regional newspapers

Friday Five: Godbeat trend, United Methodist future, Wheaton 'proof texts,' targeting atheists

Friday Five: Godbeat trend, United Methodist future, Wheaton 'proof texts,' targeting atheists

In a post this week about religion writer Tim Funk retiring from the Charlotte Observer, I asked about the status of religion reporting at the nation’s regional newspapers.

I mentioned a few metro dailies — the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Peter Smith), The Tennessean (Holly Meyer) and The Oklahoman (Carla Hinton) among them — that still rock the Godbeat.

But I asked readers to help me compile a list of all the big papers with full-time religion writers. Got a name to add to the list? By all means, comment below or tweet us @GetReligion.

Now, let’s dive into the Friday Five:

1. Religion story of the week: Did you hear that the United Methodist Church had a high-stakes meeting in St. Louis, the latest battle in decades of warfare over marriage, sex and the Bible? LGBTQ issues are at the heart of this drama, as always (it seems).

Of course you heard about that and here are some of our posts from that major shindig:

Next big news story: After 40 years of war, is United Methodist establishment ready to bargain?

Big United Methodist questions: Has left embraced 'exit' plans? Do 'coexist' clauses work?

Yes, the United Methodist Church's big meeting in St. Louis is national news, but it's something else, too

Out of all the news coverage that I read, my favorite piece was this one by The Atlantic’s excellent Emma Green. Got a different nominee? Share a link below or tweet us at @GetReligion.

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An award-winning Godbeat pro retires, raising a question about religion coverage at regional papers

An award-winning Godbeat pro retires, raising a question about religion coverage at regional papers

If I understand correctly, today is Tim Funk’s last day of work at the Charlotte Observer.

Funk, an award-winning religion reporter, posted on Facebook that he is retiring after 34 years at the Observer and 40 years overall of full-time news writing. (Click here, here and here for just a few of the Funk stories I’ve praised over the years.)

“As I take my (totally voluntary) leave, I’ll be rooting for those remaining on the job at the Observer,”  Funk said. “Times are tough for the news biz, but these journalists work hard and smart every day to hold the powerful accountable and tell us what’s happening and what it means.

“And, of course, I’ve been especially blessed to get to meet and write about some of the most interesting people in Charlotte.”

Among his favorite memories, Funk recalls “reporting on Billy Graham, sharing a lunch with him and wife Ruth (and my Observer colleague Ken Garfield) in their mountain-top Montreat home, and writing a 250-inch obituary of the evangelist for his hometown newspaper.”

Here’s wishing Funk all the best in his next adventure!

Meanwhile, I’m curious if the Observer — long ago the home of a religion-beat reporter named Terry Mattingly — will assign someone else to the beat. I sure hope so.

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Are two more major American newspapers dropping the Godbeat? Say it ain't so

Are two more major American newspapers dropping the Godbeat? Say it ain't so

Tuesday marked religion writer Lilly Fowler's last day on the job at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

After less than two years with the Post-Dispatch, Fowler announced plans last week to join the PBS newsmagazine "Religion & Ethics Newsweekly."

So, does that mean there's a Godbeat opening at the Post-Dispatch, where Fowler — like her predecessor Tim Townsend — produced award-winning religion journalism?

Apparently not.

"I know there are no immediate plans," Fowler said of the St. Louis newspaper hiring a new religion writer. "Part of the reason I left is that they took me off my beat after the newsroom was recently offered buyouts."

That's unfortunate. 

I enjoyed interviewing Fowler last year on covering faith and the front lines in Ferguson, Mo., and wish her all the best in her new gig.

Meanwhile, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel religion writer Annysa Johnson revealed on Twitter that she won't be covering faith for the next year.

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Popemania: How much coverage of Francis' visit to U.S. is too much?

Popemania: How much coverage of Francis' visit to U.S. is too much?

I got my first taste of Popemania in 1999.

The Oklahoman put me on an airplane and sent me to cover Pope John Paul II's visit to St. Louis. 

In my introductory post with GetReligion, I made this confession about that experience:

After nearly 10 years in the newspaper business, I knew how to chase fire trucks and police cars and burn the midnight oil with city councils and school boards. But my knowledge of the Roman Catholic Church was scant. Honestly, I had no idea what a diocese was. I didn't know the difference between a bishop and a cardinal. I had heard of the pope.
Despite a mild case of fear and trembling, I researched the basics of Catholic faith and prepared to handle the assignment. I wrote three or four Page 1 stories the week of the pope's visit. My favorite focused on a youth event where Catholic teens jammed to the ear-piercing beat of DC Talk's "Jesus Freak" before welcoming to the stage a gray-haired pontiff who walked with a cane.

No doubt, I perfected the unfine art of #PapalGoofs long before hashtags were cool.

My first pope story was a Page 1 Sunday advance on Oklahomans making the trek to see their spiritual leader in person. For The Oklahoman, John Paul's visit was a local story as much as a national and international headline.

All these years later, the same remains true for newspapers across the U.S.

While much of the local and regional coverage focuses on parishioners making the pilgrimage, a reader pointed us to a nuanced profile of Francis in the Dayton Daily News in Ohio:

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All hope is not lost: Easter in America's newspapers

That New York Times doozie-of-a-correction notwithstanding, many American journalists understand exactly what Easter means for Christians.

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