As Doug LeBlanc bids farewell, I say hello. Doug and I have been friends, fellow pilgrims and professional peers for many years. Now we're more like two bloggers passing in the night. I'm pleased to be joining the GetReligion team and look forward to sharing my perspectives on religion in the mainstream media. Here are the core values that will shape my coverage.
1. I see writing and reporting about religion and spirituality as sacred work, a holy calling. Not all religion writers use this language, but those who do the best work are devoted and passionate about what they do. I share their commitment.
2. Mainstream journalism about religion is important. Readers have told me they joined a church or supported (or stopped supporting) a charity because of something I wrote. The millions of Americans who regularly read religion writing do so in order to gain a better perspective on the big world of faith outside their own prayer closet, congregation or organization. They deserve the best.
3. It is self-evident, I think, that the Godbeat is the best and biggest beat of them all. Religion ghosts are everywhere. I'm thrilled when a talented and informed writer can help readers discern the connections between theology and anything else in our shared culture. I'm saddened when those connections are ignored or confused.
4. Covering religion is difficult. Deadlines can be killers. And how many different varieties of Baptist are there? Or what does the "typical" Muslim believe? I will try to approach my work for GetReligion with the same balance of judgment and grace I use when grading student papers.
However, any writer or publication should only be allowed to mistakenly substitute "evangelist" for "evangelical" so many times before they receive a religion-writing version of a Razzie Award. I only hope I don't compound the problem by rushing to judgment myself.
5. I will strive for a balance of praise and criticism. I can remember the time a gravel-voiced caller left a message on my newsroom phone. "Hey. This is Satan. I just want to tell you I think you're doing a great job!" The message certainly got my interest but it didn't inspire an improvement in my work.
Then there was the time a reader said I should be named my paper's "anti-religion editor" because of my failure to canonize her favorite religious leader in a Sunday story she saw. (She did not mention a glowing story about the same leader published on Saturday.)
Some media critics seem to approach their work like Anton Ego, the prickly food critic in "Ratatouille," approaches a meal. Their work reflects a hermeneutic of anger and doubt. I'm going to try to approach things with a hermeneutic of love -- for those who cover religion and, ultimately, the people who depend on this coverage to instruct and guide them.
Here I blog. I can do no other!