We complain a lot about the dearth of full-time religion writers here in the USA, but our situation is positively lush compared to our neighbor to the north.
Whereas Canadian religion reporters once featured the likes of Tom Harpur, Doug Todd, Bob Harvey., Gordon Legge and Harvey Sheppard, Todd now does religion plus a bunch of other beats. Other professionals have moved on, retired or died.
In the crunch that is today’s print newspaper world, dozens of religion writers have either been laid off or transferred to other beats. A younger generation of reporters, mainly Gen X’ers, never got to work full time because the beat was crashing in major regional newspapers from coast to coast just as they were coming into their prime.
But one newspaper: the Winnipeg Free Press, has a full faith page with local religion news. The reason?
Viewers are paying for it.
I want to draw your attention to a column (in J-source; the online publication for the Canadian Journalism Project) by Free Press religion freelancer John Longhurst, who explained how the Godbeat has appeared in the Winnipeg paper.
(A story about a local Catholic priest) is an example of the new approach the Free Press is taking to religion coverage, in a unique year-long pilot project in partnership with the city’s faith groups.
As editor Paul Samyn put it in a note to readers on March 2 when the project was launched: “Over the past nine months we’ve been on a mission, meeting with various members of the city’s faith groups to gauge their willingness to help fund the journalism we produce. The offer was simple: if you value faith coverage in your newspaper and you want to see more — help us do more.”
The faith community responded, contributing just over $30,000 to fund additional freelance writing by the Free Press’s two regular religion writers, along with other contributors.