New Editor-in-Chief Shannon Mullen Welcomes Opportunity to Hone Register’s Journalistic Edge

Shannon Mullen spent 33 years at the Asbury Park Press in New Jersey, and comes to the Register via Catholic News Agency.

The Register's new editor-in-chief, Shannon Mullen
The Register's new editor-in-chief, Shannon Mullen (photo: EWTN News / EWTN)

Shannon Mullen is the National Catholic Register’s new editor-in-chief. 

A Pulitzer-Prize finalist with 33 years of experience reporting, editing and mentoring colleagues at the Asbury Park Press in New Jersey, Mullen’s national journalism honors include a first place award from the National Press Club, finalist for the Goldsmith Investigative Reporting Award and a first place award from the Deadline Club for New York Metro Media. 

In 2021, Mullen left secular media to take up new duties as editor-in-chief of Catholic News Agency, the English-language wire service of EWTN News, where he managed CNA’s reporting for its syndicated news service while fostering greater collaboration with the Register.

During a Jan. 30 interview with Register senior editor Joan Frawley Desmond, Mullen discussed his faith, the impact of EWTN founder Mother Angelica on his marriage and decision to adopt four children, as well as his decision to work at the heart of Catholic journalism.

He also addressed challenges facing the Register, and his plans for strengthening its coverage, especially in the area of investigative reporting. 


You grew up in New Jersey and worked for most of your journalistic career at the Asbury Park Press on the Jersey Shore. What was it like to hang out in Bruce Springsteen’s adopted hometown?

Asbury Park is a terrific Jersey Shore town that fell on hard times but has happily experienced a dramatic renaissance. Bruce doesn’t live there but he’s still in the area and the Press is still his hometown newspaper, so you would have thought that having worked there for more than 30 years I would have met him, but no. Maybe I’ll get to interview him about his Catholic faith for the Register — there is a lot to cover there.


Tell us about your family?

I’m one of five children in an Irish-Catholic family. Each of us received a Catholic education. Before raising a family, my mom worked for a modeling agency in New York City as a young woman — she was on the cover of Life and many of the big fashion magazines of the day. My dad had a long career as a senior executive with Johnson & Johnson, and he played an instrumental role in the company’s widely praised response to the Tylenol poisoning scare in 1982 while I was still in high school. We are a big Notre Dame family: My father and all four of my siblings went there. I went to Duke, which makes me the black sheep in the family. 


Who is your patron saint? 

My patron saint is St. Patrick, so I have an affinity for him and for Ireland in general. Growing up, though, Pope John Paul II had a major influence on me. He inspired me to take my Catholic faith more seriously, and as a young reporter I always looked forward to his annual remarks to journalists on World Communications Day. I read his books and encyclicals, which motivated me to discover more about the Church and the Catholic faith than I’d learned in school. 


You were editor-in-chief of your high school and college newspapers. Did you always want to be a journalist?

I always loved writing, and as a teenager I tagged along with my dad on a business trip to the Republican Convention in Detroit where Ronald Reagan was nominated for president. Being 15 at the time, I found the speeches only mildly interesting and my attention kept shifting to all the reporters on press row. I remember watching them write their stories and thinking, “Hmm, that’s pretty cool,” so I suppose that planted a seed.


During your 33 years at the Asbury Park Press, you worked as an investigative reporter, news editor and mentor to other reporters. What duties did you enjoy most, and what stories are you most proud of? 

I did pretty much everything at the Press. I started as a summer intern, mailroom clerk and part-time obituary writer before I eventually got hired as a reporter. I even wrote a beer column for the food section. I spent a lot of my early career going to city council meetings and school board meetings and covering local news. What attracted me to journalism, though, was being able to tell great stories in a creative way. My favorite assignments involved working with photographers on long-form narrative feature stories. That eventually led to a role on the investigative projects team. 


As a Catholic, did you yearn to cover more specifically religious stories? 

Not exactly, though I definitely was quick to volunteer to cover John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Pope Francis when they came to the tri-state area. But I think my faith did shape the types of stories I was drawn to. I spent time in a homeless camp with a photographer for a story about life in a “tent city,” and I did an investigative series on the horrific living conditions we found inside New Jersey’s subsidized rental housing program, for example. 

