New to the Godbeat in St. Louis: Lilly Fowler

In case you missed our tweet — you do follow GetReligion on Twitter and Facebook, right? — the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has hired a new religion writer.

This past fall, Post-Dispatch “religion-writing superstar” Tim Townsend left to become a senior writer and editor at the Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project. We might have mentioned his departure once or twice or five times — here, here, here, here and here.

The journalist hired as Townsend’s successor? Lilly Fowler, a longtime Religion News Service contributor.

Post-Dispatch assistant metro editor Matthew Franck shared this internal announcement on Fowler’s hiring:

We are pleased to announce that Lilly Fowler will join the metro desk as a religion reporter. Lilly has master’s degrees in journalism, from the University of Southern California, and religion, from Notre Dame. Her freelance work on religion has appeared in Slate, Salon and a host of papers, including the Post-Dispatch. Most recently, she has been an assistant editor at FairWarning, a nonprofit in Los Angeles, where she has written investigative projects on health, safety and corporate conduct. She also has multimedia experience as a web producer for the public radio broadcast Marketplace.

One respected Godbeat pro told me he was unfamiliar with Fowler. “I don’t know anything about Lilly — do you?” he asked.

When I shared the memo copied above, that writer replied, “Great credentials. Any clergy who have something to hide should be nervous.”

Let’s not put too much pressure on Fowler to start. It takes a while to build a new beat in a new city. And as she said herself, she has “big shoes” to fill.

But like her predecessor, we welcome her hiring by the Post-Dispatch and look forward to reading her stories.

About Bobby Ross Jr.

Bobby Ross Jr. is an award-winning reporter and editor with a quarter-century of professional experience. A former religion editor for The Oklahoman and religion writer for The Associated Press, Ross serves as chief correspondent for the The Christian Chronicle. He has reported from 47 states and 11 countries and was honored as the Religion Newswriters Association's 2013 Magazine Reporter of the Year.

  • FW Ken

    Any clergy who have something to hide should be nervous.

    So digging up dirt is the main job of a religion journalist?

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

      I guess it depends on your definition of “digging up dirt.” If a religious institution is hiding wrongdoing, such as sexual abuse of children, then certainly a journalist can play a key role in shining light on that.

      But to answer your question more directly, nobody said digging up dirt is the main job of a religion journalist. I think the reporter’s response mainly relates to Fowler’s background in hard news reporting. Those kind of credentials certainly can be helpful in reporting positive, negative and in-between stories.

      • FW Ken

        I’m a Catholic who thinks the reporting on sexual abuse has done us a world of good. Our house is getting a good cleaning and we are being relieved of a lot of excess money. Hopefully someone will look at the larger societal problem of child abuse as well.

        But the only comment made was about exposing malfeasance. I do hope for a broad range of reporting. Religious people do a lot of good things. It’s not all about child abuse or embezzlement. Sometimes it can be about the struggles of a congregation to build a building or adapt to the loss of a pastor.

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

          Understood.


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