Revealing help-wanted notice

ep 6Our friends on the other side of the religion-and-journalism sanctuary aisle are looking for some additional scribes. Check out this help-wanted notice from the folks at The Revealer media blog (source of the photo). Here is a clip:

Who we're looking for: journalists at odds with the profession; scholars who can talk to the commoners; bloggers who make sharp-edged media criticism a priority. ... You needn't be an "expert," but you do need to be seriously curious. You needn't be religious, but you do need to be interested in religion as a category and expansive in your definition of the term. Specialists, however -- writers who want to work a beat, such as TV news, or coverage of the war in Iraq, or the evangelical press -- are welcome.

The Revealer tilts left, but unpredictably. We're looking for writers who are critical of power, which means that we loathe party hacks of all varieties. We want sharp-toothed media critics who will occasionally publish rants and manifestos, but no pundits need apply. We don't much care about issues of "balance" or "bias"; we want to investigate the function and performance of media narratives of religion. We want to imagine a smarter press. We want to read, see, and hear sharper thinking, deeper history, and thicker description.

Some interesting phrases to mull over in there.

Here at GetReligion, we are very interested in issues in issues of -- note the lack of distancing quote marks -- balance and bias in MSM religion coverage. Most of all, we are pro accuracy and pro diversity and I believe the folks at The Revealer are with us on those points. My reading of this notice is that, with its emphasis on "media narratives of religion," we are divided by our clashing beliefs about the viability of that old-fashioned American model of the press, with its commitment to seeking balance and a lack of bias.

Let me take a stab at this. The late, great A.M. Rosenthal used to say that he wanted the New York Times to "keep the news straight," or to "deliver the news straight down the middle." I can still say "amen" to that.

I think, as journalists, we all have our biases and blind spots. I sure do. We have worldviews. But I remain convinced that newsrooms staffed with talented, informed and committed journalists representing a wide diversity of intellectual points of view can provide a mix of coverage that will be seen as accurate, balanced and fair by a diverse audience of readers. I think that is part of being a "smarter press." We can, as professionals, work together to offer a product that is wider than our solo narratives. I believe it is in the financial interest of our industry to do that.

In short, journalists should listen to their critics and try to learn from them. As I have said in conversations with Jeff Sharlett, our friends at Poynter.org and elsewhere, I realize that terms like "accuracy" and "balance" carry the burdens of modernity and pre-modernity and sound old-fashioned, to many.

So be it. I am not ready for niche newspapers in one-newspaper towns.

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