Covering religion in Washington DC takes an extra measure of precision, and Washington Post reporter Michelle Boorstein regularly takes that level of care when covering the intersection of religion and politics. With all the scuffles over the economy, foreign policy and other current debates of the day (birth certificate anyone?), religion can easily get lost, but Boorstein keeps finding interesting angles that illuminate current political affairs.
Of course, Boorstein covers more than church-state affairs. She has covered everything from Pope Benedict XVI's visit, to Muslim-American affairs to Anglican property disputes (and more). You can track her work through a nifty little RSS feed and over at On Faith's Under God blog.
Boorstein, who has been covering religion for The Post since January 2006, grew up in a conservative Jewish home outside Boston and attended religious school until college. She lived in Jerusalem before she received her master's in Near Eastern Studies. See what she has to say about GetReligion's five questions:
(1) Where do you get your news about religion? I'm not the type who has a totally comprehensive, scientifically-conceived, superduper RSS feed. I try to scan a range of sources: Christianity Today and its blogs, Religion News Service updates, World magazine, Deepak Chopra and Oprah, The Forward for Jewish stuff, altmuslimah for Islam and gender/women's issues. Love to read anything by Michael Gerson and Paul Vitello.
(2) What is the most important religion story the MSM doesn't get? I'm torn about this premise that the mainstream media doesn't, as a group, "get" religion. In a climate where people can easily disappear into an information hole of the like-minded, I actually think the MSM is emerging as the most reliable, un-invested voice -- no dog in the fight. (Now you can hear the sound of someone climbing off their soap box. Another sound of a chip being removed from a shoulder)
That said, two stories we should do much better on:
There isn't nearly enough reporting on how governments from statehouses to the White House are using religion. Who are the most important lobbying forces? How are issues of faith driving campaigns in 2011? Does the Obama White House give real resources to their faith offices or is it more small-potatoes stuff?
The contemporary American family is becoming increasingly a spiritual mish-mosh. When you take a bunch of seekers and mutts and mix them repeatedly, how does that play out in marriages? In parents' ability to pass on a cohesive spiritual belief system to children? Religion and family.
(3) What's the story you will be watching carefully in the next year or two? The debates about Islam and government across the Middle East and North Africa by the next generation of Muslims. I am hopeful in this era of cutbacks that I, and other Post reporters, will be able to direct resources into this in a smart way. The subject is often described in a silly, black and white way when it is nuanced in dozens of directions. I'm also dying to see how this subject will play out in the 2012 elections in the United States.
(4) Why is it important for journalists to understand the role of religion in our world today? I'm going to skip this question because I think anyone reading this blog knows the answer. Preaching to the choir here.
(5) What is the funniest, most ironic twist that you have seen in a religion news story lately? A web site whose purpose is to organize factors that might help predict the end of the world (floods, Israeli peace, etc) had an ad for a 30-year mortgage. This came up with some reporting about the California-based ministry that believes the world will end May 21.