It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was eating lunch at a Dupont Circle restaurant with Steven Waldman, co-founder of the 10-year-old Web site Beliefnet. We just had finished covering the national prayer service at the Washington National Cathedral commemorating the Obama inauguration, and we were freezing cold and starving, as we’d been told to show up at the cathedral at 7 a.m., and many hours had passed since then.
So he and I and Sarah Pulliam of Christianity Today hit a local restaurant. In fact, I seem to remember he picked up the tab. I had not had a decent conversation with him in ages, so it was good to touch base, and shortly after that, we became Facebook friends. I had no idea he’d ever entertain the idea of leaving the Web site he helped get off the ground back in 1999, so I was amazed to read today that he’ll be joining the Federal Communications Commission to help it “react to dramatic changes in the media landscape,” as the press release says.
But he won’t be moving south to our beautiful city but staying in New York (what a deal!). Note to Steve: It is a lot cheaper living down here. Ten years ago, Beliefnet was looking everywhere for writers; then the site got so popular that religion writers were lining up to contribute to it. So, one must hand it to Steve that he really stuck by his project through thick and thin. The press release about it all is below.
— Julia Duin, religion editor
BELIEFNET CO-FOUNDER AND EDITOR-IN-CHIEF STEPS DOWN TO LEAD FCC FUTURE OF THE MEDIA INITIATIVE
New York, NY – October 28, 2009 – Beliefnet, the leading online community for inspiration and faith, announced today that Steven Waldman, co-founder, president and editor-in-chief, will resign his Beliefnet positions to lead a new federal government effort assessing government policy about media and information technology.
Steven Waldman has served as Beliefnet’s editor-in-chief since he and magazine publisher Robert Nylen founded the Web site in 1999. He was CEO of the independent company from 2002 to 2007, guiding it through Chapter 11 during the dot com bust and on to profitability, and ultimately the sale of the company to News Corporation in late 2007. He will resign as president and editor-in-chief, effective in mid-November.
Mr. Waldman will join the Federal Communications Commission as “Senior Advisor to the Chairman.” He is charged with leading a process to devise recommendations for the commission on how to react to the dramatic changes in the media landscape.
“Very few things could have lured me away from Beliefnet, which is thriving and still has its best years ahead of it,” said Waldman. “As we hit our tenth anniversary, traffic is growing, new tools are launching, ad revenue is up, and great plans are in motion for expansion. Despite this very exciting momentum, Julius Genachowski, the chairman of the FCC, made me an offer I really couldn’t say no to: leading an effort to ensure that we have a vibrant media landscape.”
Beth Ann Eason, the current chief operating officer and general manager for Beliefnet, will take over leadership of the company. A 20 year media veteran, Eason joined Beliefnet in 2007 after serving as a top executive at Martha Stewart Omnimedia and Yahoo!.
Ju-Don Marshall Roberts, the senior vice president and executive editor who recently came to Beliefnet after serving as managing editor of washingtonpost.com, will become the leader of the editorial, community, video and product teams. Roberts, a respected leader among online editors nationally, led the Post digital efforts that helped win a Pulitzer Prize, and Peabody andOnline Journalism awards.
“From Steve’s original vision through to today, Beliefnet has helped millions of people—some of them quite profoundly,” said Eason. “His visionary leadership has enabled us to resonate deeply with diverse and passionate cross section of Americans. While it is never easy to say goodbye, we’re proud that Steve will now be applying his wisdom to an even bigger challenge.”
Beliefnet is the largest multifaith and inspiration Web site and a winner of the top editorial awards on the Internet including the National Magazine Award for General Excellence and the Online Journalism Award for General Excellence. Approximately 3 million people visit Beliefnet.com monthly, and 14 million receive its e-mail newsletters.
“We started Beliefnet to help people of faith use the Internet to get the information and support to enrich their spiritual lives and gain some daily inspiration,” Waldman said. “In one way, it’s heart-wrenching—I feel like I’m sending a child off to college. But it’s also profoundly gratifying to know that I can leave now and that Beliefnet will continue to grow and thrive in the years to come.”
During the 2008 election, Waldman wrote for the “Political Perspectives” blog at the Wall Street Journal Online, where he now blogs a column on faith called “Heaven and Earth.” He has been a regular commentator on national television and radio programs including Fox & Friends, Fox Business, Good Morning America, The Today Show, CNN Headline News, ABC World News With Charles Gibson, ABC News Now, NPR’s All Things Considered, On the Media and many others. He was named a “Spiritual Innovator” by Time magazine.
Before launching Beliefnet, Waldman served as national editor of US News & World Report and was national correspondent for Newsweek. His work has appeared in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Review Online, Huffington Post, The Atlantic, ChristianityToday.com, First Things, The Washington Monthly, The New Republic.com and Slate.
The author of the New York Times bestseller FOUNDING FAITH: Providence, Politics, and the Birth of Religious Freedom in America, Waldman also served as senior adviser to the CEO of the Corporation for National Service in the 1990s.
Beliefnet, a recipient of the National Magazine Award for General Excellence Online, is the largest multi-faith online community for spirituality and inspiration. Its mission is to help people find and walk a spiritual path that instills comfort, hope, clarity, strength and happiness for people who are exploring their own faith or curious about others. Whether traditional, new age, holistic or alternative, Beliefnet is the definitive source of spiritual information presented without defined editorial point-of-view, and is the leading authority for major news organizations in the United States. It covers an exhaustive range of topics and is continually enhanced by its users. Resources include blogs and social networking tools, feature articles and videos, quizzes, devotionals, photo galleries and interviews with noted politicians, celebrities and spiritual leaders. Beliefnet has more than 14 million newsletter subscribers and averages nearly 3 million unique visitors per month. A unit of News Corp Digital Media, Beliefnet is not affiliated with any spiritual organization or movement, and has partnerships with The Wall Street Journal, Chicken Soup for the Soul and Fox Faith.