Internet years are like dog years, so although RD is turning six today it feels more like 36—in the best possible way.
When we launched it wasn’t yet clear what it meant to publish online, especially as a digital native. Also, in the case of RD, there wasn’t a single legacy publication that we could model ourselves after—at least in terms of the material we wanted to cover. Like other new media startups we had to invent, or co-create, the space we wanted to work in.
In this reflective, pre-birthday mood, we were particularly struck by an exchange of views last week between David Carr and George Packer. Against those who fear that bloggers are usurping the roles of real reporters, and diminishing the vital role that journalism plays in democracy, Carr says that internet journalism is maturing—and that the technology that sites are built on, and that reporters use to do their work, is not the ‘wingman,’ as he puts it, but The Man.
While we’d rather see technology as a multi-armed goddess, we’re with Carr otherwise.
Packer’s objections are standard issue: there’s no quality control in new media, no money to pay reporters. And you can practically hear the shudder behind the word “blogger,” as he writes it.
As editors who have been working in new media for the internet equivalent of a collective 72 years, we don’t see blogger and reporter as two different life forms. (Try saying “writer” instead of “blogger” and see how it sounds.) Bloggers report, and reporters blog. And as Carr puts it: “great digital journalists consume and produce content at the same time, constantly publishing what they are reading and hearing.”
A hearty religiously-unaffiliated Amen to that.
While strategies and circumstances evolve, there are core aspects of RD’s mission that remain constant. We aim to be part of a new way of thinking about religion in public; we’re committed to the idea that religion, once it hits the public square, must be subject to the same critical engagement as politics, or art; and as editors we are committed to nurturing the work of our writers, the scholars, reporters, and activists who have helped to define the great digital journalism Carr is talking about.
Since moving to our new home at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, RD has welcomed scores of new writers, and is on the verge of rolling out a series of key upgrades to the site—an enhanced reading experience, better integration with social media, peace on earth. (We’ll be updating via our newsletter, here.)
It’s our birthday, but it’s you who deserve the party (and the gluten-free, kosher, vegan, cruelty-free cake). Thank you for reading, for writing, and for your thoughtful and dynamic engagement with the ever-evolving question of religion in public life and culture.