It’s the end of an era for Beliefnet: Steve Waldman, who cofounded the multifaith site in 1999 and stayed as president and editor-in-chief when it was sold to News Corp (NYSE: NWS). in late 2007, is leaving to become a special adviser to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. The chairman, who was on the board of Beliefnet for several years, has asked Waldman to lead a project on the role of the media. The mission: “to assess the state of media in these challenging economic times and make policy recommendations designed to ensure a vibrant media landscape.” When Genachowski was nominated, Waldman credited his old friend with saving Beliefnet from bankruptcy.
In a Beliefnet post, Waldman said BeliefNet will be run by GM and COO Beth Ann Eason, who has been managing the business for nearly two years; Ju-Don Roberts, the former managing editor of WashingtonPost.com, will lead editorial and community as SVP for content and community.
Waldman explained the move: “In a way, it feels a bit like 1999 for me. I started Beliefnet because I thought a particular group — people of faith — weren’t getting the information they needed. Now, there may be a more systemic crisis in journalism and I’m honored to be able to help address that. One last factor: I know Julius Genachowski, the new chairman of the FCC, quite well. He’s as talented, honest and decent a person as you’ll find in public service.”
Cofounder Bob Nylen died in 2008.
Update: The LAT‘s Joe Flint caught up with Waldman: “Waldman said he is most concerned about the ‘evaporation of journalism and shrinking of journalistic resources and what that means for society.’ (Hey, so are we.) He thinks much of his focus will be on that and not entertainment-related issues. Too bad because it would be very interesting if the commission, which used to have a much bigger say about the programming business, decided to look at how that industry has changed since Washington got rid of some of its regulations regarding program ownership.”