Young master Jeremy Lott is on to something important with his post yesterday about trying to find a natural niche for religion within Google News. This whole task is not easy and, yes, it is closely related to the overarching purpose of this blog and our search for religion "ghosts" between the lines of many news stories in the MSM. A few weeks ago, I tried to do the new Google thing where you set up your personal version of the News page that searches the Google world and creates a special section. I, of course, wanted a religion section.
So I started -- with the user-friendly Google interface -- trying to select a few search terms that would give me a nice Google religion section.
It didn't work. Why?
Well, what search terms would you select? You can start with the usual names for religious groups -- Catholic, Jewish, Baptist, Muslim, Buddhist, Wiccan, Presbyterian, Charismatic, Disciples, Orthodox, Pentecostal, Methodist, Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal, etc., etc. Get the point? How many names and niche groups would you need, just to handle the North American scene?
When I left the religion beat at the Rocky Mountain News, I had file folders up and running on 250-plus religious denominations, groups, leaders and movements.
And this kind of online search would yield next to nothing about the subtle parts of religion news that most fascinate me.
A denominational search gets you, well, the "usual suspects." As the Catholic uber-blogger said in a comment to Jeremy:
Yeah, I did a "Catholic" section on my customized page.
Problem is that 75% of the stories are sports scores.
But I can get through them pretty quickly.
But I think you're right -- a built-in religion section would be good.
Posted by Amy Welborn at 1:01 pm on June 12, 2005
Does a denominational search get you the "ghosts" in the world of entertainment, sports, business, politics, science and academia? It will net some of them, but not many. And it would miss the most interesting ones, since they are rooted in faith elements that are hard to pin down. It will miss most of the true ghosts.
It's like the work of our best MSM Godbeat reporters. The better the journalist, the harder it is to lock them up on a niche page. We have commented on this before and it will remain at the heart of the GetReligion task.
We'll keep trying and we want you to join in. For example, if you get some great Google "religion page" search terms, let us know. We can send them to the Google powers that be, to help them create a lively home for this crucial news content.