Council Resources

Meeting of Salesian Bulletin (SB) Editors, relaunching




Il Salesian Bulletin, a project of renewal and relaunching
SC Department

Notes: The title above is from the booklet which launched the renewal project in 1998, as is the content below except for the boxes  which contain updated comments when we reviewed the whole process of renewal in the light of the SSCS 2.0, or your questions.

The purpose of the exercise was to respond to a number of concrete problems, not by adding further ones but by suggesting approaches culled from best practice around the Salesian world at the moment. The questions are few in number and could be expanded. Along the way, this 'databank' of questions and responses could serve as a reminder, a stimulus, and an opportunity for new editors to learn....


Key pointers from the General Councillor

1. The Salesian Bulletin is ONE but with different expression due to geographical, cultural and historical diversity, but it is and remains the ONE Salesian Bulletin. This is why we seek criteria for unity within One Institution, One Mission and One SSCS'.

2. There is but ONE editor-in-chief (Don Bosco's Successor) who delegates and entrusts this task to Provincials and Editors in each Province, within one charism, mindset, mission and institution.

3. The SB finds its true meaning within an updated SSCS, involving a communications ecology which has arisen from the Mission carried out by the institution. Everything regarding internal and external institutional communication in the Congregation and the Province is brought together in a plan which is also connected with other projects and bodies in SC.

4. The SB is the media image which gives visibility to the institution, charism, Salesian mission... not just a specific work. Rectors distribute it not because they find an article about 'their community' in it, but because it is the Congregation and the mission they find there.

5. And finally, as part of initial and ongoing formation, there is the sense of participation, belonging and acceptance of who we are and what we do as a Salesian Institution. The SB represents us and gives us visibility within and beyond the Congregation: SF, Church, Society. Unity, a common way of thinking and an intelligent presentation of who we are and what we do becomes essential.


Key pointers from the 1998 relaunching of the SB

Editorial policy

The identity of a magazine is to be found in its editorial policy; the common objective of its various editions can be better pursued precisely by starting from a common editorial policy. Sharing an editorial policy, along with all the requirements of mediation and integration, is a guarantee of convergence through criteria and contents.
So in fact, how are things going in terms of editorial policy and in editorial process for the Bulletins? (because the answer to this influences other practical issues. Having an editorial policy which is a reference point gives the magazine greater security, convergence and possibilities for evaluation when it comes to adjusting to likely changing circumstances. And in fact it would be unthinkable for an editorial policy to have a long life. It needs reviewing every now and again so this particular journalistic product is ever more able to respond to the needs of the times).

Editorial staff and the way things function
  • A magazine is alive and has a guarantee of continuity if the editorial arrangements are well organised. This obviously does not mean that things won't work otherwise; but here the question is one of guaranteeing quality, innovation, the ability to meet the expectations of readers as well as guaranteeing adequate dissemination.


The editorial team – how often does it meet?
  • Here we think of regularity in terms of a meeting of the team every one, two, three months – at least that often!.


The makeup of the editorial team and its professional aspect
  • Does the team have people with preparation in some aspect of  journalism?


Writers and 'stringers'
  • A magazine does not only have an editorial team but a range of writers and stringers. Are the journalists amongst this group Salesians or members of the SF? Other lay people?


Network of people to provide info
  • Other than the usual writers, a magazine needs correspondents, people who offer information that enables you to cover a broad span of information of the kind that concerns the SB


Tools at the disposal of SB editors
  • A business type organisation needs appropriate tools, to facilitate efforts. Are you appropriately equipped in this regard? (phones, computers, mobiles...).



In the first survey carried out in 1998 those surveyed indicated that we have to think about financial support (at least most of them did), and were of the opinion that this sort of help was most useful fort SBs that are undergoing a processof renewal (since renewal often requires money) and essential for those who are really struggling financially

But what are the financial items most in need of consideration? The first is more technical in nature but obviously important for any kind of management of a magazine, given that the SB is a kind of business operation, so technical (equipment etc) items are important. A second aspect regards the objectives but is equally important, even though less controllable (e.g. SB as an investment). So we need a few reference points to help us evaluate how things are going and to know how to intervene in particular situations of need.

