As my regular readers know, from time to time I complain (sort of in the manner of someone turning state's evidence) about the media's coverage of religion.
On the whole, the media does a mediocre job in this area, though there are some wonderful exceptions, many of which are honored each year by the American Academy of Religion's journalism awards.
More evidence of problems in media coverage of religion is found in a new study from the Knight Program in Media and Religion at the University of Southern California and the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron.
Among the findings:
* Two-thirds of the American public says religion coverage is too sensationalized in the news media.
* Less than one-fifth of journalists, or 18.9 percent, say they are “very knowledgeable” about religion.
* A majority of both the public (57.1 percent) and reporters (51.8 percent) agree that the news media “does a poor job of explaining religion in society.”
For the press release I've been quoting that describes more of the study, click here.
As I've said before, one of the reasons media coverage of religion doesn't get a lot better is that the public doesn't demand it.
The current confluence of Easter weekend with Passover offers an opportunity for you to complain to your newspaper, your TV and radio stations, magazines, online sources and others about what you think is missing in religion coverage or what could be done better. If you don't say anything, editors think you're happy.
And, by the way, be specific in your complaints. To say simply that coverage is "too sensationalized" doesn't tell editors or reporters anything. Also, when you read or see or hear something good in the way of religion coverage, it doesn't hurt to say thanks and offer a bit of praise. That goes a long way.
For the full report on media coverage of religion, click here.
(P.S.: For my younger readers, the image here today shows newspapers. Ask your parents or grandparents about them.)
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A BISHOP ON TRIAL
A judge's decision the other day to allow the charges against Bishop Robert W. Finn and the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph to go to trial was, I think, good and proper. Without a trial in this case, Finn and the Diocese would have no proper venue to defend themselves, as they should, and the prosecutors would have no proper venue to convince anyone that the law was broken. So both sides -- to say nothing of the public at large -- benefit from a public trial. Non-public resolution of such matters, including the use of plea bargains, tends to lead to suspicions about our judicial system, though I recognize that plea bargains often are the right move.
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