From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

The Inland Register: Serving the Church in Eastern Washington since 1942

by Father Terence Tully, for the Inland Register

(From the Sept. 12, 2002 edition of the Inland Register)

  • Father Terence Tully founded the Inland Register shortly after his ordination in 1942. (IR file photo)
  • Father Tully was succeeded by Father (later Monsignor) John Donnelly. (IR file photo)

    (We begin our celebration of the Inland Register’s 60th anniversary with reminiscences and reflections from Father Terence Tully. Father Tully is the founding editor of the Inland Register. He continues to write for each issue of the IR, contributing articles on the Scouting programs and activities in the diocese and, despite his alleged retirement, continuing to serve as the diocese’s Scout chaplain.)

    Why celebrate birthdays and anniversaries? Among other reasons they show the person or institution is a survivor.

    The count of newspapers is not as high as it was decades ago. As a child I knew my family subscribed to three daily papers: The Spokane Press, the Spokane Daily Chronicle, and the Spokesman-Review – the Review being the lone survivor of the three. The Press was killed by the Great Depression, 1929 to 1936 or thereabouts. The Chronicle perhaps was done in by television advertising. As we all should know, advertising pays most of newspaper expenses.

    In 1942, when the Inland Register began publishing, television was a dream few persons thought possible. I bought my first TV set in 1955 when TV channels were few, did not run all night, and showed black and white pictures only, on a small screen.

    I think 1942 was in a golden age of newspaper advertising. Advertising paid so much of our cost that we could almost give the paper free of charge. In fact the Inland Register subscription price was one dollar per year.

    The Denver plant

    Originally the Inland Register was a member of the Register System of Catholic Newspapers, centered in Denver. A week or so before my ordination, a priest faculty member at my seminary told me I was to become editor of the Spokane Register. I did not take him seriously because I knew there was no such paper as the Spokane Register. But after ordination, when Bishop Charles D. White called me in to give me my first assignment, he told me of his plan to start a diocesan newspaper, to be produced in Denver by the Register System, and I was to be its editor. Then he asked me what I thought of this assignment. I told him that if I had not become a priest I might have become a news reporter. He was visibly pleased.

    But how did one become an editor with no experience and no training? He sent me to Denver. There I found the Register System was an old hand at making an editor out of greenhorns.

    Thirty-five other dioceses around the country had already been welcomed into the system and would transform me into an editor in 30 days. The trick was that most of the expertise stayed in Denver. If I sent them the raw news they would turn out a readable and attractive newspaper every week.

    Editor-in-chief of the Register System was Msgr. Matthew Smith, who used to say he had so much printer’s ink in his blood that he was not good for anything else.

    Originally he was a young reporter for a Denver daily newspaper. The diocesan paper of Denver, called the Denver Register, was struggling and about to be shut down when the diocese decided to hire young Smith as editor. He turned the Denver Register into a winner.

    After a while he founded a second paper, called the National Register, to be sold in bulk to churches around the country and made available at church doors on Sunday. Then a California bishop told Smith he would send Smith news of his diocese every week, to be printed as a section accompanying the national paper, and this package become the diocesan paper of that diocese. It worked. Dozens of other bishops followed suit, including Bishop White of Spokane.

    Meanwhile, Matthew Smith had decided to enter the Denver seminary and study for the priesthood. But he took no leave from the Register. Taxi rides each day enabled Smith to be student and editor in the years it took for priestly studies.

    By the time I arrived in Denver the many diocesan papers besides the national and the Denver diocesan paper/padded up to about half million copies weekly, mailed to subscribers. The papers did not go to a post office. Postal workers came to the Denver plant, applied addresses and carted them directly to railroad mail trains.

    “Awesome” is what young people today would call it.

    The Register editorial room was filled with writers, some of them priests, who rewrote the offerings from the many places. When the Inland Register got rolling I was miffed to read the improvements made in my editorials, but in general I was pleased with their work, especially headline writing.

    I was ever grateful for my 30 days in Denver. I was given the run of the place and encouraged to ask questions.

    The work of the writers was set in type by Linotype operators, reviewed by proofreaders, impressed onto mats which could be wrapped onto cylinder on the roaring presses, printing on endless strips of paper. Automatic cutters would cut the strips into pages and other automatic devices would assemble the pages to make each copy of the paper complete and ready to deliver. Pictures in the paper had been taken from photos and screened into tiny dots that could also be impressed on mats and so be inserted on the pages.

    Mysterious to me were the crews of men working on pages of 35 different papers without getting pages of the Inland Register sent to Texas or Ohio.

    In my 30 days of training, when I was not looking over the shoulders of writers or mechanics, I was in a study room, trying to read books on journalism. I must have learned but little. One thing I remember was caution about adjectives. I was told to select adjectives with the same care I would use in selecting a diamond or a mistress.

    I left Denver for Spokane, probably in early August. I hired a secretary and an advertising salesman. From the Denver plant came an expert ad salesman to train my salesman, with remarkable success. With television still years in the future, owners of shops, stores, car selling agencies, funeral homes, and other organizations were willing to put an ad in the brand-new Catholic paper. The ad man from Denver traveled to Walla Walla, Colville and other cities to sell ads and teach our local man.

    Msgr. Smith came to Spokane in 1955 for the funeral of Bishop White, whom he knew as a loyal friend.

    A change

    New bishop, different ideas. Bishop Bernard Topel succeeded Bishop White. He wanted his paper to be produced locally. After he ordained John Donnelly as a priest he sent him to the University of Missouri to earn a master’s degree in journalism. Eventually the Inland Register (retaining its original name) severed connections with the Register System, and began to be produced completely in Spokane as it is now.

    But a curious development put me back into the position of editor, for a while, replacing the new editor, Father Donnelly.

    Blessed Pope John XXIII brought about the most important religious event of the 20th Century: the Second Vatican Council, a gathering of the world’s Catholic bishops to update the liturgy and other teachings and practices of the Church.

    The U.S Catholic bishops selected Father John Donnelly to work for four years in Rome helping the secular press report on the Council. The Council affected religion everywhere. Protestant and Orthodox leaders were invited to be observers as the Council did its work in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. They did not speak at the sessions but they had much to say at coffee breaks and probably had an important effect on the Council, as the Council had an effect on other denominations.

    Father Donnelly returned from the Council after the Council ended in the mid 1960s.

    The Inland Register changed, as did the rest of the Church. It became a news magazine, no longer a newspaper, and I like the changes. It is more open to different viewpoints, especially in letters to the editor. The editor is not a priest; he is one of our deacons, who are ordained clergy not found in my days with the Register. The editor, Deacon Eric Meisfjord, I must thank for the invitation to write in this 60th anniversary issue. Besides his position as editor Deacon Meisfjord is also diocesan director of communications, including the use of radio, television, video and sound recording, and operation of the diocesan web site and the expertise for using the Internet.

    Perhaps by way of contrast, Msgr. Smith in the 1940s and 50s arranged for teachers at the Denver seminary to teach theology to Register writers.

    Value to diocese

    I think the Inland Register has kept pace with the times, and is preparing us for our role in this year of war clouds, shock, scandal, and for whatever the unknown future may bring.

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