Friday, September 13, 2013

A gaping hole...

It is a common and seldom challenged assertion that the news media does not get religion.  I wish that there were a remedial course in religious history and thought to inform many otherwise fine reporters so that the gaping hole in covering religion were filled.  Absent that, we have enjoyed the fine reporting of a very small but exceptional crew of religion writers.  Locally, I have enjoyed, respectfully disagreed upon occasion, and found fascinating the writing on religion of Bob Smietana at the Gannett family of newspapers, though attached to The Tennessean.  As of August 30 this year, Smietana has left to join Ed Stetzer at Lifeway Research.  But he is not alone among the many larger names doing religious reporting who have left newspapers either of their own volition or at the behest of their editors.  It is a sad day, indeed, and we will long miss those who have not only reported on the major stories in religion but unpacked some of the history, telling the tales of our religious past and present, as well as giving the religious dimensions to modern day news events.  We are not better off by having them leave and, it seems, many of them will not be followed by a successor.  This means, it appears, that again the media have misread things in their determination that religious reporting does not matter or is not important.

Here is what The Tennessean said:

He’s covered snake-handling preachers and mosque arson, lawbreaking charities and babies named Messiah. He’s introduced us to the guy who quit his job over 666 and the clergyman who says God doesn’t care if you smoke weed. And now I’m sad to announce that Bob Smietana will be leaving The Tennessean and taking his talents elsewhere. Bob has been our religion writer since 2007 and has been racking up awards all the way through – claiming first place just last month in the Tennessee Press Association contest for both feature writing (the snake handlers story) and best personal column, for his first-person account of his battle with diabetes. He has broken news both locally and nationally with his key connections on a passion-topic beat. He’ll be going across the railroad tracks to LifeWay, where he will be writing about research on church and cultural trends for Facts and Trends magazine. His last day with us will be Aug. 30. Please join me in wishing Bob well. We will miss him greatly. – Lisa Green

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The reporter described here is a guy who has written on very obscure and rare weird things that are well, like train wrecks. If the muslims build a mosque and 9,999 people that react to it are at least polite if not enthusiastic and one guy throws a tantrum, you can be sure the reporter will write about the one guy who throws a tantrum.

Just look at gay marriage. That is an idea that would occur to no more than one in 10,000, and the media cover that story non stop as though it is the civil rights issue of the century.