Kevin Eckstrom

Another shoe drops: Jonathan Merritt calls it quits at Religion News Service

Another shoe drops: Jonathan Merritt calls it quits at Religion News Service

Let's see: In the Urban Dictionary, the phrase "Waiting for the other shoe to drop" is defined like this (with a joke thrown in for good measure, in the full text): "To await an event that is expected to happen, due to being causally linked to another event that has already been observed."

However, one gets the impression that the words "the other" in that phrase imply the existence of only one other show. It still sounds like the newsroom at Religion News Service contains lots of other shoes and some of them have yet to drop -- following the now infamous meltdown linked to the forced exit of former editor-in-chief Jerome Socolovsky, after clashes with publisher Tom Gallagher, who is best known for his opinion work on the Catholic left.

Lots of digital ink was spilled during that episode, including two lengthy GetReligion posts by our own Julia Duin. Check out, "RNS analysis: How America's one religion wire service melted down over a long weekend (Part I)" and "RNS meltdown II: New media reports, new details and Lilly Endowment confirms $4.9 million grant."

Now there is this, from columnist and blogger Jonathan Merrett: "Why I am leaving Religion News Service after 5 years."

If you follow Merritt's work, you know that he is one of the most important journalistic voices who has emerged on the evangelical left -- both at RNS and at The Atlantic -- especially on issues linked to LGBTQ debates and women's rights.

Now, some of his critics would say the "post-evangelical" left, but I'm not sure that nuance is justified since it is almost impossible to define what the word "evangelical" means, these days. In terms of heritage, Merritt is best understood as a liberal Baptist. Yes, doctrinally liberal Baptists exist and there's a lot of history there. Ask Bill Clinton.

Anyway, Merritt has posted his take on what happened, at his own website. Here is that text:

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Wait, Jim Romenesko is new editor of Religion News Service? Nope, but welcome Jerome Socolovsky

Wait, Jim Romenesko is new editor of Religion News Service? Nope, but welcome Jerome Socolovsky

Sometimes, Twitter handles can make life more fun.

For example, Monday's news that @jeromesoco has been named editor in chief of Religion News Service gave my GetReligion colleague Jim Davis a nice chuckle.

"Oh, that's funny!" Jim said. "I misread that at first as Jim Romenesko!"

Romenesko's name is, of course, familiar with media types: He's a prominent blogger on the internal goings-on of journalism. (His real Twitter handle, by the way, is @romenesko.)

Meanwhile, the actual new RNS editor is Jerome Socolovsky (whose last name I am copying and pasting to avoid any spelling mishaps).

Socolovsky succeeds Kevin Eckstrom, who left the nonprofit news organization at the end of May to become chief communications officer for the Washington National Cathedral.

For those not familiar with Socolovsky, what is his background? RNS' press release on his appointment provides details:

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Concerning RNS and GetReligion: Yes, there are 'church' and 'state' debates in journalism

Concerning RNS and GetReligion: Yes, there are 'church' and 'state' debates in journalism

For weeks, I have been hearing from readers asking me when GetReligion was going to address the Catholic News Agency report about the $120,000 grant from the Arcus Foundation to the Religion Newswriters Foundation, which owns Religion News Service.

In one article, CNA noted that the grant listing said that its purpose was to "recruit and equip LGBT supportive leaders and advocates to counter rejection and antagonism within traditionally conservative Christian churches." When announcing the grant, Arcus officials said this grant would help foster a "culture of LGBT understanding through the media” by funding news reports and blogging posts “about religion and LGBT peoples of color.”

RNS Editor Kevin Eckstrom defended his wire service's editorial independence, stressing that this public relations represented "Arcus’ description of their funding, not ours.” It is also crucial to note that the funding connections between RNS and the Religion Newswriters Foundation are complex, to the degree that CNA needed to correct some fine details. Please read that whole report carefully.

In that story, Eckstrom also noted that GetReligion frequently criticizes RNS because its work does not meet our blog's "standard of theological orthodoxy.”

I did not respond, although there is much to be said on these matters. First of all, please note that GetReligion frequently praises the work of RNS and we certainly recognize its crucial role as the only mainstream news operation dedicated to covering the religion beat. Second, let me acknowledge that -- over the past decade -- RNS frequently took interns from the Washington Journalism Center (which is now being rebooted in New York City). Eckstrom and his team, frankly, did a fantastic and gracious job working with my program's students and I will always be grateful for that.

So what can I say about the "theological" issues involved in this discussion? Let's start with some background on journalism "theology."

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You're familiar with the Godbeat, but what about the Jesus Beat? It's coming soon to RNS

You're familiar with the Godbeat, but what about the Jesus Beat? It's coming soon to RNS

You're familiar with the Godbeat, but what about the Jesus Beat?

