The Catholic Academy of Communication Professionals has agreed to merge into the Catholic Press Association sometime later this year.
As part of the merger agreement, the CPA will "consider a name or brand identification change," according to a Jan. 30 letter sent to CPA and Catholic Academy members signed by their respective presidents.
"While the name Catholic Press Association is more than 100 years old, the convergence of print, video and electronic media channels limits the CPA identity to print only," added the letter, signed by CPA president Matt Schiller and Catholic Academy president David Hains.
News of the merger also appeared in the February issue of The Catholic Journalist, the CPA's monthly newspaper.
The Catholic Academy had originally been known as the Catholic Broadcasters Association at its founding more than 60 years ago. It adopted the name Unda-USA -- "unda" being the Latin word for "wave," as in radio and television waves -- in 1972, as an affiliate of the Vatican-sanctioned Unda-World. The Unda moniker remained until 2002, when it formally changed its name to the Catholic Academy, also encompassing film, as had its international parent, known as Signis.
The organization's membership has shifted over the years to where public relations directors for dioceses and large Catholic organizations now constitute a majority. There are about 130 Catholic Academy members, as opposed to about 750 CPA members. According to CPA executive director Tim Walter, about 30 people are members of both groups.
Hains, communications director for the Diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina, told Catholic News Service that initial merger talks began in the 1990s when Helen Osman, then editor of the Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Diocese of Austin, Texas, was CPA president. Conversations intensified in the current decade, but Hains cited "an inertia on the part of some folks in the organization who kind of liked the way things were." However, the Catholic Academy board approved the merger.
Ties between the two organizations grew closer, as what had been known as the CPA's annual convention is now the Catholic Media Conference with both bodies organizing it and the members of both bodies participating.
"We began to look at our membership numbers, and we had similar categories as members," said Schiller, advertising and business manager for Catholic New York, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New York.
"We had overlapping and very compatible (membership) categories, we had CPA journalism awards, and the Catholic Academy does the Gabriel awards. Again, we were sort of honoring our members in similar fashion, and publications now have websites, and reporters are shooting video on assignments," Schiller told CNS, adding the merger was "caused as much by technology as by anything else."
"In general, everyone that I've talked to on the CPA board is enthused about this," Walter said. "We've received very positive comments from these members about this change." He noted it wasn't a merger in the business or legal sense, but a "welcoming" of Catholic Academy members into the CPA.
"As David said, we can probably accomplish more as one organization than as two separate units," Walter added. "We hope to learn some things from Academy members and ... they'll be able to learn from our members." The CPA will administer the Catholic Academy's webinar program and expand its offerings to benefit current CPA members.
The Gabriel Awards honoring radio and television will continue to be administered this year by the Catholic Academy. Next year, it will be folded into the CPA's awards program, which encompasses newspaper, magazine, newsletter, book and student journalism awards. The CPA in recent years has added more awards for videos made by its member publications.
The Catholic Academy's archives have been shipped to Marquette University in Milwaukee, and staffer Sue West will continue as an adviser to the Gabriel Awards post-merger.