Another shoe drops: Jonathan Merritt calls it quits at Religion News Service

Let's see: In the Urban Dictionary, the phrase "Waiting for the other shoe to drop" is defined like this (with a joke thrown in for good measure, in the full text):

"To await an event that is expected to happen, due to being causally linked to another event that has already been observed."

However, one gets the impression that the words "the other" in that phrase imply the existence of only one other show. It still sounds like the newsroom at Religion News Service contains lots of other shoes and some of them have yet to drop -- following the now infamous meltdown linked to the forced exit of former editor-in-chief Jerome Socolovsky, after clashes with publisher Tom Gallagher, who is best known for his opinion work on the Catholic left.

Lots of digital ink was spilled during that episode, including two lengthy GetReligion posts by our own Julia Duin. Check out, "RNS analysis: How America's one religion wire service melted down over a long weekend (Part I)" and "RNS meltdown II: New media reports, new details and Lilly Endowment confirms $4.9 million grant."

Now there is this, from columnist and blogger Jonathan Merrett: "Why I am leaving Religion News Service after 5 years."

If you follow Merritt's work, you know that he is one of the most important journalistic voices who has emerged on the evangelical left -- both at RNS and at The Atlantic -- especially on issues linked to LGBTQ debates and women's rights.

Now, some of his critics would say the "post-evangelical" left, but I'm not sure that nuance is justified since it is almost impossible to define what the word "evangelical" means, these days. In terms of heritage, Merritt is best understood as a liberal Baptist. Yes, doctrinally liberal Baptists exist and there's a lot of history there. Ask Bill Clinton.

Anyway, Merritt has posted his take on what happened, at his own website. Here is that text:

In 2013, America’s oldest newswire focused on religion and spirituality offered a young writer named Jonathan Merritt a chance to write regularly for their website. During that time, my work at Religion News Service sparked national conversations among Christians from various traditions and attracted more than 4 million readers. Half a decade later, however, my work there will now conclude due to irreconcilable differences with the leadership–both the publisher and the interim editor-in-chief.
Sarah Jones of the New Republic has detailed what she called “the spectacular implosion of Religion News Service.” Those interested in the recent changes and current state of the organization can read her perspective as well as others who have reported on these shifts online. These developments resulted in the firing of a capable and respected editor-in-chief, the resignation of some of the best religion reporters I have ever known, and now, my untimely departure. Though my integrity would not allow me to remain, the details of my disagreements with RNS leadership are unimportant except to those involved and litigating them in public at this time will not serve either party well.
Despite these unfortunate developments, I would be remiss if I did not express my profound gratitude for the many years I spent as a columnist for Religion News Service, and my desire for the organization to regain the standing it once held in the journalistic world. I am grateful that so many of you read, interacted with, and shared my work these last five years. And I’m grateful to have worked with such a talented team. Though I have been the top traffic generator at Religion News Service, I do not overestimate my contribution there. Many outstanding religion writers remain among their ranks, and in the days ahead, I will continue to champion their work and share their stories with all of you.
As for me, do not worry, dear readers. I will continue writing columns about religion as I always have in various other outlets, and you can engage my work in the pages of my forthcoming book, “Learning to Speak God from Scratch.”  I remain committed to providing thought-provoking and necessary religion content to help you process and confront the issues we now face.
It has always been for you–my readers–that I write.
And that will never change.

As you would expect, there have been reactions online. Such as:

Also this:

This one comes from a rather logical source:

Now, there are other documents flying around in cyberspace about this painful episode.

At this point in time -- unlike the wild days after the original meltdown -- many of the participants have not seen fit to send RNS and Religion News Association outsiders copies of these semi-private posts and emails. Thus, following the protocols we used during the Meltdown, your GetReligionistas won't post emails or crossfire posted on private Facebook sites -- unless the participants circulate those documents on their own and it's possible to verify who is who.

This drama is not over yet, I am sure.

Online journalism is a complicated place, these days, in terms of trying to find the dollars and cents to keep a newsroom's doors open. I would imagine that there are complicated economic and legal issues involved here, since a major talent is walking out the RNS door.

However, I will ask one specific question: What percentage of the RNS website's monthly traffic is linked to Merritt products? I would think that number is quite high.

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