I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find an unlikely source for religion news: Business Insider, a 6-year-old web site founded by former – and disgraced -- Wall Street research analyst Henry Blodget, who is its CEO and editor-in-chief.
The site covers celebrity news, technology and all kinds of business out of New York. We have previously reported on some of their work. Some of their content is aggregated from elsewhere but they also do original reporting and commentary. Recently, that’s included everything from President Barack Obama’s tweet in favor of the Muslim youth arrested in Irving, Texas, because he brought an object to school that supposedly looked like a bomb to the decline of organized religion in America.
But its specialty is a alternative religion that is very tough for any journalist to cover: Scientology. Business Insider gave a lot of PR to “Going Clear,” the HBO film (that premiered March 29) about Scientology and is still doing follow-ups. A recent sample:
As director Alex Gibney prepares for the release of his latest movie, “Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine,” it’s hard to pass up a chance to talk to the Oscar winner about his other recent film, the HBO Scientology documentary “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief.”
At a recent screening of his Steve Jobs doc, Business Insider spoke with Gibney and asked him if he’s dealt with the same harassment by members of the Church of Scientology that former members of the church shown in the film say they have received.
“They’ve come after the people in the film much harder than I,” Gibney told Business Insider. “But they’ve come after me pretty hard and it’s a strange thing to be vilified 24/7. There is a set of danger around that and I have to be concerned.”
The reporter also got a quote from the Church of Scientology that ran at the bottom of the piece. Business Insider has run many other articles about the film and the controversial group, possibly because of the religion’s affiliation with Tom Cruise (or he with it), and its massive financial resources.
I learned that Henry Blodget posted a controversial column three years ago asking why some people hate Jews. It got a ton of criticism but it did show someone who is not afraid to ask impolite questions about religion.
It’s unclear what religion Blodget is -- apparently Judaism is not it -- but there are some Catholic Democrats who feel he thinks like them. And he has come back into vogue recently so Blodget and his website are worth watching. Plus the fact that Business Insider sees religion as something to report about, not to avoid because yes, following the money is important in the world of faith.
Are you listening, Wall Street Journal? Remember the early 1990s, when national religion-news coverage at the WSJ was must reading?
I am not faulting the Journal's international coverage or its new Vatican hire, but I'd like to see a veteran, experienced beat reporter covering religion in the United States. The team leaders at Business Insider are at least making the attempt.