Religion news should be treated generally like any other news found in a community's newspaper. News about religious issues is not the place for preaching, lecturing, or giving advice. Most news stories avoid using the first person. That is standard news journalism. On Sunday, The Oregonian published an article that had the makings of a solid religion news feature story. The story's news hook is that a Pew Research Center study found earlier this year that Americans like to shop around the various religious traditions from time-to-time. The newspaper wanted to tell its readers how that applied to people in Oregon.
Unsurprisingly, Oregonian readers responded with various common themes:
We all seem to search for community -- those who believe in a traditional higher power and those who don't.
It's OK to change your mind. We value the process of finding our own way, wherever it leads. The yearning to be authentic -- to live out what we believe -- fuels our journeys throughout our lives.
Perhaps it is just an issue of style, but the use of "we all" and "it's OK to change your mind" comes off as advice, or recommendations. I doubt that was the intention of the newspaper, but consider whether this style would be acceptable in other sections of the newspaper, such as politics and government?
The indefiniteness of the newspaper's unscientific survey and the absoluteness of the declaration that "we value the process of finding our own way" clash with the very personal stories told later in the story. In addition, since the newspaper sought out individuals who had changed faiths at some point in their lives, the perspective of those who had stayed with the faith in which they were born is not reflected in those generally all-inclusive statements.
The individual stories following the introduction are nice. I am sure many readers found them interesting and even related to the portrayed individuals. I just would like for the common themes emerging from reader responses not be phrased in a way that made it seem like it applied universally.