Working on 5Q+1 (Post No. 2,000)

Face of RPI   question markMay I have your attention please. According to the software we use around here, this is the 2,000th post in the nearly three years since Doug LeBlanc and I opened the cyber-doors here at GetReligion.

Actually, there have been a few posts that one of us started and never finished and it’s hard to know how those numbers figure into the count. And, back in the TypePad days, we had a little feature on the sidebar called “Short Takes” and all of those posts vanished when we went to WordPress. So who knows how many posts we have actually written.

However, this is the 2,000th post stored on the site, so I thought I’d mention this little landmark.

That’s a lot of writing and it’s been fun, interesting (at least for us) and, at times, a little frustrating. The busy journalists involved in this site wish that we could do much more than we do. And we are always trying to make improvements and we hope to make a few more around Feb. 1, our third birthday. We’re working with the folks at Pierpoint Design to try to freshen up our front page.

Also, we are going to create a semi-regular feature for the blog that we will call 5Q+1. The whole idea is that one of us will call up a journalist — either a Godbeat specialist or someone whose mainstream work frequently involves religious issues — and ask them a set of five standard questions.

Some of the people we call — or email — will be folks that we already know read GetReligion. But sometimes we’ll call people that we hope read the blog or might be willing to look it over and then talk to us. We hope that, once we get started with this, readers will suggest people for us to feature.

So what should we ask them? The Rt. Rev. LeBlanc and I had a chance to meet for lunch last week on Capitol Hill and here’s our rough draft of five basic questions.

(1) Where do you like to get your news about religion?

(2) What do you think is the most important religion story right now that you think the mainstream media just don’t get?

(3) What is the story that you’ll be watching carefully in the next year or two?

(4) Why is it important to understand the role of religion in our world today?

(5) What’s the funniest, most ironic twist that you’ve seen in a religion news story lately?

And the +1 element of the list is an opportunity for each journalist to say something to us, with a kind of “What’s going on?” wildcard question.

(6) Is there anything else that you’d like to say about religion and the news?

So there we go. Any suggestions for who we ought to talk to first? I already have a candidate, of course, and I’m trying to reach this journalist at the moment.

But what suggestions do you have for the wording on these questions? Does anyone have a totally different question you want to suggest? It goes without saying that the Divine Mrs. MZ and young master Daniel will have plenty of input, and so will the head hauncho at the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life, the Rev. Dr. Editor Arne Fjeldstad.

So what do you think?

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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.

  • Jerry

    I like the idea.

    One thing that has been bugging me for a while might be stated like this: “Why aren’t moderate Muslims (Christians) speaking out about the evil committed by the few. I look around and see many voices, but the perception still exists. I’d love someone to analyse if media coverage of religion is helping spread this idea or is in fact doing a decent job of covering a wide spectrum of voices?

  • MattK

    Proposed questions:

    What training and/or preparation did you have before becoming a religion reporter? If you found that to be insufficient, what training preparation do you you wish you had received prior to covering religion?

    When you take a story to your editor that is pure religion is there pressure to include a politics angle? Is the story likely to be in the front section of the paper or will it be relegated to the lifestyle section?

  • Martha

    Yes, I think a question about why they became a religion reporter would be very interesting.

    Was it a topic they particularly wanted to cover? Was it a case of “We need someone to cover this story – hey, you’re not working on anything right now, you’ll do” and they got stuck with the ‘religious affairs correspondent’ role ever since? Was it a case of “You’re a Catholic/Lutheran/B’hai, aren’t you? You know all about this stuff.”?

    I am interested to know if there is still a separate religion beat, and if so, how did they end up on it, or if it’s a case of jack-of-all-trades and they’re as likely to be sent to cover the dog show type thing.

  • Rambis

    First off, as a researcher, I can tell you #6 can be worded better. We never ask “Is there anything else…” since it’s too easy for people just to say, “No, you’ve covered it pretty well.” We always ask “What else is there…” because that demands a substantive answer. Not sure you’d have this problem with journalists, but just in case…

    Also, #4 seems to be significantly less meaningful than the other questions. It’s so broad that I’m not sure it’ll lead to real insight. I’m wondering whether in addition to asking about hot topics, you should ask about people – movers and shakers the mainstream media might not know about, that your readers or listeners should know?

    I also like MattK’s idea about the question on what training they got…or maybe should have gotten. I remember talking to the new religion editor at a major metro paper and asking him what his background was in religion news. His answer was that he had none and had no preparation. He was the science editor before and this position paid more.

  • Jill Kamp Melton

    Hannukah is the remembrance of a miracle. We need to remember more of the miracles in our lives so that we will not curse the darkness which inevitably comes. The Macabees were the warriors who came way before the heroes of the 6 day war. The follow in a long tradition of miraculous military victories like David over Goliath, Gideon and his measly band, Joshua and his trumpets (shofars) and more.
    Perhaps Hannukah is a reminder for us today to smash the idols we erect at Christmas and other holy-days so that we can meditate on the victory God gives us in the world when we hang tough with Him.