About a third of a century ago, back when I was doing graduate work in mass communications at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, I started calling up editors and asking them a simple question: Why doesn't your newsroom -- mostly newspapers, back then -- do more to cover religion news?
These interviews ended up being part of my graduate project, which was edited down and ran as a massive cover story -- "The Religion Beat: Out of the ghetto, into the mainsheets" -- at the professional journal called The Quill.
Editors gave me all kinds of reasons for their limited coverage of the Godbeat, but there were two reasons that I heard more than any other:
(1) Religion news is too boring (and no one wants to cover it).
(2) Religion news is too controversial (and causes our readers to get too riled up and they write too many leaders to the editor).
And there you had it: The world was just full -- too full, it seemed -- of boring, controversial religion stories. Between the lines, these journalists seem to be saying that religion was boring to THEM, yet they could not figure out why THEIR READERS seemed to care so much about it. Thus, the strange blend of boredom and controversy.
I thought about that this week when "Crossroads" podcast host Todd Wilken and I were talking about that controversial speech that President Barack Obama gave at the recent National Prayer Breakfast.