Pod people: The tea party + Scientology

I've been wondering whether the tea party has somewhat replaced religious conservatives in some of the 2012 presidential election coverage, but maybe it's too soon to tell. After all, if someone like former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney or former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee gets the nomination, we probably will see quite a bit of religion coverage. In GetReligion's latest podcast, we discuss a recent story about how Iowa's tea party found religion, raising questions about whether the national tea party movement finds room for social issues or whether that has been pushed aside for fiscal priorities.

Reporters don't necessarily have to choose either the tea party or religious conservatives, since they might feel similarly about fiscal issues, but the tea party seems to be snagging many of the early headlines. Part of that may be the nature of the media: always looking for something new to cover so reporters can break new ground. The other part of the coverage focus might just be due to the state of the economy.

On the Democratic side, it's hard to see anything new out of President Obama's religious background, though false Muslim rumors may continue. Among some of the potential candidates on the Republican side, we could see a candidate coming forward who is Mormon, Catholic or evangelical, so it'll be interesting to see how much interest groups (and then journalists) focus on religion.

Back to the podcast, we also talked about that massive New Yorker piece on Scientology--really, go read it if you haven't had a chance. Todd points out that the magazine devoted a word for every self-described Scientology in America--25,000.

My hunch is that journalists love to cover Scientology because of the celebrity draw and its secretive nature. It's kind of the perfect combination for journalists hungry to uncover juicy details, though because of the limitations, much of the coverage tends to come from people who have left Scientology. Remember that Esquire piece that complained that journalists need to re-focus their energy towards the Catholic Church? Here's a comment from Nicole Neroulias:

I was hoping GetReligion would comment on this story, and am glad you also singled out that odd Esquire response. As I commented over at [Belief] Beat, it doesn't pass the smell test--the argument is that we shouldn't bother investigating abuses and allegations of wrongdoing because the group is small?! (Plus, any Catholic or religion reporter can vouch for the fact that the Catholic Church has gotten plenty of journalistic scrutiny in the past decade... And, it's not a zero sum game.)

What she said.

If you're checking in our podcasts, I assume you must be audio people. Be sure to check out the NPR interview with Fresh Air's Terry Gross for the author Lawrence Wright's background work on the piece and The New Yorker's mp3 where the author talks about the uniqueness of covering Scientology. Generally, what do you think about the audio pieces that go with a piece: do they enhance the story, feel journalistically narcissistic or something else? What do you look for in audio pieces?

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