Costs and proceeds
  • What is the cost per copy? Costs involved with posting? What is the annual all-up cost of the SB and especially what is its income, if any? Does the SB Editor actually have this information? BEcause if not it would indicate the risk of compartmentalisation in the SB: those who look after the editing processes only while others see to finance and distribution.


Annual reporting
  • Good administrative management is based on an ability to draw up budgets and final balance, but this requires an efficient annual reporting process. It can happen that the final balance is out of kilter and quite unforeseen, which could indicate that the budget was not appropriate or financially viable.


SB as an investment
  • The SB however,  is not an investment just because it seems to have an immediate successful outcome. It should be seen also as an investment whose value cannot be calculated in immediate financially positive terms, but in terms of a whole slew of benefits we can derive at the level of "image",  "propaganda" for involving people in good works, for its cultural and educational leadership role: because it is good journalism, offers good ideas, is a journal or mag which is the 'most effective pulpit of all'. Fr Ceria in the Annals of the Society, tells us how Don Bosco thought of this aspect of things. At the beginning there was a fixed subscription of three lire a year, but Don Bosco asked them to drop it.



 (promotion, distribution, participation, publicity etc.)


Don Bosco to Bartolo Longo: "I send the Bulletin out to those who want it and to those who don't".


Guidelines on dissemination
  • Three sides to the problem: who receives it, problems, distribution factors.


Who receives it
  • The great majority of SB Editors believe the SB should reach the greatest number of readers possible beyond the Salesian Family


distribution difficulties
  • Financial – which occasionally leads to interruption in its circulation or at least to delays in regular printing
  • Another difficulty is that the content selects the readers and this means a limited readership – ut so much depends on layout and how the SB is presented, so this factor should not be a determining one.
  • The Salesians themselves are the ones who put a brake on the distribution process if they don't fully believe in the SB. This comes back to the time in formation, giving them a worldwide outlook in formation and strengthening their sense of belonging; helping them to understand the spirit and attention Don Bosco gave to information in and about his work.


circulation and distribution factors
  • What is the engine that drives distribution?

- better overall publicity (propaganda)  regarding the SB?
- a desirable product which arouses interest in receiving it and spreading it?
- affective investment on the part of the Salesians which can only happen if they don't feel left out, somehow; they must feel part of it?
- it is probably two things together: organisation and 'investment' on the part of confreres


  • Where is the SB distributed? In provinces and countries where the individual SBs are printed? They may also go to countries with the same language or to citizens from one country who live elsewhere.
  • Who is the SB sent to? Interesting to note that "the SB does not abandon those to whom Don Bosc himself wanted it to go to”: Cooperators, but he saw them more as people who would disseminate it than be the receivers themselves; for the the SB was a tool for formation and apostolate" (Fr Raineri). In the light of this clear interpretation we might also read R 41which describes the SB as a "Instrument of formation and a bond of unity" for the various SF Groups.
  • Open questions:  factors involved in distribution, who spreads the good news about the SB  and how: who is supposed to do this? Do we need publicity campaigns? How should they be managed?
  • One also needs to consider, for example, that the best propaganda might well be to make it a communication channel on educational matters, problems faced by the young, making some room for initiatives of young people, tackling current opinion.
  • For distribution and propaganda purposes the yearly calendar can be very useful: if it can be more than simply a traditional publication but succeed in being up to the mark aesthetically and for its message it can be meaningful 356 days of the year for the whole Salesian scene. The central issue undoubtedly is that Salesians and SF Groups take direct responsibility for using it and distributing it.



Key questions and responses from practising editors and their teams

Limitations: narrow range of writers and contributors?

The question is about opening up to a much wider range of contributions. In general it is felt that it is valuable to broaden the range of writers and contributions, but there are a number of ways of doing so.

  • use of freelance (paid according to financial capacity to do so)
  •  wider use of our own SB material around the world, and that has implications for keeping in close contact with all other editors and teams.
  • Articles or writers from elsewhere used with permission
  • interviews of certain individuals in fields of interest (sport, education, other experts)
  • Guest columnists, e.g. parents giving their point of view on issues, successful teachers who can demonstrate the effectiveness of the Preventive System

In general, responses indicate an openness and a necessity to be open, to contribution from outside the Salesian Family, given certain provisos such as sensitivity to or at least sympathy with our values and issues, and financial capacity to pay if that should be required.


