Thinking about trust & the press: Religion-beat pros are liberals who 'get' the right?

And now, an all too familiar word from America's Tweeter In Chief:

"The Fake News hates me saying that they are the Enemy of the People only because they know it’s TRUE. I am providing a great service by explaining this to the American People. They purposely cause great division & distrust."

This is, of course, a variation on his larger theme that the entire mainstream press is the Enemy of the People, or words to that effect. Meanwhile, "fake news" has become a phrase that (click here for a tmatt typology on this term) is all but meaningless in American public discourse.

Whenever a Trumpian Tweet storm kicks up, I always say that it's stupid to say that something as complex as the American Press is the Enemy of the People. However, after decades of reading media bias studies on moral, cultural and religious issues, I think that it's possible to say that significant numbers of journalists in strategic newsrooms are the enemies of about 20 to 40 percent of the nation's population. This remark usually draws silence.

This brings us to the growing "trust gap" between the American press and the American people. What can be done to improve this tragic situation?

That's the subject of this weekend's think piece, which is a Q&A at FiveThirtyEight, that includes a rather strange reference to improving religion-news coverage. The discussion opens like this: 

micah (Micah Cohen, politics editor): It’s time to gaze at our navels!!! We’re chatting about the media. Everyone ready?
nrakich (Nathaniel Rakich, elections analyst): I’m not not ready.
julia_azari (Julia Azari, political science professor at Marquette University and FiveThirtyEight contributor): Technically, I’m in a different field full time, academia, where we never do any navel-gazing, sooo …
micah: On this week’s FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, we talked about President Trump’s attacks on the press. Trump’s criticisms are mostly wrong, but the press as a whole (yes, it’s not great to lump all the media into one) does have a trust issue.
With that in mind, our mission for today: What resolutions do we think journalists (us and everyone else) should make to improve Americans’ faith in the press? 

Now, if you are an advocate of old-school, "American Model of the Press" journalism (stress on accuracy, balance, fairness and respect for voices on all sides of public debates), this Q&A is going to make you upset. Here are some rather angry summaries of a few points in the discussion:

* The American Model of the Press is officially dead, especially its emphasis on showing respect for competing voices in hot-button public debates.

* Maybe it's time to return to openly partisan media, but that might hurt public discourse. And it would be nice if citizens had some shared, common facts to discuss. However, "facts" only help the left, so conservatives aren't going to want journalists focusing on reporting facts. That's why "fact finding" projects make conservatives mad.

* Democrats are mad about media trying to be fair to both sides, since the media should just tell the truth and give people the facts -- which would favor liberals. Republicans hate the media (except their own media), for no particular reason.

* Intellectual diversity in newsrooms would be a bad thing since that would require editors to hire conservatives, which would mean hiring lots of truth-denying, biased people who are not qualified to be journalists. Plus, it would be bad for other diversity efforts since we all know that there are no conservative women and people of color.

Like I said, I was a little bit angry after reading this two or three times. 

Anyway, here is the part that mentions religion news. I will NOT attempt to summarize this, because I have no idea what it means. I think. Maybe. Sort of. Oh well, whatever, never mind.

perry: Here’s an idea: What if publications, instead of having a program of specifically hiring conservatives, had beats like rural policy, religion, regulation and family development. (I know there are some religion reporters, but maybe we need more of them and at every outlet.) That would diversify their coverage. Which is what I care about.
nrakich: I really like that idea.
julia_azari: That is an excellent idea.
perry: Part of this is how news organizations hire. “The race reporter” is maybe not going to be a conservative, but the religion reporter will understand how deep and sincere opposition to abortion is among religious conservatives.
micah: It would diversify coverage and expose a mostly cosmopolitan reporting force to new worlds — which probably would have some effect in making them more conservative, honestly.
julia_azari: This again is true about academia. People who write on religion and, say, the military are probably still often left of center, but they are a lot more sympathetic to certain perspectives than a randomly selected social scientist.

Huh? What do you make of that? That religion-beat pros should be liberals who are open to doing accurate coverage of religious conservatives?

Help me out here.

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