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Huffington Post losing its religion: What's up as key staffers leave and news org drops RNS?

Huffington Post losing its religion: What's up as key staffers leave and news org drops RNS?

I never know quite what to make of the Huffington Post.

Is it a news publication? An advocacy commentary site? A combination of the two? This is a topic members of the GetReligion team have been debating for years, since our focus here is on mainstream news material.

On the one hand, the online-only news organization won a 2012 Pulitzer Prize for "Beyond the Battlefield," a 10-part series on the lives of severely wounded veterans and their families. Clearly, the HuffPost runs some serious news material.

On the other hand, regardless of what I think about Donald Trump, I find it difficult to take seriously the journalism of a media outlet that appends this note to its coverage of the Republican presidential candidate:

Note to our readers: Donald Trump is a serial liarrampant xenophoberacistbirther and bully who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims -- 1.6 billion members of an entire religion -- from entering the U.S.

I bring up the HuffPost because of recent signs the website may be losing its religion. Literally.

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Happy 12th Birthday, GetReligion

Happy 12th Birthday, GetReligion

So we have reached the early days of February, once again.

My name remains on the masthead as GetReligion begins its 12th year of publication, but that is testimony more to Terry Mattingly’s deep loyalty to his friends and religion-beat colleagues than to anything I have done for several years.

My helping Terry launch GetReligion was a happy convergence of free time, basic comfort with the tools of weblogs, and an abiding love for the Godbeat. We knew that this was an important topic.

Terry and I became friends in the 1990s, when we both lived in Colorado, and working on GetReligion was the first chance I had to work with him. Because I have been drawn, moth-like, to the perpetual opera that is the Anglican Communion (which kept affecting my job status in journalism), I have drifted in and out of GetReligion’s orbit of writers.

I have enjoyed learning about the strengths and challenges of the weblog platforms behind GetReligion. We started on TypePad, which offered a certain elegance of design. At the encouragement of our friends and former hosts at Gospelcom.net (now Gospel.com), we switched to the free and versatile version of WordPress. Now GetReligion publishes through SquareSpace, thanks to the Herculean efforts of Loosely Related. I expect GetReligion’s affiliation with The King’s College will give us a solid foundation in the years ahead.

What I have enjoyed most about GetReligion is watching its sauntering parade of contributors.

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Another press perplexity: So who speaks for Muslims in the United States?

Another press perplexity: So who speaks for Muslims in the United States?

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations is an awkwardly but accurately named alliance formed in 1955 to give the nation’s variegated Jews a united voice on key matters. Reportedly the Eisenhower White House either originated or promoted the idea of an umbrella group to make life simpler for everybody. The New York City-based conference encompasses 55 groups, communal, political and religious, and pretty much includes all sectors of Jewish life except the stricter forms of Orthodoxy, Hasidism and the anti-Zionist sects.

With less media notice than it deserves, a similar U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations was established in Washington, D.C., in 2014 with a constituency of 19 religious and communal groups.

At the moment, USCMO is no place for busy reporters to do their one-stop shopping to obtain quick, representative quotes and handy background info. However, if it can consolidate support this is certainly an organization to watch. USCMO says its purposes are “to build an active, integrated American Muslim community,” to “speak with one clear, communal voice” and to “support a national agenda for the entire Muslim community.”

These are tall orders given the numerous ethnicities and fiefdoms.

Founders include the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Islamic Circle of North America, Muslim American Society and The Mosque Cares, led by W. Deen Mohammed II, who is USCMO’s treasurer. Absent are factions seen as heterodox like the Ahmadiyyas, Moorish Science and Minister Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam, which embraces the black nationalism of Mohammed’s grandfather. The prominent Islamic Society of North America is not affiliated but has joined USCMO events. The list looks to be stronger on Sunni than Shi’a and Sufi representation.

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Interested in a March event with James Davis and lots of other religion-beat talent?

Interested in a March event with James Davis and lots of other religion-beat talent?

This may sound like a strange question, but, trust me, there is a good reason to ask it: Are there any GetReligion readers out there who would be interested in visiting the University of Wisconsin at Madison in mid-March?

