This is a few days late but I'm always a few days late in remembering anniversaries and birthdays and other significant events. If I remember them at all, that is. Anyway, one of my favorite religion reporters -- Gary Stern of the Journal-News -- celebrated his 10th anniversary on the religion beat this week. In addition to his prolific output of local religion stories for the newspaper, Stern keeps an active blog with insightful notices about national religion news and religious events in the Lower Hudson Valley region of New York. He told his blog readers about his anniversary:
All in all, it's been a fast 10 years. A new publication from my friends at the Religion Newswriters Association is called "Reporting on Religion: A Primer on Journalism's Best Beat."
It really is. Religion cuts across all beats and all geographic boundaries. It brings people together -- and tears them apart. It's part of the national fabric, even though no one can agree on the role that religion should play in national life. In New York, we have just about every faith around, sometimes on the same block.
On to year 11.
Stern is a real treasure. I get so much out of his local coverage, even simple accounts of speeches, such as a recent one by Michael Cromartie or one from a Roman Catholic theologian who changed her position on female ordination.
Other recent stories include a profile of a Korean-American Methodist bishop who talks about how mainline denominations need to keep their evangelical zeal.
What makes Stern special, in my view, is his ability to cover a wide range of beliefs without passing judgment. He seems to share an excitement about each and yet it's an excitement that seems to come from learning things about people, rather than an agreement with anybody. The fact that he's willing and able to cover minor events to major with the same care is proof that he's a natural reporter.
Stern won the Templeton Prize for religion reporting last year. He says an early editor told him to cover religion just like you would any other beat. While I think the problem is that too many reporters do just that, to the detriment of all beats, Stern would be fantastic on any beat. I'm glad we get him on the one near and dear to our hearts. I wish him many more years of reporting.