Limitations regarding choice of topics?

We already know from earlier gatherings of SB editors, and recommendations from the Salesian 'magisterium' (such as Chapters, the Rector Major, SB animation from the 'centre') what the usual range of topic coverage is for the SB. The question focused more on whether we should tackle 'hot' public opinion issues, engage in theological debate etc.  Responses indicate:

  • it is essential to stay with the identity of the SB, but this does not necessarily rule out tackling a range of issues beyond our normal 'list' as long as they are tackled sensibly, with Salesian sensitivity, with a tendency towards pastoral rather than theological or theoretical response, and with the simplicity that marks out our Salesian style.
  • We are not a magazine that focuses mainly on reflection or theological debate but we do have a Salesian outlook on the world, Church, and engaging sensibly with issues, including 'hot' ones, can also serve to broaden readership and be a PR factor for us.
  • We should avoid polemics, however
  • Amongst our choice of topics, focus on the annual papal message is also part of our mission
  • When it comes to prominent issues with theological content, perhaps our role is more one of offering clarification for our ordinary readers who do not have a theological background, in order to tackle things from a pastoral perspective (including some of the more difficult areas that  we may occasionally have to face up to – example, the gay marriage debate, or contraception in the US at the time this comment was made)
  • We need to note the difference between the print and the digital versions: in the latter case articles and topics tend to be more diffuse, briefer.  It is the print edition that will suffer from limitation of choice in some instances – but that may also be to do with other factors (e.g. 4 editions a year and fewer pages means a more rigorous selection process!)


Open up to professional writers?

While SB editors around the world seem generally open to the idea of using professional writers, the following points were insisted on:

  • seek quality as distinct from 'professional', which means, in effect, that there could well be writers of quality amongst our usual contacts, and after all, it is the editor's (or editorial team's) responsibility to adjust, edit material according to his, her or their quality standards
  • if professional material is required, see this rather as an opportunity to form our own (confreres, SF members etc.) at a more professional level, including forming young writers
  • the obvious implication of the above is to work more consistently with 'Formation' (department or sector in the province) to encourage these skills [Note too writing for print and for digital involves both common and very different skills, and we need to form young writers in both]


Sustainability (financing)

Given that there were no specific questions on this (not stated explicitly, that is, even though every Editor and team has questions of the kind), the general points made in the 1998 booklet cited earlier in this summary continue to be valid.  However, a number of editors did make a contribution to this discussion either in the group or apart from it:

  • a good rapport with the provincial economer sounds obvious, but it is essential! The SB ought be backed and supported at an official level within the province and its overall planning.
  • New technologies offer us new opportunities, including in this way. The Netherlands (Joost Middelhoff) offers one possibility that now serves many Dutch parishes, by providing a module which allows parishes to develop their parish newsletter themselves online, then send it automatically to a common printing. They pay 49 cents a copy. It is technically efficient, fast and cost effective.  A similar scheme could be possible for the Salesian Bulletin in a determined area.
  • Attention needs to be given to ordinary financing opportunities, including subscriptions although most editors believe the SB should be distributed free) or donations
  • Marketing was not a central (nor even marginal!) discussion at the 2012 SB meeting, but it should be!  There are marketing possibilities, but they depend on the willingness to make initial investment.


Distribution, participation, advertising

It is common to hear that we face distribution issues around the world, expressed in various ways according to circumstances in the country or countries (everything from import duties because of national borders, to war zones).  But the most common problem is one found 'at home' and amongst us – a lack of distribution capacity for whatever motives, by Salesians or Salesian Family.  Responses to this include:

  • to get the Salesian Family more involved we need to be more proactive with them: ask them, write to them, invite them, but above all keep them informed.  Often we lament their lack of involvement but have not done our part in a positive way!
  • At the same time we need to realise that the SB belongs to Don Bosco and his successor. We should not lament lack of involvement, for example, of the FMA from the point of view that they should be taking an equal part in the SB. Why are there no FMA at our international SB meetings of editors? Because normally an FMA is not the Editor! It is as simple as that. If, however, in a province and by arrangement between both SDB and FMA provincials an FMA is appointed editor, then she would be here.
  • A strategy for Houses is to convince them of the PR value of the SB; they can be invited to share some of their own PR activity
  • Past Pupils need an approach adapted to them: in many places we have well-qualified past pupils who may be invited into closer cooperation as writers, and even as distributors.
  • It may be important to ensure that the SB team (editor or other) is at important meetings of the SF or even better, is a member of the SF Commission (consulta)
  • It can certainly be possible in many places to have an FMA on the editorial board, and this is to be encouraged.
  • If it is possible to spend time explaining the SB in the Houses of Formation, this needs to be pursued, to help form young Salesians to an idea of the Salesian Social Communication System and the place that the SB holds in it


