Same as it ever was: It’s time for a new, old GetReligion

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You know that whole Christmas in July thing, when stores and other groups have fun by, well, pretending that it’s Christmas, only in the month of July?

That is kind of what is going on here today. Kind of.

The big news is that GetReligion.org is going back to being GetReligion.org — period. This website has, over the past decade or so, gone through three basic transformations in its platform and layout and now we are headed into No. 4.

We are returning to our status as an independent website that wrestles with issues of religion-beat coverage in the mainstream press, linked to The Media Project and, in a process that will evolve over the next year, to my future classroom work with The King’s College in New York City. The key institution at that prime lower-downtown location is the college’s new John McCandlish Phillips Institute, which is led by a New York City journalist named Paul Glader, who is justifiably well-known for his years of hard-news work with The Wall Street Journal. If you are not familiar with the byline of the late and very great New York Times reporter John McCandlish Phillips, please click here and then here.

The key to this fourth GetReligion move is that we are, first and foremost, a journalism website — as opposed to being a site that fosters dialogues and debates (valid ones, at times) about religion and religious issues. As such, our turf is rather different than the many excellent blogs that have flourished here in the digital universe called Patheos. We think it is time to link up with projects, old and new, dedicated to journalism education.

So what does this have to do with the Christmas in July image?

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Let me explain.

BeatHeadOnWallWe have been working on this move for a long, long, long, long time. That’s the digital reality when moving a website from one platform to another when your archive involves millions and millions of words (I have written about 4 million myself) and untold thousands or hyperlinks, images and comments.

The original plan was to make this move (wait for it) back on our weblog’s 10th anniversary, on Feb. 2. Thus, this is kind of a 2nd of February on August the 4th thing. Does that make sense? That’s why, in the first week or so of the new site — GetReligion.org, once again — I will be running some tweaked versions of the 10th anniversary posts, in which we say things like this:

When Douglas LeBlanc and I launched GetReligion 10 years ago our goal was to offer both positive and negative criticism of religion coverage in the mainstream press. (The first post is dated Feb. 1, 2004, but it went live on Feb. 2.) We wanted to be able to defend the press from many religious readers who, essentially, just want to see PR releases backing their side of any argument. Yes, and we wanted to be able to criticize errors of fact, glaring religion-shaped holes in stories (more on those “ghosts” later) and stories that failed to offer accurate, balanced treatment of serious voices in public debates.

To get specific, we wanted to be able to defend The New York Times from critics who never cut that great newspaper any slack, who never see the amazingly broad coverage that it provides day after day. We wanted to argue that the problem with the Times is that it is inconsistent in its pursuit of the essential journalism virtues. It offers page after page of quality coverage and then, boom, readers run into a story that may as well have been written in the press office of this or that activist group linked to the very issue being covered.

But here’s the key: We wanted to be able to argue that the problems were caused by an inconsistent approach to news, not by a specific bias in the newspaper that was being applied in a doctrinaire manner (as many critics would insist).

Same as it ever was (note: the guy in the video looks a little bit like a slightly less hip version of the president of The King’s College).

This is what your GetReligionistas will keep on trying to do, in our own imperfect way. We will keep chasing religion ghosts in mainstream news.

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Please be patient with us. It will take us a little bit of time to settle into the new website — that’s GetReligion.org — and the new platform at SquareSpace.

We can expect a few stumbles and flawed links to here and there. Also know that we hope, in the future, to be able (once again) to maintain better control of our comments pages, keeping them focused more on journalism issues. We hope that it is easier in the new platform for journalists who are known to us to comment without having to, well, accept too many ties that bind. The new site will, eventually, have some low-key advertisements that will be linked to the online commerce that readers have already been doing (I hope I said that right).

We will continue to do podcasts and there is the dream of full-on weekly GetReligion radio show online and through some radio stations.

The team will evolve a bit, too. The Rev. George Conger will continue to write about global media, but his essays will be based at the main site for The Media Project. We will frequently link to his work and share texts here. We hope the same thing continues for our friend and colleague Richard Ostling.

Also, we have a new GetReligionista — a woman who is a legend, shall we say, in the world of New York City headline writing. Dawn Eden is a former rock critic, a copy-desk pro at major dailies and, these days, is known as an emerging Catholic voice through her books and theological studies. That’s not your normal resume. She will introduce herself next week, but curious readers can head over to her personal site, The Dawn Patrol.

The evolution in these cyber-circles will continue throughout the year. A year from now, I hope to be writing in this space full-time, while teaching part-time. At one of my desks I will looking out at the hardwoods in East Tennessee. At the other I will be near the corner of Broadway and Wall Street. Life doesn’t get more diverse and interesting than that.

Please join the GetReligion team as we move on. And pass the word.

That’s GetReligion.org — again.

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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.

  • jonswerens

    Dawn Eden! What a great addition to your cast of characters.

  • Darren Jones

    I am really glad you’re bringing Dawn Eden on.

    And now I have to go change my feedly link :)

  • Darrell Turner

    Congratulations on your anniversary and on the addition of Dawn Eden. One suggestion I have is to try to avoid sarcastic comments that sometimes sound as though they are directed against one side in a religio/political debate rather than against poor journalistic practices. Get Religion performs a valuable service, and it would be unfortunate if it were to be identified with either the religious right or the religious left.

  • Kevin Spencer

    Glad you’re moving back to a more moderated format. Patheos, while suitable for blogs, made for poor comment management in a format that demands that readers stay on topic. Happy anniversary!


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