Advent of a GetReligion scribe: Mark Kellner climbs aboard

Greetings, I am Mark Kellner, and right now you can call me the “new kid” on the GetReligion block.

First things first: Alongside my faith, there’s something else in which I deeply believe: journalism. That may seem heretical — or even just dumb — but hear me out.

More on that in a minute. Here are the basic journalism facts about my work.

By day, I’m privileged to serve as news editor for two magazines: Adventist Review and Adventist World, general papers of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. By night, I write about several topics, mostly for The Washington Times, one of which is religion. I’ve had an interest in religion news for many years, having written on the subject for a bunch of publications including Christianity Today, Charisma and even (once upon a time, during the Reagan administration), Religion News Service. Long ago (in 1996, to be precise), my book, “ “God on the Internet” was published, and the wonderful and learned Phyllis Tickle called it a sine qua non in her book, “God-Talk in America.”

My other longtime journalistic interest, albeit on hiatus now, is in personal computing technology. For nearly 22 years, I wrote a weekly column, “On Computers,” for The Washington Times as well as working for (and, in one case, editing) computer magazines for business and personal users. I’m a confirmed Apple “fanboy,” but with a non-religious reason: the stuff works better than most other alternatives out there. (Discuss amongst yourselves, please, and of course, your mileage may vary.)

One of my favorite t-shirts, from the Religion Newswriters Association, says, “Religion Writers Are Sects Experts,” and given my interest in American-born religions (among other topics), I certainly agree with that statement. There are few areas in journalism as interesting or constantly changing as the religion news scene, so following developments there is of great interest. Watching how other people write about religion news is equally interesting.

Which leads me to my interest in serving the GetReligion community: having had exposure to a wide range of religion news topics, while on both sides of the notebook, I hope to bring some of that knowledge to bear in looking at how this news is being covered.

Like others here, I believe religion news is best covered by professionals who know a thing or two about the subject. Just as a police beat reporter could, conceivably, write a serviceable account of the U.S. Open tennis championship, you’re more likely to get a better report from someone who knows more about the game and the players. In religion, those who understand some of the basics and even some of the background/subtext behind a story are more likely to convey things clearly and, one hopes, fairly. It’s journalism, in other words.

That’s what I mean when I say that one of the things in which I “truly believe” is journalism. It is through journalism — content that is professionally created and, to use an au courant word, “curated” by an editor (or via several editors) before appearing online or in print — that we can learn reliable information about what’s going on in the world, and that includes the world of faith. From that basis, we can then make informed decisions about various issues of the day. Thus, I believe good journalism can improve a society, and perhaps even change lives. When journalism is poorly done, covering religion or anything else, no one is well served.

The other thing in which I truly believe is God, whom I’ve found as a believer; that includes what might be deemed a traditional view of Christian faith. That won’t keep me from writing, and I hope fairly, about other faiths, but as the prophet Isaiah wrote, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” (Isa. 40:8) I respect other points of view, of course, and hope you’ll respect mine.

Thanks for sharing this journey with me, and I hope you’ll find my contributions useful.

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 …

(Turn and face the stranger)
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?

[Read more...]

It’s summertime, and GetReligionista life is complicated

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Yes, it’s summertime (sing along with the voice of my teen years in Port Arthur, Texas) and, to cut to the chase, the living ain’t easy right now for your GetReligionistas.

There is no reason to bother you with the details, but several of us are currently facing medical complications that will involve multiple trips to multiple doctors in the coming days. Add that to the fact that, as regular GetReligion readers will recall, Father George Conger continues to wrestle with the results of his spinal surgery last spring.

And then there is the usual summer travel thing.

At the moment, Bobby is in a minimal Internet zone down in Nicaragua and in the weeks ahead I will be making multiple trips to my beloved Southern Highlands (think Tennessee and North Carolina) as well as another multi-day teaching assignment, this time in St. Petersburg, Fla. (covering journalism material very similar to that used in my recent trip to Bangkok, Thailand).

All of this is to say that GetReligion will not be shutting down for a summer break. We’ve never done that, over the past nine years.

What we will be doing is slowing down a bit, with our posts coming at the rate of two a day instead of the usual three and sometimes four.

Weekends? As a rule, we try to offer three posts every weekend and I imagine we’ll pull off two — as in one a day — during the next month or so. But the site will never go dark and there will be something new every day, as usual. We might go a week without a podcast.

So be patient with us and, of course, keep reading. Keep following us on Twitter and retweets are always appreciated. Keep wrestling with Disqus.

Most of all, keep sending us those essential emails pointing us toward the good and the bad religion news in your local and regional newspapers. And it never hurts to send us the national and international stuff either, since we can’t see everything (especially when traveling).

Thanks for your help and understanding. We always appreciate the input.