Are two more major American newspapers dropping the Godbeat? Say it ain't so

Tuesday marked religion writer Lilly Fowler's last day on the job at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

So, does that mean there's a Godbeat opening at the Post-Dispatch, where Fowler — like her predecessor Tim Townsendproduced award-winning religion journalism?

Apparently not.

"I know there are no immediate plans," Fowler said of the St. Louis newspaper hiring a new religion writer. "Part of the reason I left is that they took me off my beat after the newsroom was recently offered buyouts."

That's unfortunate.

I enjoyed interviewing Fowler last year on covering faith and the front lines in Ferguson, Mo., and wish her all the best in her new gig:

Meanwhile, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel religion writer Annysa Johnson revealed on Twitter that she won't be covering faith for the next year:

Will somebody else cover religion in Milwaukee while Johnson focuses on education? I tweeted and asked Johnson that, but she has not responded.

The worst-case scenario is that two more brand-name American newspapers are abandoning the Godbeat. (I would love to hear from those newspapers that I am wrong!)

Losing Godbeat positions in St. Louis and Milwaukee would be sad but perhaps not surprising given that newspapers where you'd expect religion writing to thrive — such as The Dallas Morning News and The Tennesseanhave dropped the beat in recent years.

Just in the last year or two, we've seen more than one example of major papers cutting back or eliminating the Godbeat:

Meanwhile, after advertising for religion writers, the San Antonio Express-News (where Abe Levy set such a high standard before departing) and the Louisville Courier-Journal (once home to the great Godbeat pro Peter Smith) never filled the positions, as far as I can tell. (Again, I would love to hear from those newspapers that I am wrong!)

On the bright side, we did note recently that the Godbeat has made a comeback in an unlikely place:

If you missed our interview with Oregonian religion writer Melissa Binder, be sure to check it out.

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