An editor's note on Crux's 'Independence Day'

An editor’s note on Crux’s ‘Independence Day’

An editor’s note on Crux’s ‘Independence Day’

Crux editor John L. Allen, Jr. and co-editor Ines San Martin report from a recent summit on Africa at the University of Notre Dame's Global Gateway center in Rome. (Credit: University of Notre Dame.)

April 1 marks Crux's "Independence Day," meaning the one-year anniversary of our life as an independent news agency no longer part of the Boston Globe. While much has changed, one thing remains constant: Crux's determination, in an era of ideologically and politically aligned news, to lean neither to the left nor the right, but to embody the classic Catholic both/and.

Today marks the one-year anniversary of Crux as an independent operation, no longer part of the Boston Globe, and it seems a good moment to say something about our past, present, and future.

Our story begins in March of 2016, when, out of the blue, we were told the Globe was pulling the plug at the end of the month. Suddenly unemployed and bereft of institutional backing, four of us – myself, associate editor Shannon Levitt, Vatican correspondent (and now co-editor) Inés San Martín, and advertising director Terri Lynn – basically refused to accept the death sentence.

That decision gave us twenty days to figure out a survival strategy. Things came together quickly, thanks to two sponsors who stepped up immediately: The Knights of Columbus became our principal partner, joined by the DeSales Media Group in the Diocese of Brooklyn. Later, the Archdiocese of Washington, the Archdiocese of New York, and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles all came on board.

All our sponsors made a firm commitment to respecting Crux’s editorial independence, and they’ve honored it.

We’re also grateful to advertisers who stuck with us from day one – including the USCCB “Fortnight for Freedom” project, the Mission Doctor’s Association, Boston College, Creighton University, and Loyola University Press – as well as all those who have joined us since.

From there, we launched (a bit naïvely, in retrospect) into running a 24/7 news site with half our previous staff and budget. To be honest, most of the last year seems a blur to me – like one of those old British comedies where everybody’s running around on fast-forward, to the tune of “Yakety Sax”.

Fortunately, we’ve been able to expand our staff with the additions of Claire Giangravè as editorial assistant and correspondent, and Charles Collins, a 15-year veteran of Vatican Radio, as managing editor. That’s relieved the immediate pressure, and allowed us to do some thinking about where we go from here.

In that conversation, one point remains fixed. We’re as committed today as we were a year ago to our basic vision: In an era of ideologically and politically aligned news, we don’t want to lean either to the left or the right, but to embody the classic Catholic stance of both/and.

That often means making people uncomfortable. Last week, in the space of just 48 hours, one long-time friend told me Crux is “top-heavy with conservatives,” and another insisted we’re “lousy with liberals.”

Those reactions suggest there’s normally something on the site coming from outside any given reader’s comfort zone. Hearing views from the other side can be painful, but also fruitful.

“Authentically Catholic and authentically open” is our mantra.

That means, for instance, when it comes to Pope Francis’s document Amoris Laetitia, allowing a degree of discussion, because for many the document unsettled certain questions rather than resolving them. Until that debate winds down we need to keep it open, but always in ways that don’t seek to undercut the papacy.

On divisive political issues such as Donald Trump’s presidency, being “authentically Catholic” means ensuring that either criticism or defense – and we’ll carry both – are rooted in the Church’s social teaching, not political ideology.

How well we’ve pulled this off so far lies in the eye of the beholder, but trust me on this: Whatever our failures or misjudgments, we really are trying to live up to our job description, and we’re working to get ever better.

Looking forward, neither Francis nor Trump seem inclined to take their foot off the gas, so tracking Catholic reactions to both men (as wildly different as they are) will be a priority. There are new debates and issues too, from biotechnology and artificial intelligence to the leadership role played by the Church in the developing world.

Before long we’ll have a World Meeting of Families, Pope Francis will probably hold another consistory or two, there’ll be a Synod of Bishops – and, one day, there will be a conclave to elect a new pope. (Although, please God, not anytime soon, because I’m barely recovered from the last one!)

We’ll be on top of those stories, and we hope Catholic discussion will benefit from our effort to bring a measured, balanced approach.

We also intend to expand Crux’s reach in other ways, beginning with enhancing our video offerings. One example is a new occasional segment called “A Drink with John,” in which I sit down with a newsmaker for a chat over a libation. You can find the ones we’ve done so far on the Crux Facebook page.

Two final points on Crux’s “Independence Day.”

First, if our journalism seems like your cup of tea, we’re always looking for new sponsors and new advertisers. Our staff can walk you through the possibilities, by contacting your advertising director Terri Lynn.

Second, on our birthday I’d like to acknowledge several former Crux colleagues from our time at the Globe, who’ve moved on: Editor Teresa Hanafin; national correspondent Michael O’Loughlin (whose terrific work you can now find at America); web and IT expert Christina Reinwald; digital content specialist Joel Abrams; and columnist Margery Egan. Know that you’ll always have friends at Crux.

So, spare a thought and a prayer today for “Crux 2.0”, and then keep coming along for the ride. You may be alternately edified and outraged by what you find, inspired and consternated, but I can promise you, it will never be dull!

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