10 Years of GetReligion

Times of London offers classic example of how NOT to do religion survey stories -- at Christmas or ever

Times of London offers classic example of how NOT to do religion survey stories -- at Christmas or ever

There is great religion writing and there is lousy religion writing -- though most of it, like most journalism in general -- falls somewhere between the poles and is not worth endless discussion. But the following Times of London piece is such a missed opportunity that it's worth pulling it apart as a text-book example of how not to do the job.

In short, it's beyond lousy.

It should probably come as no surprise that the piece ran on Christmas Day. I say this because, and this just my conjecture, Christmas Day is probably the day we’re subjected to the year’s very worst religion journalism.

That, I'm guessing, is because of the self-created newsroom belief that something -- anything may be the better word -- relating to the holiday, or religion in general, must be published that day. Or who knows what will happen?

Will people not have received the “news” that it was Christmas? Will people drop their subscriptions and advertisers withhold their Christmas-related sales going forward? Don't really think so.

Oh, the things we do to ourselves out of misguided beliefs and our professional ruts.

OK, now onto the piece itself. (Take note: The Times website requires registration, though it will allow you to read a couple of pieces monthly for free. Also, the newspaper’s website is one of the more inefficient ones I've come across in some time.)

Here’s the top of it:

Politics and religion should not mix, according to the British public, who want politicians to keep their personal faith to themselves.

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Same as it ever was: It's time for a new, old GetReligion

Same as it ever was: It's time for a new, old GetReligion

You know that whole Christmas in July thing, when stores and other groups have fun by, well, pretending that it's Christmas, only in the month of July?

That is kind of what is going on here today. Kind of.

The big news is that GetReligion.org is going back to being GetReligion.org -- period. This website has, over the past decade or so, gone through three basic transformations in its platform and layout and now we are headed into No. 4.

We are returning to our status as an independent website that wrestles with issues of religion-beat coverage in the mainstream press, linked to The Media Project and, in a process that will evolve over the next year, to my future classroom work with The King's College in New York City. The key institution at that prime lower-downtown location is the college's new John McCandlish Phillips Institute, which is led by a New York City journalist named Paul Glader, who is justifiably well-known for his years of hard-news work with The Wall Street Journal. If you are not familiar with the byline of the late and very great New York Times reporter John McCandlish Phillips, please click here and then here.

The key to this fourth GetReligion move is that we are, first and foremost, a journalism website -- as opposed to being a site that fosters dialogues and debates (valid ones, at times) about religion and religious issues. As such, our turf is rather different than the many excellent blogs that have flourished here in the digital universe called Patheos. We think it is time to link up with projects, old and new, dedicated to journalism education.

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10 years of GetReligion: Five things they didn't tell me

Nearly four years and 500 posts ago, I became the newest GetReligionista. Now, somehow, I’m the second-longest-tenured regular contributor after the illustrious Terry Mattingly himself.

As we celebrate GetReligion’s 10th anniversary, our esteemed editor tmatt has reflected on “why we are still here” — Part 1 and Part 2 — and talked about “Labels, labels, labels, labels!” He’s even recorded a podcast. George Conger and my bride Tamie Ross have shared additional insight.

I can’t remember exactly when I started reading GetReligion or how I came across it. But in March 2010, I jumped at the opportunity to join an all-star team that included Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, Sarah Pulliam Bailey and Brad Greenberg. As I wrote in my introductory post:

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10 years of GetReligion: Women and the Godbeat

My 14-year-old daughter sits next to me as I type. Kendall often does this, curious about the day’s subject matter. More often than not, she is interested (and I like to think it’s more than the caramel lattes I make us). She can identify with and wants to learn more about the issues and stories of today. But beyond that, she sees relevance as we talk about people and news and faith issues. Even before society will allow her to drive or vote, she knows she is permitted to think and reason and form opinions, changing them as she matures. That, as she would say, “is really cool.”

I’m thrilled by her interest in media, especially its coverage of religion and related topics. But a larger question looms when I think of her generation. And mine, and my mother’s and grandmothers’: Are we doing right by women when it comes to religion coverage, on both sides of the press? Does our industry have enough female Godbeat writers, and are we as women spending a proportionate amount of time reading and discussing stories with religious themes or context?

GetReligion has been blessed with a number of extraordinary writers during its 10-year history, and I walk in the oh-so-stylish shoes of some gifted female journalists. Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, Sarah Pulliam Bailey and Elizabeth Eisenstadt-Evans come immediately to mind because of the questions they asked during their time here and the myriad ways in which they made religion news coverage better.

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