GREEN BAY, Wisconsin — Julie Asher is the recipient of the 2018 St. Francis de Sales Award from the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada.
The award recognizes “outstanding contributions to Catholic journalism” and is the highest honor given by CPA. It was presented during a June 15 luncheon at the Catholic Media Conference in Green Bay.
“Wow. It’s overwhelming,” said Asher after she was handed the award.
“I can confirm there was no Russian collusion on this — I had to say that coming here from Washington,” she added.
Asher thanked her CNS colleagues, led by editor-in-chief Greg Erlandson, and his predecessors.
“I also want to thank all of you, my colleagues in the Catholic press, for what you do every single day and what you contribute to CNS. We are all workers in the vineyard; we do it every single day to tell the story of the Catholic Church,” she said.
Asher noted that she didn’t come from a journalism family but said she had some ink in her blood because her father was an ink salesman and sold ink to several small newspapers in eastern Colorado and western Nebraska.
“I always wanted to be a journalist and to tell stories,” she said, adding that she loves what she does.
“I love what we all do in the Catholic press: We tell stories of people’s faith in action, explaining what the Church teaches and why, what the Church says in response to the issues of the day — immigration, racism, the environment and all manner of other things.”
She pointed out that some stories are difficult to cover, for instance, the sex abuse crisis, telling the stories of the survivors and how the Church is addressing it or stories of parish closings and what that means to those who call those parishes home.
But she also said there are plenty of stories that are more positive, such as what Catholics do for the poor, the marginalized, the immigrant and refugees; stories about Catholic agencies, volunteers who are there for those suffering through a natural disaster or other calamity; stories about outreach to people in the inner cities; and about the richness of Catholic life in mission dioceses.
Asher, who has been national editor of Catholic News Service for more than 20 years, coordinates all national coverage and book reviews. To many client editors, she is the first person with whom they come in contact at CNS.
Prior to working at Catholic News Service, where she started as a general assignment reporter, she was a reporter at the Scottsbluff Star-Herald daily in Nebraska and the Denver Catholic in her home state of Colorado.
Asher has been a member of the Society for Professional Journalists for more than 30 years, joining as a college student. She has had many leadership roles in the group and has been awarded by the group for her achievements. She has presented workshops at Catholic Media Conventions and served on nominating committees for the Catholic Press Association.
She is also the CNS intern coordinator and has mentored dozens of young college students, many of whom now work at Catholic publications.
Asked about her internship for Asher’s nomination submission, Colleen Dulle, former CNS intern who now works for America magazine, said Asher’s “mentorship was invaluable,” noting that not only did she make time for weekly meetings with interns but she also made sure they got what they hoped to experience from their internships.
“For example, I told her I wanted to report in a press pool at a large event, so Julie assigned me to a White House summit. She also pushed me out of my comfort zone, in one instance assigning me a political story that landed me my first byline in America, where I am now an O’Hare Fellow. ”
She also said Asher “never turned down any of my requests for letters of recommendation, showing how committed she is to helping me continue to succeed in journalism.”
The other two finalists were:
— Deacon Steve Landregan, who retired in 2016 from the Dallas Diocese, was a longtime editor of the Texas Catholic, diocesan newspaper of Dallas, and served as director of pastoral planning and research as well as diocesan archivist and historian in a career that spanned more than 50 years.
He was a founding member of the Catholic Telecommunications Network of America and in 1979 directed the Archbishop Sheen Center for Communications, producing Catholic television and radio programming. His wide variety of Catholic communications contributions include: newspaper editor, weekly columnist, books, magazine articles, radio, television, educational television, web content, online blogs, and social media.
— Ed Wilkinson, who took on the role of editor emeritus of The Tablet, diocesan newspaper of Brooklyn, New York, earlier this year. Wilkinson began as The Tablet’s sports reporter in 1970 and was named editor in 1985.
In 1995, his column anticipating the papal visit to New York led to a personal meeting with St. John Paul II. In 2016, the CPA honored Wilkinson with first place for best editorial page or editorial section. Wilkinson also produced the television segment “The Tablet Week in Review” for 18 years. In 2011, he became the news director for the daily news show, “Currents,” and four years later spearheaded live coverage of Pope Francis’s visit to Cuba and the U.S.
Earlier this year, Wilkinson won the St. Francis de Sales Distinguished Communicator Award at the Brooklyn Diocese’s celebration of the World Communications Day, May 9.
Last year’s St. Francis de Sales Award winner was Matt Schiller, outgoing CPA president and advertising and business manager of Catholic New York.
Previous St. Francis de Sales winners from Catholic News Service include: Tom Lorsung, editor-in-chief, (1995); Jerry Filteau, reporter (2003); John Thavis, Rome bureau chief, (2007); Tony Spence, editor-in-chief (2010) and Jim Lackey, web editor (2014).
Erlandson, current CNS editor-in-chief, won the award in 2015, a year before joining the news service.
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Contributing to this report were Cindy Wooden in Green Bay and Carol Zimmermann in Washington.