Spence resigns as Catholic News Service’s editor-in-chief

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WASHINGTON — Tony Spence has left his position as director and editor-in-chief of Catholic News Service, a post he held since 2004.

Spence’s years at CNS “marked significant contributions to the Catholic press,” said James L. Rogers, chief communications officer for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He said the search process for a successor would begin immediately. In the interim, Rogers has assumed Spence’s administrative duties.

Tony Spence, who has resigned as director and editor-in-chief of Catholic News Service, accepts the 2010 St. Francis de Sales award Jduring the Catholic Media Convention in New Orleans. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)
Tony Spence, who has resigned as director and editor-in-chief of Catholic News Service, accepts the 2010 St. Francis de Sales award Jduring the Catholic Media Convention in New Orleans. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

As head of CNS, Spence oversaw the work of its Washington staff, its Media Reviews office in New York City, its Rome bureau and a cadre of stringers around the world.

CNS is the oldest and largest English-language religious news organization in the world. During Spence’s tenure, CNS formed global partnerships with Salt+Light Television in Canada, Bayard Presse and other Catholic press agencies in Europe, Africa and Asia. Those partnerships have helped CNS reach even more English- and Spanish-speaking Catholic news and media consumers around the world.

As head of CNS, he also helped two other agencies get off the ground: Presence religious news service in Montreal and a Catholic news service for Africa based in Nairobi, Kenya.

Immediately before joining CNS, Spence was executive director of Advancement Communications at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, where he oversaw an assortment of publications, as well as a website, some fundraising and speechwriting. He also coordinated much of the university’s science and research communication. Before that, he had been director of alumni publications at the university.

Spence, 63, was editor-in-chief and general manager of the Tennessee Register Inc., which publishes the Tennessee Register, newspaper of the Nashville diocese, from 1989 to 1998. Before that, he was associate editor and managing editor at the newspaper. He also served as the diocese’s communications director in 1992-98.

A longtime member of the Catholic Press Association of the U.S. and Canada, he was the association’s president from 1994 to 1996 and oversaw the establishment of the Catholic Advertising Network and the Catholic Press Foundation. He also was a co-founder of the Appalachian Press Project of Kentucky and Tennessee, chaired the CPA’s liaison committee with CNS in 1997-98 and organized the association’s 1998 convention.

He also served on the USCCB’s communications committee and on its subcommittee for planning, which devised the conference’s strategic plan for communications, adopted in 1997. In addition, Spence was a member of the advisory board for the Catholic Communication Campaign.

In 2006, Spence was named to a five-year term as a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. He is currently president of SIGNIS North America and on the board of directors of SIGNIS International.

In 2010, during the annual Catholic Media Convention in New Orleans, Spence received the CPA’s St. Francis de Sales Award, known as the Frannie. It is the highest award the CPA presents to an individual for “outstanding contributions to Catholic journalism.”

In accepting the honor, Spence told the crowd at the award luncheon that when Msgr. Owen Campion gave him his first Catholic press job at the Tennessee Register, “I thought I would give it a year.”

“It hardly took that long to realize it was much more than a job,” he added. “It was a vocation. And one I truly love.”

In his remarks, Spence thanked his colleagues in the Catholic press for sharing his “love of this vocation.”

“Remember that every day, every single day, you make a difference in the lives of your readers, your listeners, your viewers and your students,” he said. “You have made a tremendous difference in mine.”