Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Media Awkward about Religion, Shun It, Experts Say

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Media Awkward about Religion, Shun It, Experts Say

Article excerpt

NEW YORK --Journalist John Seigenthaler made a confession to about 60 of his peers at a recent national forum, "Religion and the News," at Columbia University: "I'm not really comfortable dealing with any spiritual matter."

Many in the room agreed that discomfort with religion and things spiritual has kept religion off most front pages and almost completely out of television newsrooms.

Seigenthaler, who heads Vanderbilt University's Freedom Forum First Amendment Center, sponsor of the Oct. 5 conference, said that when it came to religion, journalists "provide skim milk, even sour milk. More often than not we diet ... walk away and turn our backs. But we feed on politics.

"We're trained to be doubters, cynics and skeptics. Perhaps that's why we're so comfortable with politicians," said Seigenthaler, a Catholic and founding editorial director of USA Today.

The fact that "hard news" is grounded in facts, whereas religious news presumes a faith beyond the facts, also accounts for why many journalists would rather write about almost anything else, several forum participants said. Only 67 of America's 300 daily papers employ a full-time religion reporter or editor.

Religion seldom gets reported on network news, said Brian Healy, a 20-year veteran of CBS News who produces "Eye to Eye with Connie Chung." Healy, a Catholic, pointed to "an inherent suspicion and hostility" toward religion in TV newsrooms.

He concluded that most television journalists think religion has no bearing on life and that the personal biases of journalists influence what is telecast. …

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