In yet another turn of the religion journalism merry-go-round, The Boston Globe is ending its 18 month experiment with Crux. The Catholic centric blog was not paying its own bills, let along making money, according to Craig Douglas in the Boston Business Journal, “‘The problem is the business,’ [The Boston Globe’s Editor Brian] McGrory wrote. ‘We simply haven’t been able to develop the financial model of big-ticket, Catholic-based advertisers that was envisioned when we launched Crux back in 2014.'” In an interview with The Washington Post, John L. Allen, Jr., Crux’s Associate Editor, said,”‘We lost our sugar daddy. We’re not shutting down. We intend to continue,’ Allen said to the Post on Friday afternoon. ‘Big picture, it’s not really a surprise. I knew going in that it was kind of a novel venture for a mainstream outlet in the United States.'” In a blog posting notifying readers of the decision, Teresa Hanafin, Editor of Crux, explained where the blog’s staff will be going, “But the good news is that John Allen plans to continue the site, with assistance from Inés San Martín, our [The Boston Globe’s] Vatican correspondent. National reporter Michael O’Loughlin, columnist Margery Eagan, and our stable of freelancers will find other places for their work. I’ll move over to BostonGlobe.com.” O’Loughlin tweeted that, “It’s been a fun ride, and I couldn’t have asked for better colleagues at
@Crux. I’m excited to figure out what’s next for me. Stay tuned!”
As for Allen, the award winning journalist seems to be warming up to CNN.com’s belief / Religion blog, according to Terry Mattingly, of GetReligion, “But let me ask the obvious question. In the past year or two, CNN has hired quite a few print/multimedia professionals to focus on political coverage. Might there be a way to link with Allen, who already does Vatican news commentary for CNN, to tie the Crux brand to CNN’s now rather low-profile “Belief” site?” CNN belief / Religion responded to Mattingly’s comments in a Tweet, “Sorry,
@GetReligion, we have more stories and traffic than ever. But you’re right about one thing, we love @JohnLAllenJr and @Crux.” To which Mattingly Tweeted back, “Seeking input, like everyone else, from @JohnLAllenJr — Keep us posted, please. @Crux.” Allen’s / Crux Tweet replied, “ @tweetmattingly @Crux As soon as I know something, you’ll know it, but I promise you: Crux will thrive.” Allen will almost certainly thrive in whatever endeavor he engages it. Mattingly’s prognostication regarding CNN looks like a good guess considering Allen’s work on TV for the global news giant. Fr. James Martin’s, S.J., posted on his Facebook page, “Big news in the world of Catholic journalism. I wish my talented colleagues John Allen, Ines San Martin, Margery Eagan and Michael O’Loughlin all the best as they continue to find new ways to cover the Catholic church.” Mattingly also offered this picture of what a Crux without the backing of The Boston Globe will look like, “Note the reference to the loss of the site’s stable of freelancers. I assume that this means the smaller, restructured Crux will almost certainly not be able to pay competitive freelance fees to the wide array of voices that it featured. In line with other industry trends, we can probably expect to see many familiar names in the future – in aggregated features with links to the original articles on other sites.” Julie Zauzmer, of Acts of Faith (The Washington Post), writes that Allen knew the experiment was a gamble considering the current business environment of journalism, “‘It’s like having a website for stockcar racing or quilting or something like that. It appeals to a particular niche,’ Allen said. ‘To make a niche publication profitable exclusively through advertising sales, I don’t see too many examples of that working…so I have always thought that the future of niche publications has got to be a mix of sponsorship, donors, partnership arrangements. You have to think of yourself, to some extent, as a nonprofit.'”
Allen is a legend in the Catholic blogosphere and has always tried to steer clear of ideological, theological, and ecclesiological partisanship. He certainly will land on his feet, but what about the reporters, free lancers, and people behind the scenes who are not being absorbed back into the Globe? Religion journalism is facing the same stark landscape that the rest of the industry is. The question remains: Where will readers find reliable information and quality, balanced analysis of religion news in the future?