Pod people: Treat religion news like crime news?

Did anyone else have a good time watching the Olympic's opening ceremonies tonight? I learned a lot about how the British, or at least how the ones running the Olympics, see their own history. Mr. Bean running in Chariots of Fire was fantastic. A glimpse of J.K. Rowling and several versions of Mary Poppins made me grin. There were even some hymns, but my Psalm-singing background caught the tune, few of the words. Bob Costas noted that many Muslims will compete during Ramadan, taking a variety of approaches to fasting during the season. Facts are interesting.

There were no references to the work of C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkein that I could tell, which is rather strange in a salute to great British literature for children, but you can't hit everything, I suppose. I would have liked to see more religion in the history telling, but what can you do?

If you do see good coverage on the religion angles in the coming days, please do share them with us.

Anyway, most of you already know that we get all antsy about stories that don't offer details about someone's faith. Take a recent story from The Atlantic, for example, about one of the United State's female boxers in the Olympics. I was casually reading the story as a print subscriber and like a true girl, I flipped to the story about the first female boxer right away. It combines everything, as an American woman, I'm supposed to love: The Olympics, America, women, strong women, boxing, something new, the first woman at something.

So I'm reading through, grinning and all of that, and then I hit this sentence.

The headphone dangling from her left ear was playing Christian hymns. She used to listen to Drake and Eminem, but she found that rap music riled her up too much before a fight. When she gets in the ring, she wants to be calm—to think about each punch, and never just throw it.

Wait, what?

She listens to Christian hymns? Besides getting her calm, when, where, why, how did she start that? Is it just something from her upbringing, or is there some faith element there? If she is a Christian, does she feel any tension between her faith and boxing? Or is everything a-OK? Or maybe she isn't religious at all and just uses hymns to calm herself?

I don't know. But I can't tell anything specific from that sentence.

Why does this bring me to crime reporting?

Here's the connection: I see this tendency among reporters to use intense tenacity when it comes to crime or courts reporting, getting all the facts, down to the address, the clothes, the color of eyes, important details, right. If they tried to pass a story without the details through an editor, they would get clobbered.

Yet when it comes to religion reporting, people are described as part of some bland religion. Maybe they're Christian, maybe they're Baptist. What kind of Baptist? You know, like President Bill Clinton and the Rev. Pat Robertson?

We'll never know, at least from this story. Thank goodness for Google and Wiki, but really, shouldn't reporters want to offer as many specifics as possible? Adding a faith element can turn a ho hum whatever story into a "Wait, what?!" story.

All of this brings me to last week's podcast, which I failed to post on earlier. We talk about George Zimmerman's and Trayvon Martin's family's vague remarks about God's will. And then we talk about that weird Bloomberg Businessweek cover on Mormons and business.

It's quite a fun discussion. You should listen.

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