Why is that? Well, because of a March 14th conference with this title: "Reporting on Religion: Media, Belief, and Public Life." Click here, pronto, for all of the details. Here is the overture on the home page for the event:

America’s religious landscape is shifting, and, as a result, news coverage of religion has never been more important. “Reporting on Religion: Media, Belief, and Public Life” will give journalists and the general public an opportunity to explore one of the most important, sensitive, and controversial topics in contemporary America.
The one-day conference will feature journalists and scholars who will help participants gain a deeper understanding of the role religion plays in public life and how religion is -- and isn’t -- represented in the news media today.
The conference will culminate in a keynote address, free and open to the public, by television journalist David Gregory, former moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press and the author of How’s Your Faith? An Unlikely Spiritual Journey.

Yes, that would be David Gregory talking, I am sure, about some of the territory covered in these GetReligion posts by our own Bobby Ross, Jr. -- click here and then here for details.

Glance over the packed program for that day (click here) and you will see many other names familiar to GetReligion readers, beginning with our own James Davis, in the panel called, "How the Press Covers Religion and Spirituality." Other familiar names on the docket include Cathy Lynn Grossman, Jaweed Kaleem, Bob Smietana, Dilshad Ali and Tony Carnes.

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Sarah Pulliam Bailey dives deep into Wheaton wars and conflicts inside evangelicalism

Sarah Pulliam Bailey dives deep into Wheaton wars and conflicts inside evangelicalism

So have you been waiting for someone who knows "evangelical" stuff to write the "big picture" of what is going on in the Wheaton College wars?

That is precisely what veteran Washington Post religion-beat pro Michaelle Boorstein asked former GetReligionista Sarah Pulliam Bailey to do the other day. I especially appreciated that this journalistic view from 5,000 feet (or higher) involved the angle that GetReligion has been talking about from Day 1 -- the "who gets to define what 'evangelical' means, especially when jobs are at stake?"

As always, it's hard to critique the work of a former colleague. Thus, I wrote Sarah and asked if she would write a short introduction, when I pointed our readers toward a few key parts of her long, long news feature. Here it is:

I was actually on vacation when the news first broke, so I came back to the story trying to sort out what actually happened, who said what when, why it had turned into such a nightmare for the college. I saw a lot of people posting really simplistic reactions, like the college is racist or the professor equates Islam with Christianity, so clearly people didn't understand the complexities.

And there was, of course, one other interesting question linked to Sarah reporting this story (a question longtime GetReligion readers will have already thought about):

I asked our higher education reporter if I should disclose that I went (to Wheaton College). She said no, unless I'm on some alumni association or something. We have UVA grads report on UVA, etc. It's pretty easy to find through Facebook or Linked In or pretty much anywhere that I went there, but we didn't feel like it was necessary to stamp on the story itself.

So what are the real issues in this doctrinal skirmish?

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How to write a perfect 'Kellerism' story about a complex debate in Catholic news

How to write a perfect 'Kellerism' story about a complex debate in Catholic news

The other day a Catholic who is a longtime GetReligion reader, and a media professional, sent me a note to say that he had spotted a perfect example of the "Kellerism" worldview that is blurring the line in some elite newsrooms between hard-news coverage and unbalanced, advocacy, editorial analysis.

This particular story wasn't in The New York Times. Instead, it ran on the Crux website that The Boston Globe operates to cover Catholic news. That caught me off guard, since anyone who reads this weblog knows that the Crux team runs lots of fabulous stuff and is usually quite careful when it comes to marking news as "news" and analysis as "analysis."

Before we dissect this news report a bit, let's take a short refresher course on "Kellerism.."

The term is a nod to the statement by Bill Keller of The New York Times, days after he left the editor's chair, that his newspaper had been committed to balanced coverage on matters of politics -- but not on moral, cultural and religious issues. Click here for more on that and here's a link to the video of the event in Austin, Texas.

The bottom line: Why should journalists do fair, accurate coverage that shows respect for traditional religious believers whose ancient views are clearly wrong, according to the modern doctrines affirmed by the priests of Kellerism? Why cover two points of view when one is right and the other is wrong?

This particular Crux story focused on a hot news topic -- whether Catholic institutions have a right to employ only people who affirm (or do not publicly attack) the doctrines of the faith. The headline: "Rally planned to support fired gay church worker in Maryland."

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On CNN: Did Ted Cruz really call for Jesus to rise from the grave to help his campaign?

