Friday Five: Heidi Hall's last story, mainline blues, praying to plants, FFRF stenography, Ukraine scoop

Friends and loved ones mourn Wednesday’s death of Heidi Hall, a former religion and education editor for The Tennessean.

As noted by that newspaper, the cause of her passing was metastatic colorectal cancer. She was 49.

Hall wrote a final story, published Thursday.

“It's the story of her life — of losing everything when she left the (Jehovah’s) Witnesses — and finding a new family of her own,” RNS editor-in-chief Bob Smietana noted on Twitter.

Now, let’s dive into the Friday Five:

1. Religion story of the week: Yes, our own Terry Mattingly is a tough critic.

But he gave an extremely positive review to Washington Post religion writer Julie Zauzmer’s piece that ran this week with this headline: “The circuit preacher was an idea of the frontier past. Now it’s the cutting-edge response to shrinking churches.”

“If you start reading this one, you will want to read it all,” tmatt said.

Amen.

2. Most popular GetReligion post: Praying to plants?

Yep, it happened this week, and tmatt’s analysis of the news coverage of it was our most-read post of the week.

If you missed it, be sure to check out the post, titled “Praying to plants: Twitter explodes when Union Seminary holds one of its interfaith rites.”

Oh, and tmatt called up the Union theologian at the heart of the controversy and used that interview as the heart of his national “On Religion” column for the Universal syndicate. Click here to see that.

3. Guilt folder fodder (and more): OK, let’s repeat this one more time: Journalists simply regurgitating the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s talking points as if they’re the gospel truth is not great journalism.

We pointed out a positive example this week of a news organization actually doing praiseworthy coverage involving the FFRF.

Regrettably, the Greenville News in South Carolina apparently did not get the memo.

4. Shameless plug: Both Julia Duin and I have posted on the Religion News Association’s annual meeting last week in Las Vegas — here, here, here and here.

Probably my favorite session was a panel discussion on “How To Cover Horrific Events,” featuring The Tennessean’s Holly Meyer, The Post and Courier’s Jennifer Berry Hawes, disaster psychologist Jamie Aten, Religion News Service’s Yonat Shimron and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Peter Smith.

If you are interested, the session can be viewed online.

5. Final thought: Well, now you know the real scoop on that phone call.

Happy Friday, everybody! Enjoy the weekend!

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