 70-year marriage to racism, sexual abuse and gang life,” said J.D. Long-Garcia of America Media, president of the CMA, while presenting Finney with the Foley award. “Peter is a great example for all Catholic communicators.”

Examples of Finney’s 2020 work submitted in the nomination letter include stories about marriage, social justice crusaders, priests implicated in sexual offenses; and coverage of Hurricane Laura.

Samples of his newly acquired video editing skills show topics on racism and religious outreach, and his collaboration in the production of video podcasting covered subjects such as Catholic education, mental health, the COVID-19 pandemic, and racial equality and justice.

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