Weekday think piece: Deseret News on why religion news is getting more important

This is one of those cases where your GetReligionistas simply want to point readers toward an article and then get out of the way.

But first, let me note once again -- because of some reader emails -- what this whole "think piece" concept is about.

Our primary job here is to offer positive and negative critiques of mainstream media coverage of religion news and trends. But every now and then we see essays and op-ed page pieces that are directly linked either to work on the religion beat or they address topics that would be of interest to anyone who covers religion or cares fiercely about that craft.

That's when we send along a "think piece." No we don't have a logo for this yet.

In this case, the headline on this Deseret News article by Chandra Johnson said it all:

Why faith-focused media outlets and coverage matter now more than ever

Here is the overture:

As editor-in-chief of Religion News Service, Jerome Socolovsky understands the reasons behind the Boston Globe’s recent decision to cut its financial ties with Crux, its 18-month-old website dedicated solely to covering the Catholic Church.
Cutbacks of staff or types of coverage are common in newsrooms today, as is the lopsided nature of readership (Crux’s online audience was robust at about 1 million visitors a month) vs. revenue (not enough for the Globe to continue supporting it -- as evidenced from Globe editor Brian McGory’s staff emailannouncement).
But what Socolovsky hopes news consumers and other journalists understand is what they could lose if faith-focused coverage continues to dwindle.
“(When we lose faith coverage) we lose having a finger on the pulse of what our society values and believes in,” Socolovsky said. “While mainstream outlets do cover religion, religion reporters are tasked with asking deeper questions core to our being. Why are we here? What do we believe in?”

This article is actually rather bold in spotlighting some strong opinions about why religion often gets the short end of the stick, in terms of coverage, or why the coverage often gets warped by open bias or, more often, unintentional worldview.

Hang on for this shot of opinion, which then flows into a strong defense of newsrooms hiring experienced, even trained, specialty reporters on the religion beat. In other words, using the same kind of hiring strategy that is applied to important topics such as sports, politics, entertainment, etc.

The reason many media outlets tend to generalize religious beliefs (and, indirectly, perpetuate religious stereotypes) is because most media look at the world through a secular lens, priding itself on facts and proof rather than the mysterious nature of belief of faith, says religious tolerance and faith scholar Jill Carroll.
“Mainstream outlets like the Boston Globe or the New York Times sometimes do well in covering religion, but often they don’t and it’s simply because they aren’t literate about religion. Most of us don’t get any education about religion outside our own faith group,” Carroll said. “When they get it wrong, they’re disseminating inaccurate information that leads to stereotyping and an uninformed public.”
Usually, journalistic distance from an issue is a good thing, Socolovsky said, but not in this case.
“Journalism is a craft where it’s often better not to know too much because then you ask questions with more informative answers,” Socolovsky said. “But religion journalism is different. There are nuances people need to understand that ordinary reporters don’t always know how to get to if they don’t have a good understanding of the institutions they’re covering.”

And all the GetReligion readers said, "Amen."

OK, we will stop there. Read it all. Please.

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