Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Losing My Religion


No Longer Reporting

for the


“Feeling sad that my days as a beat reporter have come to an end but so happy to be able to stay home with my little cub reporter, said Eileen Flynn, the Austin American-Statesman religion reporter. She posted the news Tuesday (May 5th) afternoon on her Facebook page. The good news for readers and the newspaper is that she will still have a presence. She also said that she would “continue my faith column. Life is good.”

Flynn had been on maternity leave for the past several months after giving birth to little Clara June. She says leaving the American-Statesman was her choice.

“Yes, leaving the Statesman staff is my choice, which may be one of the last times a reporter gets to choose her own future in newspapers! And who knows, whenever the paper gets sold, this little arrangement I've made may fall through. But for now, yes, I'm going to continue writing my faith column (on the Saturday faith page) twice a month,” Flynn said. She is also exploring the possibility of starting her own religion blog. If that comes together, I’ll pass along that news and where to find it. “I'm really happy that I am able to stay home with my daughter and still be able to write. Not a bad gig.”

Colleagues, one after another, commented on Flynn’s new direction. One writer put a finger on just what is being lost at the newspaper. “I’ll miss your beautiful stories in the paper,” she wrote.

I concur. “I, like someone who commented, will really miss your stories,” I told Flynn. “You have ‘it’ and ‘it’ comes through in your writing. Not everyone has ‘it’.” What is this “it”? I cannot define “it”. I saw “it” when I was teaching at Texas State (then Southwest Texas State University). I would have a class of 30 people. Maybe one or two, or perhaps three, students would have “it”. I could see it in their eyes. Most of all, I could see it in their writing. That does not mean that the rest of the class was bad. It means that these precious few had something extra.

Eileen Flynn writes about religion, one of the three things that one is not suppose to discuss in civil conversation, sex and politics being the other two. Of course, however, those three subjects are precisely what we all think about and talk about. If a newspaper or any medium is going to have political writers, it makes total sense to have a religion reporter too. Flynn approaches this potentially inflammatory territory with an even hand.

It was an Eileen Flynn story about another topic that blew me away, however.

After Katrina devastated New Orleans, the American-Statesman rotated her into that scary city for continued coverage of the disaster. She took her audience there too. Reading her account, I shivered as I sensed that I was standing with her on the curb of an eerie, silent street in total stark dark. I searched for the short, probably 12-column-inch story today on the newspaper’s site, but it was buried too deeply in the archives. I don’t need to read it again, however, because the uneasy feeling I got from her story of what had happened in the “Big Easy” is still with me. No, not every writer has “it”.

So, Eileen Flynn was feeling sad knowing that she is no longer a “beat reporter”, but she is still a reporter, and I anticipate future her stories from a new platform.

© Jim McNabb, 2009


Anonymous said...

Nice column, Jim. I, too, will miss Eileen's reporting, though I'm glad we'll still be able to read her Saturday column. In these tumultuous times when religion seems to be the driving force behind all that we celebrate and fear, Eileen breaks down barriers with her stories and reminds us of the common values that bind us together, regardless of our religious stripe. I've never had the pleasure to meet Eileen but her qualities as a human being come through in her writing. As a community, we're poorer for her departure from the daily paper.

- Geoff Wool

Andrea Ball said...

I will miss Eileen too. She sits right near me and is a constant source of amusement and terror. I mean... inspiration!