Our Sunday Visitor, our award-winning flagship publication, is by far the largest-circulating national Catholic weekly newspaper in the United States.
Our proud history began in 1912 in Huntington, Ind., when Father (later Archbishop) John F. Noll founded Our Sunday Visitor newspaper in response to a proliferation of anti-Catholic publications, most famously “The Menace.” Father Noll’s purpose was to educate Catholics in their faith so as to empower them to respond to questions about Catholic beliefs and practices as well as to live their faith as Catholics within the secular environment.
Anti-Catholic bigotry has become more subtle since Father Noll’s early days, but OSV’s aims remain generally the same: We help Catholics to understand the news, challenges and cultural trends of our day from an authentically Catholic perspective. Seeing the world through the eyes of the Catholic faith and in harmony with the magisterium of the Church ennobles us to serve as effective witnesses to our faith in the workplace, in the schools, in the public square, and within our own homes and families.
OSV thus serves as a kind of “defogging agent” — clarifying the confusion present in the mixed messages received amid the rapid changes in technology, shifting contemporary moral viewpoints and political rhetoric. This apostolate is summarized in our tagline as we strive to provide “Catholic Clarity in a Complex World.”
Although the majority of our content is generated on assignment by our core contributors, we welcome and consider all freelance contributions, whether offered by query or unsolicited manuscript.
Here’s a quick summary of what we are looking for:
- News analysis — not merely news reporting — pertaining to the Catholic Church in the United States and throughout the world.
- Features linked to the current events and trends of the day.
- Faith-based articles that take advantage of the “catechetical moments” derived from the daily headlines and the liturgical year.
- Sound, reader-friendly, well-crafted presentation packages that engage and draw the reader more deeply into the text.
Here’s what we generally are not looking for:
- Articles written in the first person.
- Long, academic or preachy commentaries.
- Features with no real link to Catholic faith or sensibilities.
- Straight news reporting, especially on strictly local events.
- Articles designed to publicize a future event.
- Short stories, whether fiction or non-fiction.
Specific OSV submission categories
OSV’s content is sectioned into several regular categories (News Analysis, News Briefings, In Focus, Faith, Perspectives) and several recurring categories (Trends, Family, Media, Heritage, Profile, Conversation, Essay).
NEWS ANALYSIS: Provides the “second-day” perspective on the critical events of the day. We get behind the news to examine its implications and applications from a Catholic point of view. The writer must exercise a degree of journalistic clairvoyance: What angle and developments will be relevant to the reader two weeks hence? These articles usually involve investigative interviews and prudent use of sources to get to the heart of the issue at hand. Generally 950-1,100 words (including sidebars), but occasionally run as short as 500 words or as long as 2,000 words.
NEWS BRIEFINGS: These items are edited from wire services and do not present an opportunity for freelance submissions.
IN FOCUS: This four-page pull-out section is at the heart of OSV. Planned many weeks in advance, the In Focus section takes a particular topic of contemporary interest and examines it thoroughly within a package of articles. One In Focus section each month is devoted to a series on “What the Church Teaches and Why.” In Focus sections comprise a package of articles totaling 3,000-4,000 words written by one or several authors.
FAITH: An intentionally broad topic that can range from weighty issues of belief to methods of enhancing one’s prayer life to a discussion of parish “best practices” in a given area of ministry. It should always result in a suggestion for further exploration through an “action plan” or sources for additional information. The package, including sidebars, can reach 1,100 to 1,300 words.
PERSPECTIVES: Primarily an outlet for comment by OSV’s editors and columnists, there are no opportunities here for compensated submissions. Letters to the editors and responses to our OSV Reader Poll are always welcome, however.
TRENDS: Here we look at the observed religious, cultural or statistical swings and provide context from a faith perspective: What is behind this particular trend? What are its advantages and pitfalls? What are Catholics to make of it? What ought or can we do about it? What does it say about the direction of our culture as a whole? Aim for 600 to 750 words.
FAMILY: This topic area can explore issues involving parents, grandparents, children, marriage, couples, and the family as a whole. In practical terms, how should we apply our faith to family life, to the interpersonal relationships therein? Word count: 600 to 750 words.
MEDIA: Analysis of trends in the entertainment and news industry, book and film reviews, the Internet and related topics comprise the content for this recurring section. Word count: 600 to 750 words.
HERITAGE: Here we revisit key moments in Catholic history, recall the inspiring examples of holy men and women in the Church, or survey some of the grand sites and stories that reflect our Catholic past. Word count: 500 to 750 words.
CONVERSATION: This section takes two forms: Question-and-answer-format interviews with selected personalities and roundups of reader comment on topics of particular interest. Our interviews require an introductory paragraph or two that sets the background and the speaker’s credentials for the discussion that follows. All told, these interviews can run 500 to 1,200 words in their edited form.
