Reading the God-blog tea leaves

keyboardConsider this a Zen post. It seems that religion columnist Bill Tammeus of the Kansas City Star recently went to a seminar in the Washington, D.C., area that focused on issues in religion news coverage. While he was there he met religion writer Neela Banerjee of The New York Times and, since then, the two of them, and the 30 or so other journalists who attended, have been trading emails about their work.

Tammeus decided to pass along some of what he learned, which meant using his blog to point his readers toward the work of other bloggers.

It's always risky when a blogger recommends other bloggers. The fear is that readers will spend so much time at the other sites that they'll never come back. But I'm not scared. I know you'll be back to tell me to quit sending you to bum sites or to thank me for lighting up your life with good sites. Right?

Right. That's how the Web works and, thus, that's why GetReligion tries to pass along information about other blogs and sites linked to religion news and why, early on, we encouraged our friends at to create an online reference guide on the topic. Anyone who isn't reading the Christianity Today blog, Pew Forum and the various offerings of the Religion Newswriters Association -- especially the ReligionLink materials -- isn't taking advantage of what the Web has to offer. We're journalists. There is no such thing as too much information, when it is coming from on-the-record, informed sources.

However, I guess it is true -- here's the Zen thing -- that you can end up with religion news bloggers writing about the views of other religion news bloggers who are writing about the coverage that major religion writers are doing of major religion news issues that they may or may not have learned about at religion news seminars featuring religion writers who read those religion news blogs. Did that make any sense? Whatever. Like I said, journalists who cover complicated news beats need information and input. Oh do I wish that the Web had existed when I was doing full-time news reporting on this complicated beat.

Thus, Tammeus blogged this information:

The other day Neela mentioned four of what she considers watchdog websites, meaning they tend to keep track of journalism coverage of religion. I thought you might enjoy poking around on the sites ... By Neela's description, the first one,, tends to lean to the right. The others tend to lean to the left. But you can make that -- or a different -- call yourself.


2. (an offshoot of



So tell me what you learn from them that you wouldn't have found out otherwise. By the way some of those as well as other blogs can be found on's Blog Heaven.

It's an interesting list and, by the way, I agree with Banerjee's labels.

The GetReligion team is very open about the fact that we are traditional, active Christians -- at the moment, the lineup is Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and Presbyterian Church in America (I think). We try to be open about our beliefs here, both theological and journalistic, and we've been calling ourselves a right-of-center blog since we first went online.

We are what we are. We are an advocacy blog for improved religion-news coverage in mainstream media. We aren't all that interested in opinion journals and denominational wire services, although we link to them from time to time if we think certain articles would be educational or just plain interesting reading for religion-beat professionals. We hope that other journalists feel free to link to GetReligion and to let us know what they think. We are always eager for feedback from working journalists.

Meanwhile, let me end this post by going full circle and pointing you back to the work of Bill Tammeus in Kansas City. Digging around in his stuff, I was struck by this recent column on a topic near and dear to the hearts of longtime GetReligion readers -- the often tricky business of trying to pin simple labels on complex religious people.

We do ourselves and others a disservice when we fail to recognize that terms such as "Christian" or "evangelical" or "Islamic" cover a multitude of understandings. Certainly there are core beliefs and doctrines that hold such groups together -- or at least try to. But it's impossible to speak in any accurate way of "Christianity" or simply of "Islam" or "Judaism" as if each of them were not a large tent.

Precisely because we are dealing with divided houses we must specify which Christianity, which Islam, which Judaism.

And all the people said -- amen.

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