WASHINGTON, D.C. — The coronavirus pandemic has forced the cancellation of the 2020 Catholic Media Conference, originally scheduled for June 29-July 2 in Portland, Oregon.

J.D. Long-Garcia, president of the Catholic Press Association, sponsor of the conference, said that despite the cancellation, conference planners are assembling a virtual gathering that will tackle topics of concern to church publications stemming from the pandemic.

Several factors led to the decision, Long-Garcia told Catholic News Service.

“Particularly with the financial impact on the church and diocesan publications, it became clear we were going to have to cancel. And a number of dioceses have put in travel restrictions,” he said.

“With all those considerations and the safety of our members, of course, and the reality of finances being down, it was being very unrealistic to put a conference together in late June this year,” he said.

Canceling the event was “a very sad thing for us and our members to do,” Long-Garcia added. “We’ve never canceled a conference before. It’s definitely an unprecedented time all around including within the association.”

Planning for the virtual conference is being led by Amy Kawula, advertising and marketing manager of The Compass, newspaper of the Diocese of Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin. While some of the original speakers will be part of the event, others from various areas of journalistic and communications expertise also will lead the online sessions.

Topics will be related to the current situation surrounding the pandemic, Long-Garcia said.

“We’re going to tailor the conference to try to meet people’s needs right now: what it’s like during the pandemic, financial issues, circulation questions, advertising being down,” he explained.

Information on the virtual sessions will be publicized in June.

In announcing the cancellation of the in-person conference, the CPA said all room reservations automatically will be canceled with no penalties or fees for attendees who made reservations. In addition, all sponsorship payments will be refunded. All refunds will be made by the end of June, the CPA said.

The annual Catholic media awards presentation is moving forward as if CMC20 were being held and the Catholic Journalist newspaper will publish the names of award winners as it has in previous years.

Meanwhile, plans are continuing on CMC21 in Baltimore next year and Long-Garcia said conference planners are looking to bring the conference to Portland in 2022.