COLUMBIA, Mo. – Religion News Service (RNS), an independent, nonprofit source of global news on religion, spirituality, culture and ethics, has appointed Bob Smietana as its new editor-in-chief.
Smietana is an award-winning religion reporter and editor who has spent two decades producing breaking news, data journalism, investigative reporting, profiles and features for magazines, newspapers, trade publications and websites. Most notably, he has served as a senior writer for Facts & Trends, senior editor of Christianity Today, religion writer at The Tennessean, correspondent for RNS and contributor to OnFaith, USA Today and The Washington Post. He is best known for his coverage of Islam and Islamophobia, including his comprehensive reporting on the Murfreesboro mosque conflict, and of evangelical Christianity, including the emotional journey of Pearl Joy Brown’s family as well as the ongoing Willow Creek Community Church scandal.
“Bob Smietana is one of the most respected religion journalists in the United States,” said Tom Gallagher, RNS CEO and publisher. “Bob is a deeply competent person of integrity, enthusiasm and generosity, and has mentored many of today’s top religion journalists. We’re delighted that he’s our new editor-in-chief.”
Smietana credits RNS with first launching his career, and expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to now lead the organization, expand its footprint and mentor the next generation of religion journalists.
“The American religious landscape is being transformed before our eyes,” Smietana said. “For more than 80 years, RNS has covered religion with accuracy, insight, empathy and independence. As a result, RNS is perfectly positioned to document that transformation and to help our readers navigate this new world.”
Smietana’s appointment concludes a national search, which solicited more than 130 applicants, helmed by Nicole Neroulias Gupte, chair of the RNS Board of Managers.
“After considering many qualified candidates for this position, we were impressed by the breadth and depth of Bob Smietana’s religion journalism experience, his passion for this beat and commitment to our organization,” Gupte said. “We look forward to working with him as RNS grows its staff and coverage areas, including implementing our Global Religion Journalism Initiative and other exciting projects.”
Dilshad D. Ali, editor of Altmuslim and a member of the RNS Journalism Advisory Council, also applauded the managing board’s decision.
“I admire Bob’s enthusiasm for the beat and respect for religion as it influences people and stories every day. I appreciate his thirst for growth and knowledge and how he has reached out to me in the past to learn more about various aspects of Islam and American Muslim communities to further enrich his own journalism work,” she said. “Our connections to each other through faith and non-faith communities is part of the backbone of religion reporting, and I’m excited to see RNS shed more light on these connections in its coverage, under Bob’s guidance.”
RNS thanks G. Jeffrey MacDonald for his excellent work as interim editor-in-chief during the past several months, and has welcomed him as the newest member of its Journalism Advisory Council.
Smietana’s first day will be Sept. 4. RNS will host a welcome reception for him on Saturday, Sept. 15, at the Religion News Association’s 69th Annual Conference in Columbus, Oh.
“It’s a great honor to be named as editor-in-chief and to be asked to lead a group of talented and knowledgeable journalists,” Smietana concluded. “There’s no better place to cover religion than at RNS.”
Religion News Service is an independent, nonprofit and award-winning source of global news on religion, spirituality, culture and ethics, reported by a staff of professional journalists. Founded in 1934, RNS seeks to inform readers with objective reporting and insightful commentary and is relied upon by secular and faith-based news organizations in a number of countries. RNS is a subsidiary of the Religion News Foundation and affiliated with the Missouri School of Journalism at the University of Missouri. For more information, visit religionnews.com.
Katie Garcia, Athene Strategies