Database and archives

  • At the very least, there should be adequate backup systems to avoid loss of material
  • Archiving is something that must take place within a team and its manner of working which involves coordinated approaches. Indeed, the SB team should work according to a policy of preservation of documentation, files (the SC Department can help with this on request, as it has elaborated such a policy that could be adapted to local needs)
  • Archiving needs to take into account both print (including photos) and digital (including the full multimedia range of digital objects)
  • A simple form of frequent contacts between SB Editors around the world can ensure good availability of material
  • The Congregation already offers the possibility of SDL (Salesian Digital Library) with three sections dedicated to the Salesian Bulletin: Bollettino Salesiano (Italian), Salesian Bulletins worldwide, Editors SB-BS.  Any digitised versions of the SB in any language, if sent to, can be included in its own right in the Salesian Bulletins worldwide section (and the Department will seek to provide an FTP access as well, if possible. Documentation about meetings or other material for formation of SB editors (such as this item you are reading now) can be found in the  Editors SB-BSsection. ANS and ImageBank are also important resources for SB Editors.



  • Feedback is clearly more possible in the case of digital versions
  • Print editions need to develop appropriate rubrics to encourage feedback
  • Any survey carried out to gauge reader interest and opinion  (and surveys of this kind from time to time are considered essential from time to time) should be well prepared
  • 'feedback' can take many forms, even including donations!
  • One useful form is a committee which acts as a 'sounding board' and can provide observations.

ROME 16-20 MAY 2012





Each SB will carefully follow the events over the next three years which involve the Church and, in conrete terms, the Congregation:

  1. 1. New Evangelisation, especially as it concerns young people and families.

Each editor with his editorial team

During the next 3 years

  1. 2. Spiritual preparation for GC 27, including running the Lectio Divina series that will be prepared for this.

Each editor with his editorial team

During the next 3 years

  1. 3. The Pilgrimage of Don Bosco's Casket in countries where it has not yet passed through.

Each editor with his editorial team

During the next 3 years

  1. 4. Project Europe, using models and actual testimonies, including the use of these in Bulletins beyond Europe.

Each editor with his editorial team

At least twice a year

  1. 5. Preparations for the Bicentenary history, pedagogy and spirituality. Encourage articles by specialists in popular journalistic language (e.g UPS, CRSFP Quito, local ones  …).

Department (SB Coordinator) to coordinate
Each editor with his team along with Provincial SC Delegate

During the next 3 years, with timely preparation by the local team


Earlier conclusions will be applied and brought to maturity:

  1. 6. The Web SB: with concern for its identity, its appropriate niche, its relationship with the print edition and target audience, decisively taking steps towards Web 2.0 and 3.0 and seeing that it is in line with the institutional web sites of the Congregation and the Provinces.

Each Editor with his editorial team and the Provincial SC Delegate
The Department ( SB) and SDB.ORG will cooperate

During the 3 years with help from professionals and in association with the Dept.

  1. 7. The Rector Major's Editorial will be carefully adapted to each one's target audience (It should never be omitted!).

The Dept (SB) will coordinate
Each Editor

Every month or according to the local publishing rhythm for the SB

  1. 8. Share the wealth of the individual editions of the One SB in the World, ensuring dialogue amongst editors, sharing links and sending the pdf version of the SB to other editors and to

Dept (SB) to coordinate, and SDB.ORG

Draw on the various web pages of the SB and

  1. 9. Improved animation by Salesians and SF for consciousness-raising about and spread of the SB beginning wiht Formation Houses.

Each Editor with the Provincial SC Delegate

During the next 3 years

  1. 10. Involve Provincial and his Council, Formation Houses by letting them know about the topics and conclusions of this 2012 meeting.

Each Editor and his editorial teamand the Provincial SC Delegate

During the next 3 years