GetReligion turns 6, believe it or not

Six years ago today, Douglas LeBlanc clicked his Mac mouse and GetReligion was born as a small website on TypePad.

We had a simple goal, but one that was a bit hard to explain to folks on the outside.

GetReligion was not and is not a site about religion news. It’s a site about how the mainstream press struggles to cover religion.

Let me repeat that: GetReligion was not and is not a site about religion news. It’s a site about how the mainstream press struggles to cover religion.

From the start we have tried to praise the good and dissect the bad, while striving to talk as much as possible about basic issues of journalism craft. As journalists, Doug and I outed ourselves, at the very beginning, as traditional Christians of two different brand names who shared a passion about improving religion-news coverage.

We hoped that, within a year or two, we might be taken seriously. We hoped that we might even end up being listed as a religion-news coverage resource at Poynter.org or other mainstream journalism sites. That happened in a matter of weeks.

Since then the online numbers have continued to add up, especially after a few other writers joined the team.

Right now, we’re at 5,051 posts in six years.

As I type this, we’re at 62,302 comments and at least another 20,000 or so have been spiked for one reason or another — mostly because they are based on arguments about doctrine, not journalism.

There are 3,181 comments containing the word “Jerry.” That’s a shock. There are 1,477 containing the word “deacon,” which is lower than I expected. Some folks have gotta do what they’ve gotta do. That’s fine with us, if they want to talk about journalism.

The site’s birthday is always a good time to point back at that first post, the one called “What we do, why we do it.” Here’s how that opens:

Day after day, millions of Americans who frequent pews see ghosts when they pick up their newspapers or turn on television news.

They read stories that are important to their lives, yet they seem to catch fleeting glimpses of other characters or other plots between the lines. There seem to be other ideas or influences hiding there.

One minute they are there. The next they are gone. There are ghosts in there, hiding in the ink and the pixels. Something is missing in the basic facts or perhaps most of the key facts are there, yet some are twisted. Perhaps there are sins of omission, rather than commission.

A lot of these ghosts are, well, holy ghosts. They are facts and stories and faces linked to the power of religious faith. Now you see them. Now you don’t. In fact, a whole lot of the time you don’t get to see them. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

The ghosts are still out there and we’re still trying to see them and write about them. We get to celebrate the fact that, even in tough times in daily journalism, there are some reporters who really know how to see the religion ghosts and write about them. There are some journalists who just don’t care or they even seem to want the ghosts to go away.

We will keep banging our head on this wall, because that is what we do. We remain committed to the belief that mainstream American journalism is important and that it will be improved by critics who love journalism, not hate journalism. There are many critics out there who actually hate mainstream journalism and we are not very fond of them, to tell you the truth.

So, what should we do to celebrate the past year?

In the past, the writers have posted our own summaries, like this “Take 5″ roundup that I did last year. Surf around in the week and you’ll see the other posts in that series.

But this year — taking the advice of some folks in the comments pages — we want to hear from you.

So please cite your favorite posts from the year — two or three would be nice — and give us the links/URLs.

You can also point us toward the best contributions to the comment boards. If you only have one, that’s fine. The important thing is to take part. Tell us your favorite headlines, if the spirit moves.

Above all, please keep reading, please keep commenting and please keep sending us URLs from religion-news stories — good, bad and haunted — that you see in the mainstream press.

Thanks! If you send in a bunch of stuff I’ll try to create some kind of follow-up post later in the week.

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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

    There are 3,181 comments containing the word “Jerry.”

    So all of you shudder and reach for the headache medicine when you see my name. Or maybe I need a 12-step program for prolific posters?

    For what it’s worth, a few pages of google shows that at least some of the “Jerry”s are due to Jerry Falwell, Father Jerry Pokorsky, Jerry Costello, Jerry (#4) and Jerry N.

    Anyway, happy birthday to GetReligion.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    I knew that, Jerry.

    There are also other stories containing the word “deacon.”

    I was just trying to do some fund tributes to loyal readers.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Gosh, where are the folks who wanted this “best of” thing, selected by readers?
    ;-)

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Jerry,

    Your contributions make this site much better and are a model for other commenters. Thanks for being part of what we do.

  • Jerry N

    Wow, this site is Jerry-bait or something.

    Ad multos annos, GetReligion!

  • Chris Bolinger

    Few of us readers have time to review all of the postings from the past year and select favorites. I was hoping that the fine authors of those posts would select their favorites.

  • tmatt

    CHRIS:

    You said: “Best of GR” contest, with readers voting.

    So vote. We can’t make the choices.

    I sense a cop out!
    ;-)

  • MJBubba

    As for me, I have been a regular reader. I appreciate your posts catching up the spin coverage in the MSM on Prop 8/ homosexuality and on abortion and on Anglicans; I generally find them interesting but sometimes they overwhelm GetReligion. The posts that left me with real learning were those that brought out comments in the discussion thread from Wiccans, pagans, neopagans, pantheists, panentheists, etc.; I had had a very dated understanding of that world until the past two or three years of reading GetReligion. Overall, it seems to me that your most helpful work is in exhorting editors to be more careful at how words like fundamentalist, evangelical, moderate, orthodox, etc. are used. Also you are doing good work to cheer for good coverage of Evangelicals and Muslims, since mainstream coverage of both groups has been shallow, cliche-ridden and uninformative.
    Since nobody in my house watches any television, and since I am extremely unhappy with my local paper, my chief sources of news are NPR and the various stories that are linked here at GetReligion; those are the stories that are important to me. I am a fan.

  • Stoo

    Jerry is the commenter I’d be if I was a better person!

  • Chris Bolinger

    Here’s a stab:

    Some of my favorite posts from 2009 (in no particular order):
    Blind Side: http://www.getreligion.org/?p=22126, http://www.getreligion.org/?p=22232
    “ultra-conservative”: http://www.getreligion.org/?p=18305
    Josh Hamilton: http://www.getreligion.org/?p=16953
    Crying babies: http://www.getreligion.org/?p=16597
    The new Newsweek: http://www.getreligion.org/?p=12506
    Tebow a nerd?: http://www.getreligion.org/?p=15424
    Scottish church lady: http://www.getreligion.org/?p=10737

    Favorite comment: #16 in http://www.getreligion.org/?p=21998#comments

  • Chris Bolinger

    Well, that was a smashing success. I’m glad that I suggested it.

  • http://twitter.com/raleighbarfly raleighbarfly

    God bless your little hearts. I will have to blog about this…… (points if you understand the “GBYLH” reference…..Southerners excluded)