On CNN: Did Ted Cruz really call for Jesus to rise from the grave to help his campaign?

If journalists were going to create a list of topics dear to the heart of the media superstar Pope Francis, one of the items near the top would be his emphasis on the whole church -- from the laity in the pews to the bishops in the hierarchy -- being seen as the Body of Christ.

The video at the top of this post is a perfect example and the headline on a Catholic.org report summed up the talk this way: "Pope Francis Proclaims the Church is the Living Body of Christ and Calls for Christian Unity."

This metaphor is thoroughly biblical and so simple that even Wikipedia gets the basics right:

In Christian theology, the term Body of Christ has two separate connotations: it may refer to Jesus' statement about the Eucharist at the Last Supper that "This is my body" in Luke 22:19-20, or the explicit usage of the term by the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians to refer to the Christian Church.

This is language can, to those outside mainstream Christianity, sound slightly strange -- especially when used by politicos in the public square. Take Sen. Ted Cruz, for example, an outspoken -- to say the least -- son of an evangelical preacher whose current White House campaign is heavily dependent on the work of activists in pulpits and pews.

Cruz may be a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, but whenever he opens his mouth there is a good chance that some kind of pew-friendly Christian language is going to pop into the public square (kind of like President Jimmy Carter in the 1970s). Often, elite scribes and commentators just don't get it.

Consider the following reference in that New York Times piece that ran under the headline, "Ted Cruz’s Diligent Courting of Evangelicals Pays Off in Iowa."

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Flashback 2015: Revealing Top 10 lists from Religion Dispatches and Patheos Evangelical

Flashback 2015: Revealing Top 10 lists from Religion Dispatches and Patheos Evangelical

So far, your GetReligionistas have shared quite a few Top 10 story lists marking the end of the year -- like here, here, here and here, with an attached podcast here. These have ranged from the Religion Newswriters Association list to that of the Associated Press. I found it interesting (commentary here) that the top AP story -- period, as in the top story in the whole world -- was a religion news story, but that wasn't the top story in the RNA poll. Go figure.

Obviously, I find these lists fascinating, in part because they show us (a) just how complex the world of religion news really is and (b) the unique points of view (which can, in some cases become biases) that affect how scribes and editors see the world of religion news. There is much to learn in these lists, both for news professionals and news consumers.

In the next couple of days I will be posting a number of additional lists covering religion news in 2015, from a variety of different points of view.

Please let me know if I missed one or two that you would like to see posted.

Let's start with the Religion Dispatches list of the "Ten Religion Stores That Went (Mostly) Missing in 2015." The whole idea here, of course, is that these are stories that, from the point of view of Peter Laarman, SHOULD have received more coverage in the past year.

Read them all. But here are a few that caught my eye:

2. The struggle of the Black Church to come to terms with #BlackLivesMatter.
In some cities there has been visible conflict between Old Guard pastors (many of whom still identify with the 20th century civil rights movement) and the New Guard of fearless youth, many of whom are not shy about showing contempt for the pastors.

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Time for a Christmas season lull here at GetReligion (but not a complete break)

Time for a Christmas season lull here at GetReligion (but not a complete break)

This is, as you might expect, the time of year when your GetReligionistas -- like most normal folks -- are scattered all over the place doing holiday and holy day things.

Right now, one of the East Coast guys is on the West Coast. The Oklahoma guy is, I think, currently in Texas (where he spends most of his time during baseball season), or on a highway coming back from the Lone Star State. The lady from the Northwest is currently in the Southwest (and, the last I heard, was in a Texas airport for a long, long time). The Florida guy is in Central Florida and I'm the Tennessee mountains (see photo above), which for some reason currently feel like Central Florida. I mean, it's 75 and humid. Where am I?

As always, posting will not stop here at the website, but the pace will slow somewhat. You never know when a major story will break and most of us will be near WiFi, especially me. But you never know when I am going to hear the call and head deeper into the Hills. With the Nativity Lent fast ending at Midnight tonight, that means it's time to hunt for barbecue, again.

Keep sending us story URLs and tips, which, as always, are much appreciated. We will jump back into regular posting -- with four posts on weekdays as the norm, and the weekly podcast -- on January 4th (also known as the 11th day of Christmas). And those who are traveling, please be careful.

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