Religion and Mass Media: Audiences and Adaptations. Daniel A. Stout and Judith Buddenbaum, eds. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1996. 294 pp. $40 hbk. $25 pbk.
At last. That is how mass communication scholars interested in the relationship between religion and the mass media might well react to this volume's examination of religion and the media. The book attempts to provide some common ground between mass communication researchers and sociologists, important because even together the two disciplines still have only a meager number of studies about the mass media audience and religion.
Stout and Buddenbaum gathered eclectic articles by authors both theological and secular; both sociologists and communication researchers. The book is well-organized in five parts: part 1 is a review of theoretical frameworks and past research; part 2 discusses what some faiths teach members about the media; part 3 details results from empirical audience studies not tied to a denomination; part 4 includes case studies of how some religious groups define the media's role in everyday life; and part 5 discusses implications of the dialogue about media and religion in the emerging information society.
As with any compilation of previous research, the chapters vary in methodologies and quality. But overall the book is impressive for the editors' clear analysis and discussion, which help put the disparate topics into a helpful structural framework. The literature review and chapters reviewing the perspectives of Roman Catholics, mainline Protestants, Evangelicals, and Fundamentalists could be faulted for their lack of specificity, except that such content has never been gathered in one place before, making it "must" reading for anyone first approaching the study of religion and media. …