‘Devastating to Godreporting’

What a horrendous week for the Godbeat.

First came the news that the Boston Globe‘s award-winning religion reporter Michael Paulson had been promoted to city editor. Jen Peter, the Globe‘s previous city editor, was recently upped to metro editor and her first act was to promote Paulson. This is great news for him, but a loss for religion reporting. When Paulson hinted at this in his most recent Articles of Faith blog post, he mentioned that the Globe would find a new religion reporter if he were to leave the beat. We’ll keep you updated.

Here’s some interesting information from Peter’s memo about the promotion, as posted over at the Boston Phoenix:

During his nearly exactly 10 years with the Globe (his first day was Jan. 10, 2000), Michael has covered the region’s communities of faith with a sensitivity and authority that have made him one of the most esteemed religion reporters in the country. He was a member of the Globe team that, quite literally, changed the world, with its coverage of the clergy sex abuse scandal within the Catholic Church. The coverage won the newspaper the Pulitzer Prize for public service and just about every other journalism award that exists.

He has also chronicled the Episcopal Church’s internal battle over gay marriage, the closings of multiple Catholic parishes, and the death of Pope John Paul II. These stories, combined with his coverage of the sex abuse scandal, earned him the Religion Communicators Council’s Wilbur Award four years in a row. I could go on, listing more stories that won more awards, but I think you get the idea. He had an extraordinary decade.

Perhaps most important to me, and what I hope to accomplish in my new role, Michael also was one of the first reporters to grasp the potential of online coverage. He liveblogged Archbishop O’Malley’s elevation to cardinal in Rome and Deval Patrick’s historic inauguration as the state’s first African-American governor. He produced several videos for boston.com and launched a blog, “Articles of Faith,” that drew a devoted readership.

And this week also saw the departure from the Godbeat of Associated Press reporter Eric Gorski. Now, I am pretty sure that Gorski’s own family doesn’t compliment his writing as much as I have, so you can imagine how personally I’m taking this loss! I’ll go ahead and let Gorski explain his decision to change beats:

From God to the quad

I’m excited to share the news that I’m taking on a new role at AP. I’ll be covering higher education while my national reporting team colleague Justin Pope is on a year-long leave.

Religion is one of the best beats in journalism. Over the last 11 years it’s taken me to a Juarez slum, the apartment of a cardinal in Rome, an Islamic school in rural Indonesia, a papal Mass at Yankee Stadium and the Great American Beer Festival.

I also relish the challenge of diving into a rich, complex and important beat like higher ed.

I know most of you know me through the God beat, and I can’t tell you at this point whether this is a respite or a permanent break. My religion writing partner Rachel Zoll will continue her great work on the beat, as will our regional team of religion writers working out of bureaus across the country.

I’ve got one more religion story in the works. And of course religion intersects with higher education as it does with almost everything. So I will be looking for stories of consequence there.

What a major change. I suppose it is good, in both Paulson’s and Gorski’s cases that they will be moving to new positions with an eye toward the importance of religion coverage. If only we could put former religion beat pros throughout every paper. Still, I have to agree with what another Godbeat pro said about the changes — that they’re “devastating to Godreporting.”

We of course wish them well and hope that they will keep us informed of their new adventures.

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  • http://SNAPnetwork.org david clohessy

    These two outstanding journalists will be sorely missed.

    David Clohessy, National Director, SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, 7234 Arsenal Street, St. Louis MO 63143, 314 566 9790 cell (SNAPclohessy@aol.com)

  • Jerry

    I’m excited to share the news that I’m taking on a new role at AP.

    I hope he’ll forgive me for saying that this is the same thing someone always says when taking a new job even if they loathe the change.


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