What we're doing here, part II

A reader's letter the other day got me to thinking. Because of our jump to Movable Type and a new server, your friends in the GetReligion non-Borg rolled right past a very important date on the calendar -- Feb. 1 marked the blog's first birthday. That is a semi-big deal and we totally spaced it.

As you may be able to tell, we are still getting used to the new software. It seems that many previously loyal readers are choosing to remain silent, rather than do that registration thing that TypeKey does. Hey, signing in over and over bugs me. I'll admit it.

We also continue to struggle with some basic news issues. For example, when a major, major story breaks, how do three scribes with lives and jobs stop everything and read a representative sample of coverage and offer some kind of critique of it? And the more important the story, the greater the incentive to do a good job. Sometimes your brain locks and you can't draw a bead on the topic. Often, the result is cyber-silence. At the very least, we hope to be able to put more topics in the newly improved Short Takes feature on the left sidebar.

In the meantime, what about all of those international papers?

And what about NPR and the broadcast networks?

And what about the Saturday religion sections in major papers, which would mean posting some important work on Saturdays and Sundays when readership is down?

And what about Peter's letter the other day? Here is the key content:

I just discovered this site and have found it interesting, especially the "monitor the msm" slant. I realize, according to the "Civility in this space" rules, that participants are strongly encouraged to address the immediate topic/post at hand. . . . I do have a general question and hope you will bend the Civility Rule just a tad in accomodating a questioning newbie here.

In reading the blog trio bios, it struck me that all can easily be considered Mr. Mattingly, for instance, with his Scripps Howard gig (SH being about as mainstream as a news service can get). And the freelance pubs that LeBlanc and Lott have written for such as Christian Science Monitor, Washington Post, are certainly mainstream.

So, how do you see yourselves, in that from this perspective at least, you're all thoroughly mainstream. Outsiders? Stealth Christian journalists when writing for the likes of Scripps or other secular outfits? Just curious. And thanks.

I will have to let the others speak for themselves. I also don't want to repeat some of the material from the very first post on this blog, which was titled "What we're doing here."

The goal is for the writers on this blog to be in the mainstream. We are committed to what historians often call the American model of the press, which is built on the idea that the press owes the public lots of information and viewpoints on lots of issues and that, in the end, people are supposed to be able to read the results and make up their own minds.

Personally, I have never liked the word "objectivity" because it opens up all kind of philosophical arguments. I prefer to say that the press owes the public accuracy, balance and a basic sense of fairness. The reporters I admire know their own strengths and biases and yet they are fiercely committed to being part of journalistic teams that, well, play fair. I tell my students: The goal is to report unto others as we would like them to report unto us.

On this blog, we have not tried to hide our beliefs. I am an Eastern Orthodox Christian and a lifelong Democrat of the old persuasion that included lots of cultural conservatives, such as normal Bible-Belt folks and labor-union Catholics. As an Orthodox Christian, I am conservative on a wide range of moral issues, such as abortion and the meaning of tricky words like "marriage."

At the same time, I have spent my whole life working in mainstream newsrooms. I have met very effective journalists on the religion beat who have strong personal religious commitments and those whose interest in the topic is totally intellectual -- period. I haven't met any solid religious reporters who are not driven to know more and more about religion and religious people.

But in the end, we are trying to promote better coverage of religion in the mainstream press -- because we love journalism and we believe the mainstream press must cover religion effectively in order to cover the real lives of real people, in zip codes both blue and red. There are scores of journalism critics, especially on the cultural right, who seem motivated by hatred of journalism. That is not what we are about.

This is a blog about how the media cover religion. We look for the religion "ghosts" that haunt so many of the stories that dominate our age. That's what we're trying to do. We continue to urge you to send us comments and tips on stories. You see lots of things that we do not. Pitch in. Tell other journalists about the site and the other sites that are doing similar work.

So join in. Walk the aisle. Make a commitment. Make a profession of, well, interest. Choose your own metaphor.

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