EDITOR’S NOTE: What can I say? When I lived in South Florida this guy was the local professional on the religion beat whose work landed in my front yard. Also, surely it means something that one of his email addresses is “religionwriter.” To cut to the chase, I’m happy to report that James Davis, one of the gentlemen of the profession in recent decades, is joining us here at GetReligion.
Stop and think about it. With Father George Conger already based in Central Florida, I think the odds are getting better that there may someday be a GetReligion cruise to the Caribbean.
Thanks to tmatt for the invitation to write for GetReligion. I’ve long admired the blog and I’ve known tmatt as a colleague on the religion beat for (slurred number) years. I’m honored to breathe the rarefied atmosphere here.
For myself, I worked for four decades until November 2012 with the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale, most of it as religion editor. Most of my work focused on religion at the local level, covering the unbelievably rich mix of religions that is South Florida.
Among the stories I produced were two in-depth articles on Holocaust Revisionism, which were cited in a book by the American Jewish Committee; religious groups’ roles in recovery efforts after hurricanes Andrew and Wilma; Luis Palau’s Beachfest, which drew 300,000 people over two days; three appearances of the Dalai Lama, his first-ever to South Florida; the founding of the Jewish Museum of Florida, and in-depth features on Hindus and Muslims in South Florida.
I’ve taken occasional dips in the national pool, though: covering conferences of United Methodists, rabbis, evangelicals, religious broadcasters and two U.S. tours of Pope John Paul II. I also covered the centennial meeting of the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago. And I wrote several stories on Heritage U.S.A., before and after the Rev. Jim Bakker was ousted.I received a religion writing award in 2010 from the Florida Press Club. I was a finalist twice for Religion Writer of the Year with the Religion Newswriters Association and once for the Templeton Religion Reporter of the Year. And I’ve been given awards by Hadassah, the United Hindu Front and the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center.
Since leaving the Sun Sentinel, I’ve been working mostly with The Florida Catholic, in the Miami and Palm Beach diocesan editions, and occasionally for the statewide edition. I’ve contributed about 35 stories and a half-dozen photo galleries of art in churches. I’m also branching into copy editing. I’ve worked on two academic studies for the University of Florida and a study guide for a series of devotional films. And I was recently accepted as a copy editor for Zondervan.
Besides my paid gigs, I do some volunteer work. I run the Faith and Values page on Facebook. I write God Online, an occasional media review blog that tmatt named. I’m an assistant editor for Christ and Pop Culture, an online magazine. And since 2009, I’ve been on a project to scan all the religion archives of historical societies around South Florida.
I’m occasionally asked to help on other works. I once judged a sand castle contest by a church. I’ve had the honor of preaching a Sabbath sermon for Sukkot. And I’ve emceed two interfaith concerts for World Religion Day, produced by a local Baha’i leader. During 2013, I was a judge for a contest by the Associated Church Press. I gave a how-to seminar for Catholic reporters. And I took part in an interfaith panel at Florida Atlantic University on humor in religion, titled “My God is Funnier Than Your God.” (I filled the role of The Baptist.)
Finally, there is the personal stuff: I was born in New Jersey but moved to South Florida as a boy of 6, and I still live there. I earned a degree in journalism in 1973 from the University of Florida and took a short fellowship in religion and media in 2000 at Vanderbilt. My wife, Angela, is a retired nurse. Our son, Matthew, is a software developer who lives in Sapporo, Japan.
My personal likes include cats, Narnia, photography, awful puns, the Lord of the Rings, and jazz and fusion music.