The co-founder, editor-in-chief and president of Beliefnet announced Wednesday that he will step down from his various posts in the company to head a government media commission.
Steven Waldman will assume the position of Senior Advisor to the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. His new job involves assessing government policy about media and information technology to “ensure a vibrant media landscape” in “challenging economic times,” according to the FCC.
“This is the most difficult (and surreal) post I’ve had to write. I’m leaving Beliefnet, the company I co-founded in 1999,” Waldman wrote Wednesday. “I can’t quite think of a suitable analogy. Perhaps it’s something like saying goodbye to your child as he goes off to college? (Except I’m the one leaving).”
FCC chairman Julius Genachowski put together the commission which Waldman will head in response to recent studies that called for the government to address the problems traditional newspapers and other news media face as new technologies emerge and change the way people acquire news.
Genachowski said Waldman is “uniquely qualified” to head the commission because he has experience in traditional media – he previously served as national editor of U.S. News and World Report and national correspondent for Newsweek – but is also considered an Internet news pioneer.
Beliefnet, the largest multifaith Web site, was launched December 28, 1999, just ahead of the new millennium. Waldman said he had created the site with magazine publisher Robert Nylen because of the “simple idea [that] faith is profoundly important to most Americans, and it was too often treated incompletely or condescendingly by mainstream media.”
The site initially grew, but then filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2002 during the dot com bust. The site underwent major changes and now boasts 3.2 million unique visitors a month and 14 million receive its e-mail newsletters, according to Waldman.
In 2007, News Corp, which also owns Fox and the Wall Street Journal, bought Beliefnet.
Waldman will step down from his leadership positions at Beliefnet in mid-November. The company will be led by COO Beth Ann Eason, who has run the company for nearly two years. On the editorial side, Ju-Don Roberts, who was former managing editor of WahingtonPost.com, will take over leadership.