To wit, the magazine’s Declaration of Principles:

- The God-given right of religious liberty is best exercised when church and state are separate.
- Government is God’s agency to protect individual rights and to conduct civil affairs; in exercising these responsibilities, officials are entitled to respect and cooperation.
- Religious liberty entails freedom of conscience: to worship or not to worship; to profess, practice and promulgate religious beliefs or to change them. In exercising these rights, however, one must respect the equivalent rights of all others.
- Attempts to unite church and state are opposed to the interests of each, subversive of human rights and potentially persecuting in character; to oppose union, lawfully and honorably, is not only the citizen’s duty but the essence of the Golden Rule–to treat others as one wishes to be treated.

The journalism that springs from that declaration—work that self-consciously focuses on The Big Questions of faith as they relate to The Big Questions of American democracy—is rigorous and compelling. A consideration of Sonia Sotomayor’s record on religious liberty. A meditation—supplemented with twelve footnotes for further reading—on the religious aspects of the U.S. torture debates. A consideration of intolerance toward Muslims in America, written by…a Washington (state) ninth-grader. Even “A Clash of Millennialisms on Capitol Hill”—part of “Explaining Liberty,” a series devoted to exploring the magazine’s own history—manages to distill, in narrating the saga of the American Sentinel’s fight against a 19th century movement to declare the U.S. a Christian nation, the story of America’s battle with itself when it comes to its fraught relationship between religion and politics.

Magazines like Liberty—defined not merely as magazines of ideas, but as magazines of specific ideas—can easily slide into self-serving, self-interested polemic. The magazine that is Liberty, however, manages to embrace its roots and its mission in a way that is engaging even to this non-Seventh Day Adventist. It is, to be sure, distinctly Christian—both in its promotion of Judeo-Christian beliefs, and in its assumption that its audience shares them. And yet it battles past the traps—which is to say, the trappings—of one-dimensionality. It republishes the speech, for example, of the Rabbi—yes, Rabbi—David Saperstein, delivered on the occasion of the law professor’s and religious-freedom advocate’s winning of the Liberty-sponsored 2009 Religious Liberty Award.) Yes, the many references to Seventh Day Adventism sprinkled throughout the magazine come to feel, after a while, to be precisely what they are: redundant. But in an age of catch-all journalism—magazines-of-ideas trying to serve as many gods as will buy their products—there is something immensely refreshing about a magazine that wears its heart, and its faith, on its sleeve. - Megan Garber


Washington City Paper, November 6-12, 2009


John Kennedy once said that Washington, D.C. is a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm. D.C.’s City Paper, however, is a well-reputed source of new-media snark and old-media shoeleather.

This week’s issue opens with the Mayor Adrian M. “Fenty scandal du jour,” which is a “parks contracting scheme [that] eschewed standard procurement rules” in awarding $120 million worth of city development money. The mayor’s ostensible motivation is efficiency. Procurement: Who has time anymore?

Strangely, though, this supposed need for speed does not apply to the Fenty administration’s handling of FOIA requests, which has prompted City Paper “Loose Lips” columnist Mike DeBonis to compare his administration to that of George W. Bush. (He details other similarities, too.) If you speak alt-weekly, you know that the invocation of George W. Bush translates to: “It’s on.”

The paper prints some online comments weighing in on a blog post from last week about an internal WaPo Style Section dispute over a charticle—which ended with sixty-eight-year-old Style Section assignment editor Henry Allen slugging coworker Manuel Roig-Franzia. One correspondent reveals that: “[N]ewsrooms are tense places and Post editors take a lot of flak from arrogant and unseasoned hires;” another declares that if Henry Allen had hit him, he’d designate his bruise a place on the National Journalism Historic Register. “We should all be lucky enough to be walloped by such talent,” he concludes. (City Paper’s website has a video reenactment of the contretemps here.)

Christine MacDonald’s cover story investigates whether D.C. recyclers’ plastics, glass, and corrugated cardboard actually end up at the dump with coffee grounds and potato peelings. The answer is: sometimes. Because: “In a blur of asses and elbows, workers throw stuff from green containers, black containers, and blue containers in the same truck, creating a jumble of trash and recycling that can never be de-mingled.”

CJR Staff is a contributor to CJR.