Ch-ch-ch-ch Changes again, here in GetReligion land

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All together now, GetReligion readers.

Strange fascination, fascinating me
Changes are taking the pace
I’m going through …

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes
(Turn and face the stranger)
Ch-ch-Changes
Pretty soon you’re gonna get
a little older
Time may change me
But I can’t trace time
I said that time may change me
But I can’t trace time

GetReligion has faced some major changes in its nearly 10 years of cyber-life, but nothing like what we’ll be going through this month.

Alas, I am not talking about changes in technology or format. I’m talking about changes on our masthead, in terms of the writers whose work you follow here day after day.

For starters, Joe Carter is already out the door — after taking a social-media job with the Washington, D.C., office of, well, a really ginormous faith-based flock. He cannot discuss the details for another week or two, when the new post will formally be announced. His work with us ended Sept. 1. He has been a crucial player for us on a wide variety of issues, including social media.

But the big news is that the Divine Mrs. M.Z. Hemingway — she of the 2,016, and counting, GetReligion posts over the past eight years — has accepted a full-time reporting, editing and commentary position with a major online news website that literally has yet to be announced. Thus, she cannot share all of the details of her new gig with us until the launch in a week or so.

I don’t quite know how to describe the force-of-nature role that MZ has created for herself here at GetReligion and in social media — so I won’t even try. The word “omnipresent” leaps to mind (especially on Twitter).

Mollie will write her own farewell post at the end of the month (she’s writing in a limited role all of September). At this point, I will simply stress that her name will remain on our masthead for a simple reason: How can you read all of the interlocked posts she has produced here through the years (posts to which I am sure people will continue to link) without people being able to find an online reference on this site that says who she is?

Plus, we hope that her new employer will — once the site is up and rolling — allow her to come back to GetReligion in a much smaller role than her current daily posting role. I am saying that she is on extended leave.

So how in the world do you replace people like MZ and Joe?

The short answer is is this: We’re going to need a bigger boat. By that, I don’t mean that we need a bigger website. I mean that we need more people.

Longtime readers will know that when MZ started out, she was writing two or three times a week — not daily. Right now, my goal is to find several people who do what we do and then see where they fit in.

As always, we’re looking for people with mainstream professional journalism experience who want to join us in looking for religion ghosts in daily news coverage. We are a circle of traditional religious believers who just happen to strongly believe that journalism will be improved by people who love journalism, rather than people who hate it. We remain committed to old-fashioned journalism that places a heavy emphasis on accuracy, fairness and balance, especially when covering hot-button moral, cultural and religious issues. We remain much more interested in matters of doctrine and practice than we are interested in politics.

We are talking to several people at the moment about coming on board, but you can look forward to the following bylines in the weeks.

The first is veteran technology writer Mark “God on the Internet” Kellner, a former Gannett professional whose day job is as news editor of the Adventist Review magazine. Obviously, as a scribe associated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church, he will be doing minimal writing about press coverage of that flock (although sometimes it’s interesting to hear the point of view of someone on the other side of the reporter’s notebook). Also, since Kellner still writes a religion analysis column for The Washington Times, he will not be doing criticism of The Washington Post or other DC-specific media.

The other news is that GetReligion’s Oklahoma-Sunbelt bureau will expand, with veteran editor and Godbeat reporter Tamie Ross joining the team. Yes, this is the spouse of Bobby Ross Jr., but her work as an editor, religion writer and feature writer (at The Oklahoman), and some work in television and religious-market journalism (United Methodist News Service and The Christian Chronicle) speaks for itself. The Ross duo will write more often here than Bobby’s load in the past.

You’ll see introductions from Keller and Tamie Ross in the near future, as they kick into posting mode.

That’s all for now, but methinks there will be a few other GetReligion changes in the near future.

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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.

  • Carlh

    My, oh my! Joe, we hardly knew you (at least as a GetReligion blogger . . .). And Mollie will be very much missed here. I will eagerly watch for details about where they both will begin writing again.

  • FW Ken

    Mollie’s work on abortion issues is incredible – the Gosnell debacle, the annual very small, almost non-existent March for Life, the hit Planned Parenthood put out on Susan G. Komen foundation. Awesome, indeed.

    And I’ve learned to appreciate Joe Carter in a short time.

    Thanks to both of you for some interesting, thought-provoking reads.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

      Well-put, but let me speak up for the now distraught Missouri Synod Lutheran readers. Wherever will we get our idiosyncratic parsings of religious reporting now?!

  • Darren Blair

    Would you consider at any point taking on “amateurs” who may lack professional experience but who can back themselves up elsewhere?

    You might just be surprised to find how many people there are out there who’d be willing to lend a hand to a venture such as this.

    • tmatt

      Not at this time. The key is that this really is a journalism blog. I think that it is hard to do constructive criticism of news organizations unless you have really worked in the news industry and no something about its strengths and its practical limitations.

  • Brett

    I wish Mollie and Joe well, and ask forgiveness for hijacking their farewell thread by posing a technical question. Several recent posts have comment threads that feature very little discussion of the journalism under consideration but quite a bit of back and forth over the issue itself (sometimes with considerable heat but next to no light). At the old site, these could be voted down until they disappeared and it seems that, in the initial time on Patheos, they could be spiked.

    Did moderators make a decision to stop spiking comments or does some new feature of Patheos prevent or discourage it, or is there another reason I’m not considering? I’ve been downchecking posts that just addressed an issue and not any journalistic questions about the coverage (even when I agreed with the position taken by the commenter), but I also find myself more and more skipping comment threads altogether because too often they’re becoming just another episode of the xkcd comic, “Someone is wrong on the Internet.”

    My apologies again for hijacking a thread thanking Mollie and Joe for their work and I will be happy to re-send or re-post this elsewhere if appropriate.

    • tmatt

      My answer has two parts:

      * First of all, no one at GetReligion does this work full time. All of us have day jobs and sometimes other duties on top of that, in addition to responsibilities linked to real life. There is no full time editor/writer who can sit and watch comments flow in real time.

      * Also, the Disqus software chosen by Patheos does not give individual bloggers in a multi-voice site the kind of control that we used to have. Disqus works just fine for many bloggers and that’s the basis of the Patheos management’s decision. But Disqus has been a disaster for the realities faced by the GetReligion team.

      Even this site’s critics used to salute the quality and focus of the exchanges in our comments pages. At this point, we cannot do anything to return to that era.

      So I agree with your post, but there is really nothing that can be done in the current framework.

      • Brett

        Well, that is unfortunate. I certainly appreciate the chance to review news coverage (former profession) of religious matters (current profession) and all of the work the GR folks do.

        I would disagree slightly about Disqus. It’s a fine system if a blogger’s goal is to put up content and ignore his or her comment thread and the low-level discussion that can occur (read any Breitbart site comment thread for an example). But for any blogger who wants to engage readers and gets more than four or five comments per post, it is inadequate to the task.

        • tmatt

          I said that DIsqus works well for the majority of the users in the Patheos universe. However, it does not work for a multi-writer site with our content goals.

  • Sarah Webber

    No, Mollie, don’t leave!

    • http://getreligion.org/ Bobby Ross Jr.

      This.

      • tmatt

        Word.

  • juliaduin

    Good for Mark that he’s coming on. Mollie, who will track all the abortion-related news with you gone???