As anyone knows who has read GetReligion for more than a day or two, the purpose of this weblog is -- through positive and negative criticism -- to lobby for improved coverage of religion news in the mainstream press. We like to argue that many major stories are haunted by "religion ghosts" that professionals need to learn to recognize and to include in stories throughout the newspaper, not just on the religion beat or on the religion page. So there is much more to the task of improving religion-news coverage than what happens on the so-called Godbeat.
However, that does not mean that it is not important for newsrooms to include one or two experienced professionals who truly "get religion" and know what they are talking about when it comes to faith issues. The presence of one excellent religion-beat reporter can have a major impact in a newsroom.
Thus, your GetReligionistas are getting very tired of having to write posts -- check this recent Divine Ms. MZ missive -- detailing the departures of excellent writers from this complex and nuanced beat.
Personally, I'm starting to have daydreams about the movie "Network."
We are not the only people to notice what is going on.
Click here and head over to the Freakonomics weblog at the New York Times, where Stephen J. Dubner has posted a short item with the headline: "The 'God Beat' Takes a Beating." Here's the whole item, but you should read it there to get all of the URLs:
The economic downturn has obviously hurt newspapers a great deal, but it's hard to say which areas of coverage have been depleted the most. I have talked to people in many realms -- international reporting, business, sports, entertainment -- who claim their domain has been particularly hard hit. (Here's a map from Paper Cuts that shows 2009 newspaper layoffs.)
But Cathleen Falsani, the Chicago Sun-Times's recently departed religion writer, makes the point that she is just one of four prominent religion writers who have been moved off their beats in the past month. The others are Michael Paulson of the Boston Globe, Eric Gorski at the A.P., and Peter Steinfels at The Times. This hardly means that religion will no longer be covered at those institutions, but that's an awful lot of high-end human capital to leave one beat in a short time. I wonder what kind of religion articles we won't be reading in the future as a result.
Tell us about it.
All of these professionals will be missed, of course. But the more I think about it, the more I am stunned by Gorski's departure -- after such a short time on the beat. To help cope with my pain, let me make this appeal to our sharp readers, many of whom are young people on this beat, or veteran journalists who want to work on this beat.
So, anyone want to nominate a first-round draft pick for the Associated Press chair (unless we can find some way to knock a few decades off Richard Ostling), since that is such a crucial standard-setting position for the national press as a whole?
Be nice. Be constructive. Name some prospects.