As a detour from our usual fare here at GetReligion, I wanted to drop this personal note and give you all an update on life in the Midwest and my life as a law student. Needless to say, the first semester of law school was quite a challenge. The most peculiar aspect of the experience was the Darwinian grading system we all knew we were up against. It mattered less how well you learned the material and more whether you knew how to apply that knowledge better than the person next to you. As for the religion and journalism aspect of the experience, the two subjects were frequent topics of class discussion. Journalists were given surprisingly deferential treatment (part of this has to do with their First Amendment protections) and respect for religious freedom went unquestioned. Perhaps this doesn't come as a surprise to many readers, but the fact that countries such as France are banning headscarves and other religious apparel has many American legal scholars considering whether that type of restriction could pass constitutional scrutiny.
As for the Midwest, being outside of Washington, D.C., has been a breath of fresh air in many ways. Journalism is taken just as seriously and the stories tend to hit closer to home. Religious issues remain of critical interest, but are not the flashpoint they tend to be in politically charged D.C. News coverage of religious issues focuses less on politics and more on what is actually happening in communities.
As many of you know, I am trying to carve out a "Heartland" beat of sorts. Some have raised compelling objections to the use of the term "Heartland" and would prefer that the term be eliminated in favor of a simple geographic terms like "the Midwest." For a bit of perspective, here is what Wikipedia has to say about the term:
Heartland is used in geography to refer to the central areas of a country. This occurs in many nations and areas, such as Eurasia and the United States.
In Eurasia, the Heartland is remote and inaccessible from the periphery. The term Heartland has a particular importance in the works of Sir Halford Mackinder. He believed that the Heartland was the strategic region of the foremost importance in the world. See Heartland (geopolitics). In Canada, the "Heart land" area stretches from the City of Québec in the south-west to Windsor on the south-western peak of the Ontario Peninsula. That is one reason the area is sometimes called "Québec-Windsor-Axis".
The term Heartland is also frequently used to describe the Midwestern region of the United States. It is also used for other areas of the US which are culturally similar to the Heartland; for example, the Stater Bros. supermarket chain, which is concentrated in the Inland Empire counties of southern and central California, ran TV commercials for many years using the slogan "in the Heartland" to refer to inland counties such as San Bernardino County, Kern County and Riverside County being culturally more similar to the central United States than to coastal California. In the state of Florida is a region called the Florida Heartland, a six county region that is rural and in the south central part of the state.
With that definition in mind, I want to encourage story submissions from "the Heartland." In the couple of months that I have been working with this concept, I have found that the best stories come from small, local newspapers, often unknown to me. Since I am limited in the number of these I can cover daily, I need you to send me the best from your local newspaper.
In addition to individual news stories and newspapers that excel when it comes to covering religion, please suggest religion reporters who do an outstanding (or not so outstanding) job on their beat. If your local newspaper is failing to cover an important religion story, give us a heads up on that as well.
One of the things I greatly appreciate about Indianapolis in particular, and I am sure it is true throughout the country, is the strong local blogging community that has sprouted since I last lived here. If there are exceptional local bloggers that cover religion and/or journalism, submit those as well.
With that, I hope you all have a joyous holiday season, and thanks for reading GetReligion.