Friday Five: tmatt's big milestone, Hybels' resignation, White House Bible study and more

Hey, it's the Three Musketeers!

Actually, the photo shows me between about 100 years of religion reporting experience — Terry Mattingly and Richard Ostling.

"What’s the symbolism of an empty glass?" quipped a Facebook friend when I first posted that picture from a GetReligion planning meeting in New York City last fall.

"I have no response to that," tmatt replied.

A speechless tmatt? That's a first.

I kid. I kid.

In all seriousness, I hope you'll join me in helping GetReligion's editor celebrate a major milestone this week. I'll offer more details on that in just a moment. But first, let's dive right into the Friday Five:

1. Religion story of the week: Three weeks ago, the Chicago Tribune's Manya Brachear Pashman and Jeff Coen occupied this spot with their in-depth scoop on allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct against Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church.

Here we go again: That dynamic reporting duo's report on Hybels' resignation in the wake of those allegations is this week's must read.

2. Most popular GetReligion post: Did we mention Hybels stepping down yet? 

Right. We did.

Well, tmatt's post on the excellent coverage by Godbeat pros — including the Tribune's Pashman, the Washington Post's Sarah Pulliam Bailey and Christianity Today's Bob Smietana — occupies the No. 1 spot this week.

3. Guilt folder fodder (and more): Trust me, we heard about BBC News' long piece headlined "Inside the White House Bible Study group" from a bunch of readers, including my wife.

I meant to do a full critique on it this week but got sidetracked by other news. But my short analysis: It's more a one-source interview with the group's organizer than a real behind-the-scenes account (which would include actual comments from the Cabinet members reportedly involved). That's my take, anyway.

Plus, I found myself frustrated with the repeated references to (lowercase) "bible study group." Of course, maybe BBC News doesn't follow the Associated Press Stylebook. Anyway, one of us still might get around to a more definitive review of the piece, but I wanted to go ahead and mention it.

4. Shameless plug: Thirty years. That's a long time to stick with anything — much less a weekly newspaper column on religion. 

Big congrats to tmatt, who reached that major milestone this week! 

Read his whole column, but for sure, pay attention to these important paragraphs:

Then again, this isn’t just another column for me. This week marks my 30th anniversary writing this national “On Religion” column. The first piece ran on April 11, 1988 and focused — wait for it — on arguments about evangelicals and White House politics. Turn, turn, turn.
Three decades is a long time, so allow me to pause and make something clear. I still believe that if journalists want to cover real news in the real lives of real people in the real world, then they need to get real serious about religion.

Can tmatt get an amen?

By the way, if you'd like to read his very first column from 1988, I just happen to have the link.

5. Final thought: Like always, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, the former GetReligionista mentioned earlier, tells it like it is.

"If somebody sees their religion misrepresented in a publication, they're going to distrust that whole publication," Bailey said today at the Festival of Faith & Writing at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich.

The moral of this week's Friday Five: Accurate, insightful religion reporting is important. Got that?

Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend, everybody!




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