One of the stories I’m most proud of was about an elderly local man who suffered a head injury in a fall outside his home who wound up needing a legal guardian. He fully recovered but was still trapped in this incredibly dysfunctional guardianship system that stripped him of all his rights. He couldn’t vote, pay his bills or return to his home. Through our reporting, we got his rights restored, and he was able to return to his home and lead a normal life. The common thread running through those stories, I think, is the Catholic view of the dignity of every person.


In 2021, you left secular media to become editor-in-chief of Catholic News Agency, and on Jan. 31, EWTN Chairman and CEO Michael Warsaw announced that you would take up new duties as editor-in-chief of the National Catholic Register. What led you to make this career shift?

I’ve always admired EWTN, and Mother Angelica played a pivotal role in my adult life and in my marriage. My wife Eileen and I will celebrate our 35th anniversary this year and we have four wonderful children we adopted. It was Mother Angelica’s idea of radical trust in God’s providence that gave us the courage to go on that journey, and we will always be indebted to her for the unbelievable blessings that have come to our family. So, naturally, being a fan of EWTN and a die-hard journalist, I was very interested by the opportunity to work for CNA.


What are some differences you’ve observed moving from secular media to Catholic news?

There was one difference I noticed immediately. On my first day at CNA, at the stroke of noon, everyone got up and went to a corner of the room to pray the Angelus before a statue of the Blessed Mother, and later that week we had Mass in the office. I knew right away that this was not the sort of newsroom I was used to.

The other big difference has to do with investigative reporting. At my newspaper, our investigative projects were driven by public records; all our interviews and other reporting flowed from that. I’m thinking of one story where I was able to use public records from the New Jersey Lottery to show that lottery agents and their relatives were winning the lottery at what turned out to be a statistically improbable rate. It’s much different reporting on the Catholic Church. The Church produces a ton of documents, of course, but for the most part those aren’t public records. That makes it much more of a challenge to do that kind of deeper reporting.


What will you focus on in your new role at the Register?

The Register already has a team of seasoned journalists in place and has a long history of doing outstanding work. First and foremost, I want to continue and strengthen the Register’s unique culture of faithful excellence. Beyond that, there are certain best practices and advanced reporting skills I’ve learned from the secular media business that I can help instill here. It’s also important to me to develop our ability to do more long-form features and deeper investigative reporting. And I want to keep looking for opportunities to tell great stories, particularly ones about ordinary Catholics doing extraordinary things to spread the Good News and bring people into a closer relationship with Jesus, because ultimately the Register’s mission is as much evangelistic as it is journalistic.

National Catholic Register editor in chief Shannon Mullen

Shannon Mullen and Jonathan Liedl (Feb. 11)

The Register has a new editor in chief. EWTN announced last month that Shannon Mullen will lead the 95-year-old National Catholic Register. Shannon joins us to talk about his dedication to journalism and his mission in Catholic media. Jeanette and Matthew also talk with Register Senior Editor Jonathan Liedl about the highlights of his recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land and the ongoing strife in the region. And finally, we take another look at conflicting concepts of synod that continue to cause tension in the Church.

Shannon Mullen, Editor-in-Chief of CNA

Meet CNA’s New Editor-in-Chief, Shannon Mullen (July 31)

A new era has begun at the Catholic News Agency even as the news cycle continues to bring challenging stories both inside the Church and around the world. This week on Register Radio, we get to know Shannon Mullen, the new editor-in-chief of CNA. And then, we are joined by the Register’s Washington Correspondent, Lauretta Brown, to catch up on the latest pro-life news from the nation’s capital.

Shannon Mullen, Editor-in-Chief of Catholic News Agency.

EWTN’s Catholic News Agency Names Shannon Mullen as Editor-in-Chief

“As a young newspaper reporter, I drew great inspiration from Pope John Paul II’s annual remarks on World Communications Day,” Mullen said adding, “He emphasized that even those in the secular media could serve as apostles in the cause of human dignity, justice and the pursuit of truth."