Friday Five

Friday Five: New editor for RNS, Sutherland Springs gunman's wife, Pennsylvania grand jury and more

Friday Five: New editor for RNS, Sutherland Springs gunman's wife, Pennsylvania grand jury and more

Nearly four months after the firing of Jerome Socolovsky, Religion News Service has hired a new editor in chief.

The name will be familiar to regular GetReligion readers: Bob Smietana.

Smietana, as a news release from RNS notes, is an award-winning religion reporter and editor who has worked for The Tennessean, Christianity Today and, most recently, Facts & Trends, a publication of LifeWay Christian Resources.

Smietana served as president of the Religion News Association from 2013 to 2015. He is extremely familiar with RNS, previously serving as a correspondent for the news organization and as a member of its board of managers.

From the release:

Smietana credits RNS with first launching his career, and expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to now lead the organization, expand its footprint and mentor the next generation of religion journalists.

“The American religious landscape is being transformed before our eyes,” Smietana said. “For more than 80 years, RNS has covered religion with accuracy, insight, empathy and independence. As a result, RNS is perfectly positioned to document that transformation and to help our readers navigate this new world.”

Smietana’s appointment concludes a national search, which solicited more than 130 applicants, helmed by Nicole Neroulias Gupte, chair of the RNS Board of Managers.

“After considering many qualified candidates for this position, we were impressed by the breadth and depth of Bob Smietana’s religion journalism experience, his passion for this beat and commitment to our organization,” Gupte said. “We look forward to working with him as RNS grows its staff and coverage areas, including implementing our Global Religion Journalism Initiative and other exciting projects.”

Smietana is a friend of mine and a longtime reader of GetReligion. We appreciate his willingness to praise us when he agrees with our critiques and engage with us when he disagrees. We hope that continues in his new role.

Full disclosure: I occasionally write freelance stories for RNS.

Now, let's dive into the Friday Five:

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Friday Five: Lifetime achievement winner, Willow Creek drama, Spikeball Mennonites and more

Friday Five: Lifetime achievement winner, Willow Creek drama, Spikeball Mennonites and more

Talk about a slam dunk!

The Religion News Association announced its 2018 William A. Reed Lifetime Achievement Award recipient this week.

What a fine choice the RNA made:

When the Vatican ordered the bishop of Pittsburgh to reinstate a pedophile priest, then Pittsburgh religion reporter Ann Rodgers received the decision even before the bishop himself.

When an evangelist was making false claims about miracles in a Houston hospital, Rodgers did the hard yards of investigation and spotted the fake.

And when she was invited to join Pope Francis’ Palm Sunday procession in St. Peter’s Square, Rodgers waved a palm and reported back to Pennsylvania on the experience.

In addition to serving as president of the Religion News Association during a time of significant transition and growth, Rodgers faithfully served on the religion beat in New Hampshire, Florida, and finally in Pittsburgh, Pa., for more than three decades.  

For her many years of work in religion newswriting and service to RNA, Rodgers will receive the William A. Reed Lifetime Achievement Award at the 69th Annual RNA Conference in Columbus, Ohio, on Sept. 15.

The William A. Reed Lifetime Achievement Award was created in 2001 and is presented to individuals who demonstrate exceptional long-term commitment and service to the Religion News Association and its members, and to the field of religion newswriting.

Read the rest of the release.

Let's dive into the Friday Five:

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Friday Five: RNS council, execution witness, McCarrick scandal, gamer pastor and more

Friday Five: RNS council, execution witness, McCarrick scandal, gamer pastor and more

GetReligion has covered the various happenings at Religion News Service since the firing of former editor in chief Jerome Socolovsky (now with NPR) and the resignations of other key staff and columnists.

This week brought another development for RNS — the appointment of a 19-person advisory council for the news service.

See the full list of members here.

Tell us what you think!

(Full disclosure: I do freelance reporting for RNS in addition to my full-time work with The Christian Chronicle.)

Now, let's dive into the Friday Five:

1. Religion story of the week: While working for The Oklahoman nearly two decades ago, I witnessed four executions. Still, I can't even imagine what Associated Press writer Michael Graczyk has done — serving as a media witness for 429 inmate deaths. 

