Keep Reporting on Religion

By Haynes, Charles | The Christian Science Monitor, June 2, 2001 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Keep Reporting on Religion

Haynes, Charles, The Christian Science Monitor

And then there were none.

For seven years, media critics could point to the religion reporter at ABC News as evidence that the networks were starting to take religion seriously.

But no more. Recently, ABC announced that Peggy Wehmeyer, the only full-time network religion correspondent, will leave in October.

The reason ABC gave? Budget cutbacks.

If that's so, I guess God didn't make the cut.

The loss of one religion reporter would be a small story if other influential media outlets were doing a good job of covering religion. But with few exceptions, that isn't the case.

True, religion reporting in print and broadcast media has improved somewhat in recent years. A study released last year by the Center for Media and Public Affairs documented the increase in religion coverage over the past three decades. Given the intensity of the culture wars of the past 15 years, it's no surprise that the sharpest increase was in the coverage of religion in politics.

But more doesn't necessarily mean better. The study noted the lack of context in most religion stories. Religion is mentioned in stories (often as a source of conflict), but the religious foundations for public-policy positions are rarely presented as newsworthy.

A second study, conducted by the Garrett-Medill Center for Religion and the News Media, analyzed coverage of religion in major print and broadcast media during a six-month period in 1998-1999. Apart from stories dealing with international conflict, religion was rarely hard news. Though daily newspapers did a better job than television news, both failed to provide an adequate understanding of religious beliefs or practices.

Of course, the marginalization of religion isn't confined to the media. For much of the last half of the 20th century, many other institutions that dominate American public life - especially higher education and public schools - largely ignored religion.

Why should this matter?

Let's begin by stating the obvious: Religion isn't something that people used to believe in, in the distant past. For the vast majority of the world's population, religious convictions are at the heart of culture, politics, economics, and every other dimension of life.

Even in a "secular nation" like the United States, religion matters. America begins the 21st century as the most religiously diverse society on earth - and, among developed nations, the most religious.

How will we negotiate these religious differences if we know so little about one another? Poor media coverage of religion is dangerous, because it undermines our ability to engage our fellow citizens across religious divisions that are deep and abiding.

The First Amendment guarantees freedom of the press and freedom of religion; it does not guarantee that the press will cover religion.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Keep Reporting on Religion


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?