M.Z. Hemingway's Greatest Hits

BIGI would like to say it's because I'm a sleep-deprived new mom, but the fact is that I have always had a lousy memory. So when we decided to celebrate our 4th anniversary by remembering five of our favorite posts at GetReligion, I had to dig through our archives and review every post I've written. While time consuming, it was a great exercise. As the type of person who feels no shame in laughing at her own jokes, I enjoyed reading various headlines and stories I've shared over the past 26 months. When I began working at GetReligion, I was single. Since then, I became engaged and married to my wonderful husband and a mother to the world's best baby. It's amazing how much life can change in such a short period of time.

Reviewing all of my posts, and some of the more interesting comment threads, reminded me how appreciative I am of our excellent and knowledgeable community of readers here.

I couldn't really pick my favorite five posts. If you read my December 25, 2006, post, you would remember I argue that men are more likely to list things than women are. So permit me to just discuss my favorite areas of coverage instead.

SUBSTANTIVE THEOLOGY The first is media exploration of heavier, non-political theological topics. The reason why I became interested in media criticism of religious news coverage was because it annoyed me that the only religious groups that received coverage were those that were actively engaged in political matters, whether on the left or the right. Confessional Protestants, who are more likely to be concerned with the sacred than the temporal, are left out of such coverage. But such an approach also misses the most interesting stories about day-to-day church life. I've enjoyed being able to highlight stories that strive to cover this daily life, such as the use of church discipline, the importance of Holy Communion, the rise of traditionalism, the ethics of tithing, how to be a godparent and why some religious figures combat scandal. One particular favorite topic was confession and absolution.

BEYOND CHRISTIANITY The United States religious landscape is predominantly Christian. And most of the stories we look at deal with Christians. So I have enjoyed getting to highlight stories about religious groups or religious topics that are not Christian. Whether it's the increased appearance of zebibahs in Egypt, Hindu nationalists trying to rewrite textbooks in California, the renewed fascination and criticism of atheists, or accommodation of pagan holidays, religion reporters help shed light on minority religious groups. My favorite story in this vein was Laurie Goodstein's discussion of Zorastrians.

HUMAN LIFE ISSUES The most important topics I've had the opportunity to cover all fits under the sanctity of human life umbrella. So many fantastic religion reporters have covered human life issues from all sides. I've looked at stories that decline to mention that some stem cell research destroys embryos, Ann Rodgers' excellent piece about Catholic outreach to women and men who suffer from the pain of infertility, stories about the theological views of in vitro fertilization, assisted suicide, genetic testing and abortion of children with Down syndrome, selective reduction, birth control, handling bodies of the deceased, and death and dying in general.

Also under this umbrella fits my many posts about abortion coverage. Many media critics have discussed the problems with how newsrooms handle this contentious topic and I have long felt that the grammar and rhetoric used by reporters is biased in favor of abortion rights advocates. Two of my favorite posts on how this plays out were my critique of how The New York Times handled the errors and bias in Jack Hitt's piece on abortion in El Salvador and my look at the subtle and not-so-subtle bias of reporting the Supreme Court decision upholding the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban. BLONDIE THE WAR ON THE LITURGICAL CALENDAR When I began working at GetReligion, it was during one of the contentious War on Christmas seasons. I've been pleased to see less silly coverage of the topic. I've also enjoyed writing about media ignorance of the rest of the Christian liturgical calendar. I've looked at the presence and absence of stories about Advent, Epiphany, Lent, and various Saint Days. It's been edifying to encourage media treatment of all religious holy days.

ANNUAL ATTACKS ON HOLY WEEK It usually happens during Holy Week each year -- a new rash of media pieces attempting to undermine miraculous stories about Jesus and his life. Some of them have been very bad, and it's important to call the media out for engaging in such an offensive annual game.

So I'm pretty sure those are my five favorite areas. This summary leaves out, of course, many other favorite posts. A few honorable mentions -- coverage of the crises in the Episcopal Church, be it whether to discipline a female priest who converted to Islam or how to punish a bishop who permitted his diocese to vote on whether to leave The Episcopal Church. I'm also proud of my many posts about the Mormon religion and hope that they have helped shed light on Mormon theology as well as the traditional Christian response to it. These posts also gave us an opportunity to look at the media notion that one must agree with a politician's religious views in order to vote for them. I might also highlight my coverage of female "Catholic" priest stories, the media obsession with portraying polygamists and multi-parent/gay-parent families as nothing if not normal, The New York Times' treatment of the establishment clause, a look at a compelling story about the problem of incest in Amish communities, whether or not academia should be viewed as inherently objective, the importance of not playing fast and loose with numerical analysis, the importance of understanding the history of Muslim expansion, and looking at President Bush's universalism.

I thank every part of the GetReligion community -- including the excellent religion reporters we cover -- for the opportunity to write about such important and interesting topics. As always, please do let us know which issues you'd like to see more coverage of.

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