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Religion in the News Media

June 8, 2012

A recently-published survey of American views on the reporting about religion in the news media is very interesting. Here’s the link to the survey:

There are a number of interesting findings in the 40-page survey, among them the following: “One-half of reporters say the biggest challenge to covering religion is a lack of knowledge about the subject. Only a fifth of reporters say they are “very knowledgeable” about religion, and most of these are mainly familiar with their own religious traditions, not the wider array of faiths and practices” (p. 1).

Well, yeah, it would be difficult reporting intelligently on a subject about which you’re not competent, now wouldn’t it? Anyone else see any problem here, or am I just peculiar? We have, for example, news people with expertise in economics and investment doing the reporting on economics and investment. But it’s considered unnecessary for news people to acquire any proper expertise in religion before they go off writing about it.

There are hundreds of departments of religion/theology where future news media people could gear up to report intelligently on religions. There are experts in these departments who could be contacted by reporters researching a story to help them grasp things better. But day after day this is not done, and when the news media report, more often than not, it’s a sensationalized and mis-informed result.

The published survey has lots of other interesting findings well worth the time to read them.

For a striking example, see David Capes’s account of how the media reported on the publication of the new Bible translation on which he was a consultant:

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  1. Kurt permalink

    a very simple improvement…and a bit of a sad commentary on the news media that this subject was not important enough to find people who actually understood the subject matter.

    I notice that is not the way that politics are handled.

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