PROFILE: Here we examine a particular person, place or organization that serves as an example of Catholic faith in action. What benefit can readers draw from hearing this story? The purpose here is not so much to honor the individual or group as to inspire by its example. Word count: 500 to 750 words.
ESSAY: OSV does not have a “guest column” per se, but occasionally we use a reader’s commentary under the Essay heading. This represents the very limited opportunity for a longer opinion piece or first-person narrative. It must have a point to make and succeed at making it succinctly, keeping the facts firmly in mind and avoiding a shrill, ranting or uncharitable tone. Word count: 500 to 750 words.
Characteristics of a viable OSV article
All OSV entries should be:
- Tightly written. We have limited space for editorial copy, so we don’t need excessively breezy articles. Get to the point, express it clearly, and draw the necessary conclusions.
- Cleanly written. We have the best editors in the Catholic press, but we don’t need to be spending our time correcting basic grammatical and spelling errors.
- Timely. Your story should be more than simply generically inspirational or informative. It should tie it in to some news or current trend that makes it more relevant today. In other words, have a reason for bringing up the subject.
- Objective. Follow basic journalistic ethics and exhibit professional skills. This doesn’t mean we boil everything down to a “he said/she said” approach, however: The Church’s teaching or official position must come through. However, we deal with all issues with a sense of charity, justice and a responsibility to proclaim the faith.
- Instructive. Generally, this must be done in a subtle, non-preachy way. Features particularly should inspire readers and motivate them to actively apply the faith to their daily lives.
- Faithful. The teachings of the Catholic Church as reflected in its catechism, as well as the statements and teachings of the popes and the bishops of the United States on doctrinal, moral and social-justice issues must be respected.
How to submit queries
A query — a solicitation or “pitch” to write a particular article on a particular topic and angle — can be sent to us via e-mail or postal mail. Clearly state your objective, outline the expected article and commit to how quickly you can have it in. You might attach clips of your past work for us to review as well if you have not written for OSV previously.
Writers with whom we are not familiar may be asked to produce article “on spec” (“on specification”) — meaning that we’ll be glad to read your finished product, but without any commitment to purchase it.
When submitting a query by e-mail, always put the word QUERY in the subject line. This will help us sort the story pitches from the daily flood of e-mail so that your query does not get lost and can be answered more promptly. We generally respond within 4-6 weeks, sooner when possible.
How to submit unsolicited manuscripts
You may send a manuscript without an advance query via either e-mail or postal mail to the attention of OSV Editor.
Include your name, mailing address, telephone number and e-mail address. Social Security Number is needed for U.S. citizens in case we purchase your article, but you can phone that in to us later if you have security concerns.
Always indicate what rights are being offered and whether the manuscript has been submitted or published in any other publication or website – even if it’s just another version of the article.
Send a cover letter extolling the virtues of the article and its relevance as well as your qualifications to write it. Add a resume or other samples of your writing if you prefer. We request all documents be attached in Microsoft Word format, although rich text, plain text or even pasting the article directly into the e-mail message is also acceptable.
When submitting by e-mail, always include the word MANUSCRIPT in the subject line. This will help us sort the manuscripts from the daily flood of e-mail so that your article does not get lost and can be answered more promptly.
We generally respond within 4-6 weeks, sooner when possible.
Things we’d rather not spell out….
Because not all of our would-be freelance writers are trained journalists, we must state the following criteria more clearly:
- Don’t plagiarize. All articles must be original work of the author. Its content must not have been previously published, in whole or in part, whether in print, broadcast, Internet or electronic form, even by the author himself. If a piece has been so published and there is a compelling reason to offer it to OSV, or if what is being offered is a version of a previously published article, this information must be divulged at the outset.
- Familiarize yourself with OSV first. Every publication has its own unique “flavor” and style. Even the best writers’ guidelines can’t fully express the kind of voice, flow and format the editors are seeking. Subscribe to OSV for several weeks to get a better feel for what we are trying to do.
- Follow the submission guidelines closely. If you don’t write the subject line as we request, your e-mail risks getting lost in our system. Without an SASE or cover letter, we may not reply if the piece is not accepted. Lacking a clear statement that you are offering first rights, we may be led to believe it is a simultaneous submission and reject it out of hand. Take the time to provide the information and tools we require upfront.
- We respond to freelance queries and unsolicited manuscripts within 4 to 6 weeks of receipt.
- We pay writers within 4 weeks of acceptance.
- We generally follow the Catholic News Service 2005 Stylebook (available through www.cns.com) and the current Associated Press Stylebook. For scriptural citations, we generally use the New American Bible.
- We comply with the Fair Publishing Practices Code of the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada. We expect freelance writers to do the same. For a complete copy of this code, visit www.catholicpress.org.
- For a sample copy of OSV, send $2 (payable to OSV) and a 10-inch by 13-inch SASE with 93 cents in postage affixed.
OUR ADDRESS: Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750.
OUR PHONE: 800-348-2440
OUR E-MAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org