If you missed it, news coverage of the retirement of Graczyk, a practicing Catholic, is worth your time.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Friday Five: Trump Baptists, Roe v. Wade detractors, Catholic sex abuse, top Bible app and more

Friday Five: Trump Baptists, Roe v. Wade detractors, Catholic sex abuse, top Bible app and more

One of the most talked-about religion stories this week was the Washington Post's front-page Sunday narrative on a Baptist church in Alabama.

"Hit piece or masterpiece?" I asked about the in-depth news feature exploring why the rural congregation supports President Donald Trump. 

I invited readers to offer feedback, and I am pleased that several, including our own Terry Mattingly, did.

Here is what tmatt had to say:

Here is the question that kept bugging me: What is so crucial about this one congregation?

In terms of reporting methodology, how do we know that this congregation perfectly illustrates the state of mind in the complex world of American evangelicalism, even among SBC people?

Also, as always in this age, there is no serious attempt at all to engage the very, very conservative critics of Trump -- including some who said that they voted for him, but didn't want to do so. They wanted other options.

The story says that this congregation matters. Period. This is the perfect choir. Why?

By all means, check out all the comments. If you're so inclined, join the conversation.

In the meantime, let's dive into the Friday Five:

1. Religion story of the week: I earlier highlighted New York Times religion writer Elizabeth Dias' front-page story going "Inside the Ground Game to Reverse Roe v. Wade."

As I mentioned, Dias does an exceptional job of painting what feels, to me, like an authentic picture of these anti-abortion activists.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Friday Five: Ethical question, 'Uncle Teddy,' faith-free aliens, Muslim swimmers and more

Friday Five: Ethical question, 'Uncle Teddy,' faith-free aliens, Muslim swimmers and more

I have a question for you, dear reader.

It's not directly related to religion, but it is about journalism — and GetReligion has a lot of smart readers who either work in the news business or care deeply about it.

Via Peggy Fletcher Stack, the religion writer for the Salt Lake Tribune, I came across a chilling column written by the widow of a reporter killed in the Capital Gazette shooting. 

I was struck by Andrea Chamblee's repeated references to news media — the New York Daily News, ABC's "Good Morning America," the Wall Street Journal — that contacted Chamblee right after the shooting even before she knew anything about the fate of her husband, John McNamara.

I know journalists have a job to do. I've interviewed countless loved ones of people killed in various tragedies. But must reporters call people such as Andrea Chamblee almost immediately? Is there not a better way to give victims a voice yet not intrude on their humanity in such a desperate time?

I'd welcome your thoughts and insights.

In the meantime, let's dive into the Friday Five:

1. Religion story of the week: As GetReligion editor Terry Mattingly noted earlier today, the New York Times has a new story out on the latest accusation facing disgraced Roman Catholic Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick.

The Times story is a must read, as is tmatt's commentary ("Fire keeps falling: 'Uncle Teddy' the DC cardinal faces the reality of Matthew 18:6") and my colleague Julia Duin's earlier post ("Cardinal Ted McCarrick, Part II: The New York Times takes a stab at this old story").

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Friday Five: Fading way of life, 'Submarine Churches,' Chick-fil-A flash mob and more

Friday Five: Fading way of life, 'Submarine Churches,' Chick-fil-A flash mob and more

This week in Friday Five, we've got closing churches. We've got "Submarine Churches." We've got serpent-handler churches.

We've even got a church — flash mob style — at a Chick-fil-A.

I bet you just can't wait!

So let's dive right in:

1. Religion story of the week: The Minneapolis Star-Tribune had a fascinating piece this week on how a way of life is fading as churches close.

The "first in an occasional series written by Jean Hopfensperger" explores how "Minnesota’s mainline Christian denominations face unprecedented declines, altering communities and traditions celebrated for generations." 

2. Most popular GetReligion post: Editor Terry Mattingly's post titled "New York Times asks this faith-free question: Why are young Americans having fewer babies?" occupies the No. 1 spot this week.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

National Review offers in-depth look at BYU's religious freedom and media conference

National Review offers in-depth look at BYU's religious freedom and media conference

It's summer, which means that your GetReligionistas -- like many other folks -- are spread out all over the place.

