I am back home from 10 days of travel near and far (I passed on buying the George W. Bush bobblehead doll in Crawford, Texas), which was hard since I enjoyed (or endured) varying degrees of Internet access. I don't know how we are supposed to handle travel in the age of DSL, when things work great at home and zippo on the road. How do you folks handle it? Anyway, some folks during the trip told me that I should be more pushy about my book. So, OK, here is a spot of shameless self-promotion, only I will still try to hook it to a few religion-news related topics we have been talking about here at GetReligion. Then, tomorrow, I will go back to work. Honest. Thanks so much to Mollie and Daniel for hanging in there during the break!
First of all, Dallas Morning News contributor Michael Darling hooked up for a long talk about faith and popular culture. This led to a shorter Q&A piece, that did open with a good question that kind of took me off guard. Thus, I will share it with you guys, too.
How did your time at Baylor influence your career choices?
It was during my junior year that my career interests sort of got switched. I was a writer for Baylor's campus newspaper, and there was a huge mission festival in town. I went to cover it, and almost nobody showed up.
I thought I had a great story -- why didn't anyone show? But all the other students went, you know, "Grumble-grumble, if nobody shows up it isn't a story."
A famous professor, David McHam, one of the deans of journalism education in Texas, told me, "They didn't get it from me, but they've already picked up on the notion that the media doesn't consider religion all that important. ... Religion's the worst-covered subject in all of the media."
It was at that moment that I became fascinated with why the media have trouble covering religion.
I still believe that to be true, even though there are signs of progress all over the place. Much has changed in 30 years or so, but now we are at the stage where religion news has become so important that it is getting harder and harder to know what is religion news and what is not.
You think I am joking? Check out the Associated Press list of the top 10 news events -- news events, period -- in 2005. See any events with religious overtones? What about Katrina? What about the politics of oil? Any faith themes in there?
I know, I know. This keeps coming up -- with good reason. This is what this blog is all about, after all. Thus, here is what I said when the good people at Poynter.org, in an end-of-the-year feature called "Journalism's Highlights and Lowlights," asked me, "What's the biggest change you'd like to see in journalism in 2006?" Naturally, I replied:
Like to see? That's easy: Religion news being treated as a normal, complicated, serious hard-news beat, with skilled specialists. More people asking the question: What Would Dick Ostling Do?
Well, back to work.