The journalism Reformation

The journalism Reformation
: Last week, I stumbled across a new and intriguing site on religion and the press called The Revealer and as I dig into it, lo and behold, I see that it is published by Jay Rosen and the NYU journalism department and edited by Jeff Sharlet of the phenomenal religion site, which I’ve quoted here often, Killing the Buddha. I thought Jay was holding out on me but then I got email announcing the official launch this week.

I’ll be a religious reader because I’m interested in this (there are lots of good blogs about religion and thank goodness, most of them have a wry sense of humor) and, as many of you know, my sister‘s in the biz and so’s my company (and while I’m giving plugs, here’s my outpost on eternity).

Jay christens the site with a long — even for him, he confesses — essay on journalism as a religion and orthodoxy and creed that draws fascinating parallels between the — I always forget which is which — fourth and fifth estates. I can’t quote it without mangling it so go pour a cup of coffee and have a good read.

: I’ll throw on one more parallel. Jay alludes to a reformation at the end of his piece but, coming from the reform tradition myself, I want to extend that a bit.

I believe that in this age of citizens’ media, we are engaged in the Reformation of journalism.

Jay has said and many have quoted that with this new medium, readers are now writers and writers are now readers.

Well, what that really means is that parishioners are now priests.

The priesthood is being displaced. Before the Reformation in the church, the priests were the holders of the Word; the priests were the only ones who could communicate to the power of God; the priests were the gatekeepers. Then Luther posted his 95 theses and the Bible was translated into the vulgate and printed by Gutenberg. Then then the people could pray directly to God. And the gatekeepers had to find new roles for themselves as caregivers and evangelists.

In media, the priesthood is being displaced. Before the Reformation, the priests were the holders of the word and the printing press; they were the only ones who could communicate to those in power in government and business and entertainment; they were the gatekeepers. Then David Weinberger, Chris Locke, Doc Searls, and Rick Levine posted their 95 Theses in The Cluetrain Manifesto. And everybody was a Gutenburg. And the people could speak directly to power — and to the people. And — here’s where we are today — the priesthood is trying to figure out a new role for itself. I have some ideas of what that should be (and so do folks like Hugh McLeod, Henry Copeland Terry Heaton, and Tim Porter). I think we still report but then I hope that we learn to listen and and teach and create conversations. But in this reformation, it’s still just 1518 — just after the theses — and the reformers are still sacking the cathedrals and the priests are either battlling or cowering. We can’t yet see exactly how things will turn out. But there can be no doubt: The Reformation is underway.