First of all, I would like to stress that I had already decided, several days ago, to write the following post in praise of John L. Allen, Jr., and his relentless focus on the Catholic-beat news missed by so many other scribes.
That’s my story, friends and neighbors, and I am sticking to it.
In other words, I am not writing this post today because of the rather stunning announcement — almost universally cheered in religion-news land — that that Allen would be leaving the progressive National Catholic Reporter and signing on with The Boston Globe for several projects linked to religion-news reporting, with a heavy emphasis on Catholic coverage (duh). I was going to write this post last week, but I was still out on the road due to family issues down South.
One of the keys here is that Allen, while writing for a newspaper with a distinct editorial point of view, has always been known as a reporter who focused on providing waves of accurate information, which takes time and expertise, as opposed to merely offering an endless stream of editorial opinion, which is rather inexpensive and primarily serves the needs of a niche readership. It is to the credit of NCR leaders that they allowed Allen to do what he did, for so long.
Yesterday, I praised the Globe team for making a strategic move that is oh so logical, yet one that many mainstream news editors reject. They treated religion like a serious news topic and hired an experienced, trained, respected reporter to cover it. Trust me, newsroom managers, there are more than a few other skilled religion-beat pros available out there — old and young — in Internet land who are more than willing to do this work.
Anyway, I was pleased to see this tweet from Allen himself:
GetReligion post about my move to the Globe, which captures a lot of why I decided to do it: http://t.co/TbEtA9rMrj
— John L. Allen, Jr. (@JohnLAllenJr) January 7, 2014
So back to our delayed subject for today. It focuses on one of Allen’s newsy journalistic rites:
It’s an “All Things Catholic” tradition to dedicate the first column of the new year to the most under-covered Catholic stories of the previous 12 months, which in the past has always seemed a good use of time given the sporadic and often radically incomplete coverage the church typically draws.
This year, however, it feels a little silly to be talking about Catholicism as under-covered, given the astronomic media interest generated by the resignation of Benedict XVI and the rise of Francis.
You think? Perhaps you noticed that tsunami of ink in the past year? If there is a Pope Francis effect, it primarily exists in newsrooms.
But, Allen rightly notes, that doesn’t mean that the mainstream press didn’t miss important Catholic coverage.