As far as I can understand it, Parish Priests get sent quantities of papers like the Catholic Times, the Universe (and The Suppository ?) without asking; the ones that are sold they pay for, and the rest they neither pay for nor send back, but simply have – in due course – to arrange for the disposal of . . . often at a cost to them.
Now; this may result in a number of things, some of which (the issue of recycling, for instance) do not seem to be of tremendous importance . . . but it does seem to me to be very important to ensure that, as Fr Ray commented recently, the real reader figures are known, so that those who are considering advertising in them (which is presumably the bulk of the funding for them) know exactly what the real audience for their adverts is.
I’m not suggesting, let me make it clear, that anyone is deliberately – or even culpably – misleading anyone about this; because for all sorts of reasons I can see that this could be a legitimate problem.
However : I think that there is one very simple thing that, at the cost of a very modest amount of effort and money, Parish Priests could do to secure general knowledge of realistic figures . . . with whatever knock-on effect that knowledge has.
Simply return the unsold copies to the publisher each week, together with a clear request for them to reduce the number of copies they send you to a realistic figure – suggesting, for instance, that you are not prepared to dispose of more than 10% of those received.
Further, record how many copies you receive, sell, and return . . . and display that information near the papers, as well as notifying the publishers of these figures.
Finally, simply eliminate from your racks any paper which sells less than (say) 10 copies a week : the space can be better used for other things, and people who really want those papers can always subscribe to them directly . . .
If every Parish Priest did that . . . even if only every traditionally-minded Parish Priest did that . . . within say three months, six at most, the reality would be widely known, and any papers which weren’t seen as valuable would have gone where they probably belong : into oblivion . . . but in any event, the advertisers wouldn’t be supporting them on the basis of a misapprehension.
May I say, incidentally, that this idea came into my head from reading a post on Linen on the Hedgerow, a fairly new blog to which my attention was drawn by Mac of Mulier Fortis in her post last night about her new kittens . . . so an appreciative nod to both of them.