One or two are outside of the United States (think rainforests) and others are on the move for family reasons, etc. In a week or so, I head over to Prague for lectures during this summer's European Journalism Institute.

Like I said, it's summer and these things happen, creating occasional gaps in what we publish.

So, instead of a Friday Five collection from Bobby Ross, Jr., let's flash back a bit to his round-up about the religious freedom and journalism event that recently took Ross, and me, out to the law school at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. Click here to flash back to Bobby'r Friday Five wrap on that.

In the weeks ahead, speeches and panels from that event will go online. You really, for example, want to see the keynote speech in the media track, by Emma Green of The Atlantic. Watch updated versions of this space and this one, too, as the links go live. Here is a Facebook link for the "Getting It Right" panel shown in the tweet at the top of this post.

Now, if you want to read an extended piece about this conference, click here for the National Review feature -- by Utah-based scribe Betsy VanDenBerghe -- that just ran with this headline: "Religious-Freedom and LGBT Advocates Offer Rare Lessons in Pluralism." Here is the overture:

In late June, as the United States descended into a high-combustion immigration debate marked by a degree of rancor extraordinary even for an era characterized by discord, an alternate universe quietly unfolded in which cultural-political rivals of goodwill came together to discuss an equally contentious issue: the tension between religious freedom and LGBT rights.

Resuscitating such old-school notions as common ground and fairness for all, the fifth Religious Freedom Annual Review, hosted by the Brigham Young University International Center for Law and Religion Studies in Provo, Utah, gathered legal scholars, LGBT advocates, journalists, and concerned Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders to grapple over court cases, questions about higher education and journalistic fairness, and -- surprise! -- common feelings of vulnerability.


Please respect our Commenting Policy

Friday Five: Capital Gazette journalists, SCOTUS news, an unsung hero's passing and more

Friday Five: Capital Gazette journalists, SCOTUS news, an unsung hero's passing and more

"I’m just undone by what happened at the Capital Gazette," said my friend Carla Hinton, religion editor at The Oklahoman. "These are strange and heartbreaking times we are living in. Praying for my fellow journalists and their families."

"It's especially traumatic because so many of us started our careers at newspapers like the Capital Gazette," responded my friend Steve Lackmeyer, a longtime business reporter at The Oklahoman. "We know these people, we know these newsrooms..."

Amen and amen.

No, the senseless slaying of journalists isn't any more tragic than the mass shootings — at schools, churches and other businesses — that keep making headlines in America.

But for those of us in this profession, the Capital Gazette tragedy hits especially close to home.

Want to understand the heart and passion that make many journalists tick? Read this Twitter thread by Nyssa Kruse, an intern at the Hartford Courant.

Now, let's dive into the Friday Five:

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Friday Five: BYU conference, border separation, McCarrick scandal, Chris Pratt on MTV and more

Friday Five: BYU conference, border separation, McCarrick scandal, Chris Pratt on MTV and more

I'm filing this edition of Friday Five from Provo, Utah, where I've spent the week attending — and speaking on a few panels — at Brigham Young University's Religious Freedom Annual Review.

In case you missed it Thursday (and based on our analytics, most of you did), GetReligion editor Terry Mattingly and I were part of a diverse group of journalists and attorneys who spoke on "Getting It Right, Media Coverage of Religion Freedom."

Check out my post to watch a video of that presentation, which includes The Atlantic religion journalism superstar Emma Green and other experts. As a bonus, you can see my Twitter thread that includes tmatt's "Seven Deadly Sins of the Religion Beat."

Now, let's dive into the Friday Five:

1. Religion story of the week: The controversy over the separation of families at the U.S.-Mexico border is the easy choice this week. 

Tennessee religion writer Holly Meyer, writing for The Commercial Appeal of Memphis, produced a compelling piece on ministry leaders who say the Bible compels their immigration work.

For more links and analysis, see our earlier posts headlined "Horror on the border: Some journalists starting to spot old cracks in Trump's support" and "Seven can't-miss takes on use of Romans 13 to defend policy on separating immigrant families."

Please respect our Commenting Policy