It's coming soon to Religion News Service.

RNS is hiring a national reporter to cover Christians and Christianity.

The full job description:

Religion News Service seeks a National Reporter to cover Christians and Christianity for our award-winning news wire service and online news site. This full-time staff position reports to the Managing Editor and is responsible for filing breaking news, features and analysis. This position includes responsibility for identifying and managing a team of freelance reporters to assist in covering the beat. The position also includes occasional back-up editing to support the Managing Editor. The ideal candidate will have a minimum of five years experience in daily journalism, with a strong preference given to candidates with experience on the religion beat; knowledge of Christianity and a passion for understanding its permutations on a deeper level; knowledge of WordPress; social media savvy; and the ability to represent RNS to the public. This is a remote position.

Your GetReligionistas have a love-hate relationship with RNS.

On the one hand, it's impossible to miss the importance to the Godbeat of a national wire service focused on religion news coverage. RNS' staff includes some of the best, smartest, most experienced Godbeat pros on the planet.

On the other hand, RNS' subtle and sometimes not-too-subtle editorializing on certain topics concerns us. This week for example, RNS' daily Slingshot newsletter linked to a Charlotte Observer story on North Carolina considering religious objection legislation. 

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Concerning RNS, monkey business and early decisions made by the creators -- small 'c' -- of GetReligion (updated)

Concerning RNS, monkey business and early decisions made by the creators -- small 'c' -- of GetReligion (updated)

Veteran Religion News Service Editor Kevin Eckstrom has written a lengthy response to Dawn's current post that ran under the headline, "Religion News Service monkeys around with the Pope Francis evolution speech."  Rather than leave his letter in the comments pages, where few will see it, we will do what we have done several times in the past with letters of this sort (from journalism professionals) and pull it out front for all readers to see.

I'll offer a few words of response at the end. But first, let me note that -- due to no fault of her own, it was a software issue -- Dawn's post ran late in the afternoon, rather than at 9 a.m. She was also in graduate school classes during the day and could not do significant changes to her post after the RNS correction ran. Thus, she added a quick reference to that development at the end, several hours later. This timing issue affected content.

All of the GetReligionistas have full-time work in other jobs and that affects when we write and what we are able to write. Alas, that is normal these days. All journalists in the Internet age, especially in small newsrooms, are swamped and stressed and this affects digital journalism in many, many, ways. Many bloggers are swamped in OTHER JOBS and blog when they can. That is certainly the case around here.

Now, here is Eckstrom's comment:

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Wait? Who is calling who an 'evangelical' or 'conservative'?

Wait? Who is calling who an 'evangelical' or 'conservative'?

Bravo and a big amen to Religion News Service editor Kevin Eckstrom for a crisp bit of religion-label dissection work about a New York Times report that's been creating buzz among GetReligionistas past and present (and future) the past 24 hours or so.

Eckstrom, who last time I checked does not carry an official right-wing identification card, noted in one of those essential RNS morning listserv notes:

Where on God’s green earth ...

Religious advocates were out in full force here in DC the past two days, testifying in support of proposed EPA rules to cut down on carbon pollution. The NYT describes them as “conservative.” Looking at the list of speakers, I’m not totally sure I’d agree.

Right, right! I mean, left.

What's he talking about? Here's a crucial chunk of that Times report:

The E.P.A. on Wednesday ended two days of public hearings on its proposed regulation to cut carbon pollution from power plants, and mixed in with the coal lobbyists and business executives were conservative religious leaders reasserting their support for President Obama’s environmental policies -- at a time when Republican Party orthodoxy continues to question the science of climate change.

More than two dozen faith leaders, including evangelicals and conservative Christians, spoke at the E.P.A. headquarters in Washington by the time the hearings ended.

“The science is clear,” said Lisa Sharon Harper, the senior director of mobilizing for Sojourners, an evangelical organization with a social justice focus. “The calls of city governments -- who are trying to create sustainable environments for 25, 50 years -- that’s clear.”

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Assessing the state of the Godbeat

I posted earlier this week on three veteran superstars of the Godbeat — Ann Rodgers, Bob Smietana and Tim Townsend — deciding to leave major daily newspapers.

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Hey, you put your opinion in my news!

One of the many products offered by Religion News Service is its daily round-up of news items, a chatty summary that is almost always infused with opinion. Here’s an example from earlier this month:

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Religion journalists save the day for young scribes

Last night I had the privilege of moderating a panel discussion for The Fund for American Studies’ Institute on Political Journalism. This summer program gives students internships at media organizations, coursework in politics and economics, and other features (such as mentors to guide you as you start your career).

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