10 years of GetReligion: Five things they didn't tell me

Nearly four years and 500 posts ago, I became the newest GetReligionista. Now, somehow, I'm the second-longest-tenured regular contributor after the illustrious Terry Mattingly himself.

As we celebrate GetReligion's 10th anniversary, our esteemed editor tmatt has reflected on "why we are still here" — Part 1 and Part 2 — and talked about "Labels, labels, labels, labels!" He's even recorded a podcastGeorge Conger and my bride Tamie Ross have shared additional insight.

Now it's my turn.

I can't remember exactly when I started reading GetReligion or how I came across it. But in March 2010, I jumped at the opportunity to join an all-star team that included Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, Sarah Pulliam Bailey and Brad Greenberg. As I wrote in my introductory post:

For a faithful GetReligion reader such as myself, joining the team of contributors is like a baseball fan invited to sit in the press box and share his opinions during the World Series.

Although it’s not quite in the same league as my beloved Texas Rangers, I’m a big fan of this weblog and its endeavor to pinpoint and expose the religion ghosts in the mainstream news media.

But here are five things they didn't tell me when I signed up:

1. Writing media criticism on short deadlines is like pulling a tooth a day. Since all of us who write for GetReligion do so on a part-time basis, we're constantly making time to post between our real jobs, our families and our other priorities (did I mention Rangers baseball?). We're reading and analyzing stories in a hurry, then filing posts like breaking-news reporters.

2. The avalanche of email never stops.  My GetReligion story possibilities folder has 5,086 items in it as of this moment. Granted, some of those items go back to when I started. But you get the point: We're flooded with possible stories to critique, and there's no way we can get to everything that deserves a thoughtful analysis. Thus, the guilt files that we sometimes talk about.

3.  You don't know the behind-the-scenes circumstances. In my regular job, I do my best to gather facts — to understand the full story — before I publish a news report or feature. At GetReligion, I critique ink on paper — or pixels on a computer screen — and have no way of knowing what happened behind the scenes. Did the writer have three other deadline pieces that day? Did an editor chop the crucial context that the reporter put in?

4. Most people who comment don't really want to talk about journalism. Journalism is my passion. But questions related to reporting, editing and media ethics don't generate nearly as many comments as hot-button political and doctrinal issues. I've learned not to judge the quality — or value — of a post on how many comments it receives.

5. The technology will crash at just the wrong time. This isn't limited to GetReligion, of course. It's a fact of life in the Internet age that the one day you forget to hit the "save" button every two minutes is the day that you'll spend an hour writing a post and then have either Wordpress or your laptop shut down at exactly the wrong moment.

Despite those challenges, why am I still here? Because I still enjoy the camaraderie of the GetReligion team. Because I still have a passion for religion news. Because I still love promoting quality journalism on the Godbeat.

And because — hey, let's be honest — I still like being a ghostbuster.

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