Sunday, February 27, 2011

Religion News Coverage Doubled In 2010, But For All the Wrong Reasons

According to a recent study published by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, news coverage on religion and religious issues doubled in 2010 from 1% to 2% of all content reported in the US news media. Unfortunately, the coverage was driven largely by some of the darkest moments of religious discourse over the past year, with the top stories including the controversy over the Park51 Islamic Center, continuing reports on the sexual abuse scandal within the Catholic Church, and Florida pastor Terry Jones' threatened Qu'ran-burning event.

While increased coverage of religion arguably represents progress in our national capacity for discussions about religion and its role in our society, the extremely negative and over-sensationalized stories that prompted the increase in coverage of religion over the past year remain a cause for concern. The media dominance of events like those listed above skew public perception about religion and its role in our society in extremely negative ways. The themes of hatred, misunderstanding, corruption, and division that link these stories together form an overarching narrative about religion and its impact on our lives that stands completely at odds with the potentially powerful force for good that we in the religious left know it to be.

Moving forward, we owe it to our faiths and our fellow citizens to work both to end the practices within our own traditions that allows stories like those listed above to occur in the first place, but also to actively assert our voices in an effort to change the media narrative about the values, beliefs, and means of religious expression in this country. The voices of religious hatred and division cannot be allowed to drown out the message of love and justice. There is plenty of work to be done. It's time to raise your voice, and join the conversation.

1 comment:

  1. I appreciate this post immensely; as long as media focuses on isolated instances of bigotry and hatred to the exclusion of all the truly valiant efforts and contributions to social justice made by religious groups of all sorts, those who look unfavorably upon religion will find further justification for their blanket statements that religion is responsible for all that is wrong in society--an extreme and yet not unpopular position.