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CARA-MEDIA Mar-6-2007 (1,180 words) With graphic. xxxn

Study finds one-fourth of Catholics read diocesan newspaper

By Jerry Filteau
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- One-fourth of U.S. Catholics contacted in a national survey by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate had read their diocesan newspaper at least once in the previous six months.

By contrast, only 1 percent of the Catholics surveyed had tuned in to a diocesan radio station in the same six-month period and only 2 percent had watched diocesan television in that time, it said. Most dioceses do not have radio or TV stations.

Nearly a quarter of those surveyed said they had read one or more national Catholic publications within the previous six months.

Twenty-eight percent said they had watched a religious or spiritual TV program in that period, 28 percent said they had read a religious or spiritual magazine or newspaper, 12 percent said they had listened to a religious or spiritual radio program and 11 percent said they had visited a religious or spiritual Web site.

Older Catholics and those who attended Mass more frequently were more likely to read their diocesan newspaper and other Catholic publications and were more likely to tune in to TV or radio programs of a religious or spiritual nature.

Of the 25 percent of Catholics who said they had read their diocesan newspaper within the previous six months, nearly half said they typically read it weekly or several times a month. About one-fourth read it once a month and the rest more rarely.

CARA said that at the time of the study 43 percent of U.S. Catholics lived in dioceses with weekly newspapers; 31 percent in dioceses with biweekly papers; 17 percent in dioceses with monthly or bimonthly publications; the remainder in dioceses with no publication or a publication that appears less than 12 times a year.

CARA is a nonprofit Catholic research agency based at Georgetown University. For its study it surveyed a sample of 1,260 self-identified Catholics who were 18 or older to measure their media use and their awareness of the U.S. bishops' Catholic Communication Campaign.

The study, commissioned by the Department of Communications of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, was completed in 2006 but the 76-page report, "Catholic Media Use in the United States," was only released March 6 of this year.

CARA conducted the survey for the study in the fall of 2005 through Knowledge Networks, which has assembled a large national sample of households. The households, selected by regular random telephone survey methods to assure they are representative of the general population, receive subsidized Internet access and other incentives in return for agreeing to participate in surveys. CARA said the margin of sample error was less than 3 percent.

The study found that slightly more than half those surveyed subscribe to a secular daily newspaper (44 percent) or buy one daily or almost every day (9 percent). Twenty-three percent said they buy the daily paper occasionally or up to once a week, and 23 percent said they never buy it.

Older respondents were more likely than younger ones to read the local daily paper and their diocesan paper.

CARA broke the respondents into three generations: those born before 1943, who grew up before the Second Vatican Council; those born between 1943 and 1960, who came of age during or after the council but had experienced the preconciliar church; and those born from 1961 on, the post-Vatican II generation.

Among respondents of the pre-Vatican II generation, 43 percent said they had read their diocesan newspaper within the previous six months. That dropped to 25 percent in the Vatican II generation and 18 percent in the post-Vatican II generation.

The differences were more striking when readership was compared with Mass attendance. Of those who attended Mass once a week or more, 57 percent said they had read the diocesan paper within the previous six months. That dropped to 41 percent among those who attend Mass less than weekly but at least monthly, and to 7 percent among those who attend Mass a few times a year or less.

Five percent of all respondents said they read a diocesan newspaper from another diocese in addition to or instead of their own.

CARA listed 29 national Catholic magazines and newspapers and asked respondents to say whether they were aware of the publication and whether they had read it in the previous six months. There was also room to note "other."

According to CARA researcher Mark M. Gray, 23 percent of the respondents reported reading at least one national publication, and more than a fourth of those said they read two or more.

About the use of television for religious programs, televised Mass was the most popular feature. Fourteen percent of respondents said they had watched Mass on TV within the previous six months. Nine percent said they have watched the Eternal Word Television Network, or EWTN, which is a national Catholic cable channel.

Gray said that at the time of the study, 59 percent of U.S. dioceses had their own radio programming, but only 7 percent of those had their own stations; 56 percent of dioceses had their own television programming, but only 8 percent of those had their own stations.

The CARA questions asked how many people caught programs in the previous six months on diocesan radio or TV stations, not diocesan programming carried on other stations, so the low tune-in figures nationally of 1 percent for radio and 2 percent for TV appeared to reflect the relative scarcity of those diocesan-owned media, Gray said.

Internet use for religious or spiritual purposes was not high in any single category, but among the 11 percent who said they went on the Web for such resources, it appeared many used it several ways.

Five percent of all respondents said they used the Internet to go to a parish Web site within the previous six months and 5 percent said they used it for inspirational or religious materials such as prayers, Bible readings or spiritual reflections during that time.

Among other uses, 3 percent each said they used it to go to a diocesan Web site, a Catholic school site or the USCCB site; 2 percent each reported visiting the Vatican site, a Catholic charity or social service agency site, Catholic Online, the site of a religious newspaper or magazine, some other kind of religious news site, or a message board or chat room dedicated to religion or spirituality.

Only 11 percent of respondents said they had heard of the Catholic Communications Campaign, an annual national collection that has been going on for more than 25 years to support Catholic media and Catholic media projects.

When asked to compare communications with other church needs and reflect how willing they would be to give "generously" to the campaign, 4 percent said they would be very willing, 12 percent said somewhat willing, 28 percent said a little willing, 29 percent said not willing at all, and 27 percent said they didn't know.


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