EXCLUSIVE: Q and A with John-Henry Westen, Co-Founder of LifeSiteNews.comJuly 30, 2011 No Comments
Success & Faith, an inspirational series published in Maria News Magazine, is pleased to present a Q and A with LifeSiteNews.com co-founder, John-Henry Westen.
How did Life Site News get started?
For my part, I came to join the pro-life movement in what I feel was a direct call from God. I had graduated from the University of Toronto with an M.A. in child clinical psychology and had a scholarship to do the PhD. However, I did not feel called to go on [with my education]. Newly married, I assured my then Protestant wife that St. Joseph would surely find me work. The year was 1995 and we were visiting my in-laws at their summer cottage. I attended daily Mass and was able to say a rather lengthy thanksgiving after Holy Communion. When I was ready to go, the Church was normally deserted. This one day however, when I looked up there was a young woman in my isle with a head-covering. The priest came by and introduced us. She was waiting for me on the steps of the Church and the very first thing she said to me was “Do you have a job?” I was dumb-struck for a moment, knowing that what ever was going on was from God. “Um, well no,” I replied. “Good,” she said. “I have a job for you.”
She told me that Canada’s pro-life newspaper needed people to sell the paper and gave me contact information for the paper’s distribution manager. I didn’t stop to consider the circumstances but instead raced back to my in-laws to blast to my wife the amazing news of God’s call for me to this new work. Reality set in rather quickly when I informed my wife of the position. “You mean to tell me you gave up seven years of post-secondary education and a PhD scholarship so you could become a paper boy?” she told me with evident displeasure. However, as I felt this was a call from God, I set about trying to sell subscriptions to the paper, with a relatively small readership of some 30,000 across Canada. In the week before my interview I was able to sell only five subscriptions, which would have garnered me some $50 in commission. Nevertheless, I drove the three hours to Toronto for my interview and after it was done, I was asked if I’d like to meet Jim Hughes, the National President of Campaign Life Coalition, the largest pro-life group in the country.
It was a strange first meeting. As I approached Jim (he was at the back of a local restaurant at the time) he didn’t look at all pleased with seeing me. When I got to him his first words to me were “What the hell is this?” as he tossed onto the table a bunch of papers. I looked down to see my resume, and so I replied to that effect. “Are you for real?!,” was his only reply as he picked up and began to leaf through the papers. He read off my credentials, my academic awards and scholarships, my having worked as a researcher at University of Toronto, University of Ottawa, and for a short stint at the University of Florence in Italy, and then said with obvious mistrust, something to the effect of “all of this and you want to sell the paper for us?”
As he walked me back to his office, he explained that I could, in fact, work for him, but I would definitely not be selling the paper. He set me on to research projects of various kinds, an area where I was most comfortable as that had been my main occupation in my educational career. Those research reports were conducted first in libraries then on the Internet and sent out via email and as their frequency increased they became a regular email, Campaign Life Coalition News or CLC News it was called.
In 1997, one of Jim’s closest associates at CLC, Steve Jalsevac was asked to do a website for the organization and so LifeSite was born. My CLC News became the news section of the LifeSite webpage and was a sort-of under the mast-head of The Interim – the pro-life newspaper I was told to sell. Years later as the news became the main focus of the website and grew wildly in popularity, LifeSiteNews emerged as its own entity eventually separating from Campaign Life Coalition and The Interim. It is now separately incorporated both in Canada and the United States, with offices and staff in both nations. Additionally LifeSiteNews has reporters in Rome, Mexico and France.
How many page views does the site get per month? Where are your readers from?
Just last month we had 927,346 page views, so we at nearly 1 million per month. In this past year we had readers from 225 different countries. While over half of our readers are in the U.S. and one fifth from Canada, we are quite popular in the UK, Australia, the Philippines, Ireland, India, Italy, Germany, and Brazil.
What kind of a role does faith play in your daily and business lives?
Faith is the whole reason for my life as I see it. It serves as my rock of stability. I go to Jesus through Mary since this was the means of my conversion to Christ – St. Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary. The Rosary is also a daily practice for me as it is a beautiful meditation on the life of Christ through the eyes of His Mother. I am blessed to be able to attend Mass daily which I feel is nearly a necessity for me, it unites me with my Savior without Whom I would already be doomed to hell. Also prayer is a daily guide for all the staff at LSN we begin every meeting and conference call with prayer. I regularly encourage the staff to keep Christ first and foremost in this work, and they remind me too.
How do you juggle the responsibilities of business and family?
That is tough. I have a large and young family and very demanding work. I work from home and my work is also my hobby, so I spend what would normally be commuting time and hobby time at this. Also, My family is part of my work; we often use my trips away to conferences or speaking engagements as “family vacations.” We have very often “camped,” all nine of us, in a single hotel room, where the children have a pool for entertainment, meals, and Mass all in the same place.
At home, I like to get up with the children in the mornings to give my wife a chance to rest. I work at home and my children are home schooled, so we are able to spend much time together. Dinners are a family affair, we have time to read to the children, and in the warmer months, play outside and do sports.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs trying to launch a business?
Look for the Lord’s Will in your life. Let Him guide you in all things, business included, leave nothing from Him.
Know that any business means hard work, but all work can be offered up as a sacrifice in union with the Ultimate Sacrifice of Calvary.
In the midst of all the business don’t forget your faith and family. Since as the Lord said, “For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul?” (Mat 16:26)
Is there anything else big in the works?
Right now LifeSiteNews is having to deal with a $500,000 lawsuit launched by a Quebec priest-turned-politician. He did not appreciate LifeSiteNews broadcasting his statements opposing legal protection for children in the womb and taking issue with the Vatican on homosexuality. Many readers expressed their concerns to the Vatican and other Church authorities. He was eventually forced from politics after the Vatican took action to compel his bishop’s hand in the matter.
How can our readers help the pro-life movement or Life Site News?
Subscribe to LSN and take action on the many opportunities. Donate if you feel so called, but please keep our writers and staff in your prayers.
Consider seriously giving your lives to the pro-life movement. This war against children in the womb has been raging for decades and most are not recognizing it. Abortion’s victims are not only the children in the womb, but also the mothers and fathers who undergo it, the doctors who carry it out, and our whole society which approves it. As the Scriptures say, “Who, having known the justice of God, did not understand that they who do such things, are worthy of death; and not only they that do them, but they also that consent to them that do them” (Rom 1:32).
The culture of death is a struggle which all of us face. In deciding what you wear, and what you watch, you are – whether you know it or not – already taking sides in the culture war.
Interview conducted by Royce Hood / Maria News Magazine, featured in Issue 3.
Special Thanks for Mr. Westen for taking the time to answer our questions!
For More information on how to support the Pro Life Movement, please visit www.LifeSiteNews.com
Tags: campaign life coalition, Jesus Christ, jim hughs, john-henry westen, lifesitenews.com, Maria News Magazine, mathew 16:26, Pro Life, Pro Life news, Royce HoodFeatured Article, Issue 3, Life