Ari Goldman bids you farewell

It's been two months since I began blogging for GR and I've learned something very important: I don't like blogging. And so, I am writing to bid the GR crowd farewell. This will be my last post. Terry has built up a very respectable site that smartly looks at the way that religion is covered in the mainstream media. He has assembled a great team and I was honored earlier this year when he offered me a place on the team. In some ways it seemed like a perfect fit. I've been a religion writer for most of my career and I now teach an entire course in religion writing at Columbia.

What I found, however, is that I am more of a reporter and teacher than a press critic. I got into journalism because I love learning new things, meeting new people and telling stories. These are things that rarely happen to bloggers. To be a good blogger one needs to constantly be on top of the news (preferably while sitting in front of a computer), have strong opinions and be unafraid to express them instantly. This is simply not my style. My favorite days are spent visiting churches, synagogues and mosques. Not their Websites.

As I wrote in my initial 5 Q +1, I prefer my newspapers the old fashioned way: on paper. I like to chew over an issue before forming an opinion. I like to consider a story from different angles. I know that mine is not the current journalism model, although I've adjusted to the new. Every article I write for the mainstream media also appears on its Website. And I teach my students how to write for the Web and how to tell a story in pictures, audio and video. But, above all, I employ, and teach my students, the traditions of good journalism: of fact-checking, fairness and accuracy. I think we can safely say that journalism has standards but blogging does not. Too much of blogging, I find, is "gotcha" journalism by a writer who wants to show that he or she is smarter than the journalist in the field.

On more than one occasion over the last two months I have killed blog posts that I was writing because I felt that I was being unfair to the writer. (I should also add that I knew many of the writers either as colleagues or as former students.) I found myself calling people to get more information, either to find out why a reporter did something (did the editor take it out? was there just no room? why didn't they think it was relevant?), all of which slowed down or simply destroyed the blogging process.

Two months ago, Terry wrote very warmly and about my joining the GR team. "Ari Goldman is in the house," he wrote. Thank you for the hospitality, Terry, but Ari Goldman has left the house. I'm heading back into the trenches. And I wish you all Godspeed.

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