The BBC's Heaven & Earth show found in a recent poll that one third of all Christians in the United Kingdom think that the media portray them in a way that amounts to discrimination. If the broadcast version of this story contained significant content, then the person who rewrote it for the Web didn't include much of the information. Other than the actual poll numbers -- 25 percent of U.K. Christians think Christians experience discrimination in the workplace from colleagues, for instance -- the news article contains little that would inform the reader beyond the opinions of 604 people who consider themselves Christians.
For context we're given the typical "two sides" to the story:
The Rev Malcolm Duncan, who leads the Christian campaigning group Faithworks, said: "The Christian church is suffering more than all other faiths in the UK. There is an aggressive secularist agenda that says it's OK to support any group ending in "ism" but it's not OK to support anything connected to Christianity."
But some Christians think their fellow believers are overstating the case. Bishop David Gillett, The Bishop of Bolton, said: "Religion is big news these days, so people have become more conscious of faith issues. That means Christians are now finding decisions going against them in a more high-profile way. But it's a case of those issues getting more attention, rather than there being more discrimination."
First off, the program's producers failed to ask about specific instances of discrimination. These are some interesting numbers, but the BBC failed to place them in a broad context.
Then there is this matter of Duncan's comments, which are by any reasonable measure overly dramatic. Conveniently these comments are followed up by Bishop Gillett, who says that certain Christians -- we won't say who -- are "overstating the case."
Knowing that a quarter of all Christians in the U.K. feel discriminated against doesn't do anyone any good unless we have something to compare it with. Do we know what percentage of Jews and Muslims feel discriminated against in the U.K.? And what about atheists and agnostics? And what percentage of the U.K. population says it is Christian these days anyway?
Interesting numbers are a great way to create a news hook, but without some level of serious reporting, they aren't very helpful.