Media org wants to cover Bible Belt 'culture' better, so it lays off religion writer — huh!?

Face it: When corporate bean counters lay off journalists under the guise of improving journalism, the justifications are always going to sound idiotically silly.

Enter the Alabama Media Group. reports:

Several employees at Alabama Media Group have been laid off, the Advance-owned regional media company announced Tuesday.
In a memo to staffers announcing the cuts, Alabama Media Group executive Michelle Holmes said between five and nine positions will be eliminated in each of the company’s main sites across the state.
“We know many of you will say goodbye to trusted colleagues and friends,” Holmes wrote. “We wish the best for those who leave our organization today and thank them for their dedication and good work.”
In a release, Alabama Media Group said the cuts will be accompanied by an increased focus on core areas of coverage including breaking news, high school and college sports and Alabama culture. 

So the Alabama Media Group wants to put an increased focus on covering "Alabama culture?"

Alabama, where 46 percent of residents attend religious services every week (ranking that Deep South state third out of 50).

Alabama, where 57 percent of residents describe themselves as "very religious" (again, No. 3 among the 50 states).

Obviously, the best way to bolster coverage of "Alabama culture" is to, you know, lay off a talented, seasoned, hard-working religion writer. 


Wait — huh!!!???:

The Religion Newswriters Association responded:

In a public post on her Facebook page, Campbell wrote:

Hello all:
Effective immediately, I no longer have the gift or responsibility of working for The Huntsville Times and If you have ideas and tips for stories, please contact David Magee at ...
What a great ride it has been — truly the job of a lifetime! I feel rich in friends, adventures and inspiration!


What a gracious reaction to such an "idiotically silly" move. Not that any of Campbell's colleagues will be surprised by her professionalism.

As former GetReligionista Mark Kellner — who now covers faith as a national enterprise writer for the Deseret News — noted on a Facebook group for Godbeat pros, "Kay Campbell is a great reporter — I don't need to tell anyone here that — and a great friend. Huntsville's loss is quite sad." (Mark gave me permission to share his private comment here.)

Religion News Service national reporter David Gibson (again quoted with permission) said of Kay: "What a class act and total pro." 

For those not familiar with Huntsville's location, it's about 90 miles south of Nashville, Tenn. In other words, there are no religion stories in that part of the country. None at all. (Sarcasm intended.)

Sadly, the Alabama Media Group is just the latest Bible Belt media organization to lose faith in the Godbeat — following the demise of full-time religion writers at major publications such as The Dallas Morning News, The Tennessean and the Tampa Tribune.

From former Tampa Tribune religion writer Michelle Bearden (yes, she said I could quote her): "It has nothing to do with Kay; it has everything to do with the state of our industry now. She will land on her feet, like the rest of us have!" Bearden, a longtime religion reporter, is now a freelance writer based in Tampa, Fla.

Serious question: Are there any full-time religion writers left in the South? (I'll refrain from asking if there are any media executives left with a clue.)

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