Magazine article The Christian Century

Religion News Vies for Space as Newspapers Downsize

Magazine article The Christian Century

Religion News Vies for Space as Newspapers Downsize

Article excerpt

The Dallas Morning News recently received the Religion Communicators Council award for the nation's best religion section. It was the 10th time in 11 years that the News had won, and it has reaped similar prizes in annual Religion Newswriters Association contests.

Unfortunately for the News, there's no chance for another title. In January the newspaper discontinued the section, citing economic concerns.

It isn't the only publication deciding to drop sections devoted to religion. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently combined religion with its "living" pages, while the Wichita (Kansas) Eagle dropped its religion editor and downsized the beat.

No one has sensed yet that great numbers of religion reporters and editors are losing their jobs, though specialty news beats such as religion, science and education often suffer during times of economic cutbacks.

The broader problem is an industrywide trend of declining newspaper circulations and increased layoffs. According to the Annual Report on American Journalism, there was a net loss of 600 full-time professional employees at daily newspapers in 2005. And early indications are that 2006 may have been twice as bad.

Religion analyst Martin Marty, a longtime columnist for the CHRISTIAN CENTURY, has written about the "dire" economic situation of newspapers, magazines and other print media in a March essay, "The Decline of Print News," for the "Sightings" Web newsletter.

"Religion and faith-and-values sections are dying not because there is not enough to report on in 'religion,'" Marty said. "Religion has seldom been so newsworthy or comment-inducing as it has become in recent decades."

Some experts believe that the decline in newspaper circulation is directly related to the growth of online editions and blogs. Convenience and the ability to sift news in a topic-specific medium have caused previously devoted print subscribers to substitute the Internet for their daily paper. And fewer print readers means less ad revenue to fund special sections. …

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