5Q+1 e-visits with Russell Chandler

London Eye 1Everyone needs heroes. Back in 1980 or so, when I was trying to break into religion reporting, I decided that one of my journalistic heroes was going to be Russell Chandler of the Los Angeles Times.

If you know anything about the history of religion news in American, you know that this was a very predictable choice. Chandler’s work on the beat was winning every award known to humanity — often two or three times. There has never been a stronger advocate of basic, old-school, hard news journalism on this beat than Russ and, to push toward the future, he has helped create a national award for religion writing at the college-newspaper level.

Chandler earned a B.S. in Business Administration from UCLA, a master’s degree from the University of Southern California’s Graduate School of Religion and an M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary. He is an ordained minister in the mainline Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), but has always been known for his fairness and rigor on both sides of various religious divides. With retirement on the horizon, he launched into writing books that focused on trends in American religion. To read a copy of a speech by Chandler, click here.

All of this is to say that Chandler is the first person to take part in our ongoing and still evolving 5Q+1 feature. As you can tell, he answered the questions via email. I’ve added some links. I am sorry about his kind first reference, but I have not censored him:

(1) Where do you get your news about religion?

Tmatt weekly columns; ReligionLink, a service of the Religion Newswriters Association; Christianity Today magazine; daily papers (local and The Wall Street Journal); Leadership Network postings; The Gathering newsletter (online); Commonweal magazine (some); TV specials (some), and AOL news items (some).

(2) What is the most important religion story right now that you think the mainstream media just don’t get?

Evangelical Christians (of whatever denominational affiliation, if any) are not necessarily right-wing fundamentalists; militant extremists; or pre-trib, anti-environmentalists. The usual conservative, right-wing “Christian” spokespersons often quoted by elite and/or un-savvy reporters don’t necessarily speak for the majority of any group, only for themselves. Same for the “super-libs.”

(3) What is the story that you’ll be watching carefully in the next year or two?

How the ongoing religion/culture/power wars between Islamic groups in the Middle East play out.

(4) Why is it important for journalists to understand the role of religion in our world today?

What people believe has profound influence on how they behave.

(5) What’s the funniest, most ironic twist that you’ve seen in a religion news story lately?

School Renames Easter Bunny ‘Peter Rabbit’

ABC News

(April 7) — A Rhode Island public school has decided the Easter bunny is too Christian and renamed him Peter Rabbit, and a state legislator is so hopping mad he has introduced an “Easter Bunny Act” to save the bunny’s good name.

Chandler comment: PC gone to seed!

BONUS: Do you have anything else you want to tell us about religion coverage in the mainstream news media?

Why limit it to mainstream news media? We should be alert to how religion, ethics and values are covered by all media — the good, bad, right, left, ignorant and ugly.

Religion watchers’ eyes should rove to and fro throughout the entire spiritual landscape.

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Update on our 5Q+1 process

A Question Mark on Stained Glass Posters2Coming soon

One of the goals of GetReligion is to have a two-way conversation with journalists. We do that in the posts and comments pages, of course, but we also want to try something new.

In the near future we will begin an series of occasional posts that we will call “5Q+1.” The goal is talk to journalists whose work involves religious issues and events, whether they are assigned to the Godbeat or not. We hope to ask a few basic questions and store the answers in this pull-down archive on the masthead.

What kind of questions? Here’s what we’re thinking:

(1) Where do you like to get your news about religion?

(2) What is the most important religion story right now that you think the mainstream media just don’t get?

(3) What is the story that you’ll be watching carefully in the next year or two?

(4) Why is it important for journalists to understand the role of religion in our world today?

(5) What’s the funniest, most ironic twist that you’ve seen in a religion news story lately?

And the +1 or “fill in the blanks” question is: Do you have anything else you want to tell us about religion coverage in the mainstream news media?

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Working on 5Q+1 (Post No. 2,000)

Face of RPI   question markMay I have your attention please. According to the software we use around here, this is the 2,000th post in the nearly three years since Doug LeBlanc and I opened the cyber-doors here at GetReligion.

Actually, there have been a few posts that one of us started and never finished and it’s hard to know how those numbers figure into the count. And, back in the TypePad days, we had a little feature on the sidebar called “Short Takes” and all of those posts vanished when we went to WordPress. So who knows how many posts we have actually written.

However, this is the 2,000th post stored on the site, so I thought I’d mention this little landmark.

That’s a lot of writing and it’s been fun, interesting (at least for us) and, at times, a little frustrating. The busy journalists involved in this site wish that we could do much more than we do. And we are always trying to make improvements and we hope to make a few more around Feb. 1, our third birthday. We’re working with the folks at Pierpoint Design to try to freshen up our front page.

Also, we are going to create a semi-regular feature for the blog that we will call 5Q+1. The whole idea is that one of us will call up a journalist — either a Godbeat specialist or someone whose mainstream work frequently involves religious issues — and ask them a set of five standard questions.

Some of the people we call — or email — will be folks that we already know read GetReligion. But sometimes we’ll call people that we hope read the blog or might be willing to look it over and then talk to us. We hope that, once we get started with this, readers will suggest people for us to feature.

So what should we ask them? The Rt. Rev. LeBlanc and I had a chance to meet for lunch last week on Capitol Hill and here’s our rough draft of five basic questions.

(1) Where do you like to get your news about religion?

(2) What do you think is the most important religion story right now that you think the mainstream media just don’t get?

(3) What is the story that you’ll be watching carefully in the next year or two?

(4) Why is it important to understand the role of religion in our world today?

(5) What’s the funniest, most ironic twist that you’ve seen in a religion news story lately?

And the +1 element of the list is an opportunity for each journalist to say something to us, with a kind of “What’s going on?” wildcard question.

(6) Is there anything else that you’d like to say about religion and the news?

So there we go. Any suggestions for who we ought to talk to first? I already have a candidate, of course, and I’m trying to reach this journalist at the moment.

But what suggestions do you have for the wording on these questions? Does anyone have a totally different question you want to suggest? It goes without saying that the Divine Mrs. MZ and young master Daniel will have plenty of input, and so will the head hauncho at the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life, the Rev. Dr. Editor Arne Fjeldstad.

So what do you think?

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