Fab five: What we're doing here, Part II

Mattbig_3A confession: I have no idea how to answer Bob Carlton’s call for my top five posts of the year, which, in this case, also means we are trying to select our favorite work in the (almost) first year of this still experimental and not even in a permanent format blog.

I mean, I think the cornerstone "What we’re doing here" piece would be in there. Maybe. But when I started digging, it didn’t make the top 10. I quickly realized that what I was wrestling with is my own conflicted feelings about what GetReligion is meant to be and what the readers seem to want it to be. I mean, this is not a religion blog. It is a blog about how the mainstream media cover religion, with a special emphasis on "ghosts" in the hard-news coverage in the most influential newspapers, wire services and, when can find a way to do it, networks. We also want to try to find excellent stories to praise, wherever they run.

See the tensions? One one level, I wanted to pick items that dissected some of the major, major, major religion news stories of the year. I mean, how do you pick five without a "Passion" post in there? How do you avoid the Kerry Communion story? The red-blue pews? The Anglican wars?

Yet I also found myself — hey, I’m a sinner — drawn to pieces that were more personal, from hurricane prayers to U2 to whatever. Or I could have picked five posts that dealt with the New York Times and its inner demons about religion, culture, journalism and fairness. In other words, I could have picked posts built on commentary about the news media and the religion beat itself. There are lots of them in this blog, already.

Or, you could dash through the blog and pick the posts that drew the most reader response. Isn’t reader response a major clue as to what posts "hit the mark"?

Then again, most reader comments (cue: sad-sounding string music) to GetReligion have little to do with our stated goal, which is, once again, to comment on how mainstream media cover religion. Most of our response posts — which we are very happy to receive, by the way, and keep them coming — are highly opinionated comments about the actual content of the religious, moral and cultural disputes that the press is covering. I had dinner the other night with Steven Waldman of Beliefnet and he said not to worry about that. It’s just the nature of the blogosphere. So be it. That might make a good topic — along with the problem of venomous bloggers and civility — for some kind of summit meeting between The Revealer, Beliefnet and GetReligion.

So with all of that in mind, let me give this a try. I am including five honorable mentions as a way of illustrating the conflicts I have just discussed.

* The (Passion) Gospel according to Newsweek

* Red churches, blue churches, smart churches, dumb churches

* The ancient Church Fathers and the AP Stylebook

* Another clash of dogmas in the New York Times

* Revenge of the (red-blue) map: It’s hard to avoid the obvious

And the honorable mentions:

* Baby, baby: The New York Times faces a ghost in the stylebook

* Pro-abortion-rights spell checker in LA?

* U2 debates: How long must we sing this song?

* Druids and goddesses and Episcopalians, oh my

* How do you do fair coverage of the homophobes?

Dare I request comments and corrections?

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Richard

    As you stated, the goal was to keep it more or less focused on media reporting about religion and associated issues and it has gotten off that track from time to time. I discovered this blog because I was looking for some information about Anglicans and the Episcopal Church and was delighted at what I’ve encountered here. The writing is great and much of the commentary is thoughtful and intelligent and it has allowed me to think about views of religious and political issues I hadn’t considered before. Thanks for creating an enjoyable place to get one’s mind tickled about religion and currently related events. Keep it up, it would be shame to see it go away or change itself in a substantially different way.

  • http://jeffthebaptist.blogspot.com Jeff the Baptist

    I personally like Ancient Church Fathers and the AP Stylebook. URL here:

    http://getreligion.typepad.com/getreligion/2004/08/the_church_fath.html

    But thats probably because you quote me in the first paragraph. ;)

  • Jeff in Ohio

    I first got here through a link from Cann’s webelves. I’m now hooked. Your stated purpose is what i come here for. As a consumer of religion news it is really interesting to see pros take it apart and critique it. I didn’t know about the AP stylebook, for instance, or the slant it gives to stories. Thank you.


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