Trends and realities in religion news: Candid words from Emma Green of The Atlantic


I have just returned to East Tennessee from a short, but fascinating, trip to New York City to take part in a conference called “What’s Next for Religious Freedom.” It was sponsored by Yeshiva University and the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at Brigham Young University.

The event was recorded and I hope, eventually, to update this post with URLs for the various sessions. GetReligion readers can also check YouTube in a week or so.

The opening session was held at Shearith Israel Synagogue on the upper West Side, which is the oldest Jewish congregation in America in continuous existence (founded in 1654). The topic: “The Media and Religion: Trends and Challenges.” This very lively session was chaired by the rabbi and scholar Meir Soloveichik, the leader of  Congregation Shearith Israel and director of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University.

The panel?

* Emma Green, religion writer at The Atlantic.

* Sohrab Ahmari, op-ed editor at The New York Post and contributing editor at The Catholic Herald.

* John Podhoretz, editor and columnist at Commentary Magazine.

* Terry Mattingly, as in me.

This is the second summer in a row that I have been on a panel of this kind with Green and, as always, it was great to hear her candid thoughts. She’s a rising force in this field, working at a news and commentary magazine and website that is clearly trying to give religion the attention that it deserves.

Getting to hear from her again reminded me that I have meant to post the link to a recent World dialogue — “Getting the big story” — between Green and journalism historian Marvin Olasky, who for several decades has been the editor of that magazine. This conversation took place at Patrick Henry College outside Washington, D.C. Here’s the full video:

You can also read sections of this interview at World. Click here to see that. It’s hard to know what sections to note, so I’ll just pass along the beginning and the end:

O: Do journalists at national publications like The New York Times or The Atlantic naturally tilt toward greater governmental centralization? It makes their publications more important.

G: You could say it’s a cyclical death spiral. News media, and specifically cable television, have helped to push a certain type of national narrative about politics in the United States. Catering to that, and based on certain ideological presuppositions, both political parties have concentrated their focus and energy on those national characters and players. Cameras create the stage, and people on the stage need the cameras. They feed off each other. …

O: The 2016 election results suggest that liberal national journalists were in a bubble.

G: It’s true that in certain American newsrooms there is a liberal bias. There isn’t that much ideological diversity. It wasn’t unrealistic to believe that Hillary Clinton might be president, but the lesson for me there was that reporters should be immersed in different kinds of environments where people have different worldviews. One of the biggest liabilities for the media today is that mainstream news is so concentrated in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., coastal urban areas that don’t capture a lot of what’s going on in the country.

This Acela-zone syndrome is, of course, a major theme here at GetReligion. Attention Associated Press managers, as they head into their partnership with Religion News Service?

This transcript of excerpts from the hour-long session — which is friendly, but also candid (on both sides) — ends with this:

O: How can students help to create a media space that is more ideologically diverse? 

G: Get into the mix. Don’t think that there are no students from an evangelical background in the news media. I have very close friends in newsrooms who are evangelicals who have been able to succeed.

O: Yes, journalism is a great mission field that’s also fun, but we should acknowledge the degree of difficulty when we go against our current sacred cows, the most sacred of which now are abortion and LGBTQ questions. 

G: I totally acknowledge that.

This is a video and a URL worth saving. And pass them on to others.

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