Happy 12th Birthday, GetReligion

So we have reached the early days of February, once again.

My name remains on the masthead as GetReligion begins its 12th year of publication, but that is testimony more to Terry Mattingly’s deep loyalty to his friends and religion-beat colleagues than to anything I have done for several years.

My helping Terry launch GetReligion was a happy convergence of free time, basic comfort with the tools of weblogs, and an abiding love for the Godbeat. We knew that this was an important topic.

Terry and I became friends in the 1990s, when we both lived in Colorado, and working on GetReligion was the first chance I had to work with him. Because I have been drawn, moth-like, to the perpetual opera that is the Anglican Communion (which kept affecting my job status in journalism), I have drifted in and out of GetReligion’s orbit of writers.

I have enjoyed learning about the strengths and challenges of the weblog platforms behind GetReligion. We started on TypePad, which offered a certain elegance of design. At the encouragement of our friends and former hosts at Gospelcom.net (now Gospel.com), we switched to the free and versatile version of WordPress. Now GetReligion publishes through SquareSpace, thanks to the Herculean efforts of Loosely Related. I expect GetReligion’s affiliation with The King’s College will give us a solid foundation in the years ahead.

What I have enjoyed most about GetReligion is watching its sauntering parade of contributors.

As the editor, Terry strikes a balance between hiring longtime reporters and emerging younger talents. At the moment, the team leans toward veterans -- with a combined total of roughly 180 years of experience on the beat. The news and commentary produced by many of this site's alumni speaks for itself.

I know from experience that Terry is deliberate and thorough each time he invites a new person to join the team. It’s like watching a baseball manager in action. What has united us all, across 12 years, is a fierce commitment to the Godbeat and balanced, accurate journalism that seeks out voices on both sides of complicated stories.

Some of us are old enough to remember the episode of the sitcom "Lou Grant" in which the grumpy title character -- city editor of The Los Angeles Tribune -- rid himself of Mel Cavanaugh, a newsroom hanger-on, by threatening to make him the religion editor. However, we also remember a longer storyline, in which the Trib hired Marcus Prescott (played by the late great Meshach Taylor), an honest-to-God religion editor who knew and loved his beat.

Marcus Prescott embodied the time when many newspaper editors realized that a comprehensive, diverse news organization should pay attention to what people believe about faith and God, and how their beliefs affect the rest of their lives.

Some newspapers and magazines still understand that. Too many have jettisoned the Godbeat as they struggle to stay in business.

This gives me hope: there are hundreds of Prescotts out there, whether they write for newspapers, magazines or weblogs. GetReligion is here to cheer them along, and, yes, to keep asking the ubiquitous Mel Cavanaughs of this world why they still do not get it.

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