It's the question many journalists are hearing right now from family and online friends as discussions of "fake news" keep heating up: "OK, where am I supposed to go to find balanced, accurate reporting these days?"
As you would expect, when I hear that question there is often an editorial twist in it, something like this: "OK, where am I supposed to go to find balanced, accurate reporting on religion news these days?" That's the question that loomed in the background during the latest "Crossroads" podcast (click here to tune that in), as host Todd Wilken and I discussed the fact that GetReligion marked it's 13th birthday this week.
It's crucial, for starters, to recognize that there are online sources that seem to welcome fake news and then there are established media brands that seem, every now and then, to catch a fake-news virus that affects one or two stories or issues. You can see my colleague Paul Glader of The King's College (he also directs The Media Project that includes GetReligion) striving to make that distinction in his Forbes piece, "10 Journalism Brands Where You Find Real Facts Rather Than Alternative Facts."
Glader is absolutely right on this basic issue of ethics and quality. At the same time, the minute I read the headline on his piece I could hear the voices of skeptical online friends saying, "Is that '10 Journalism Brands Where You WILL Find Real Facts' or is it '10 Journalism Brands Where You CAN Find Real Facts'?"
As we have stressed many times here at GetReligion, the quality of mainstream media coverage of religion news is consistently inconsistent. There are professionals who do fantastic work and then, in the same newsroom, there are reporters and editors who -- when it comes to getting religion -- think up is down and down is up. They don't know what they don't know.
For example, contrast the informed and nuanced religion-beat coverage of issues linking politics and religion at The Washington Post with the tone-deaf material produced throughout 2016 by the political desk in that newsroom.
Meanwhile, what are we to make of The New York Times, which remains one of the world's top two news organizations (I put BBC in that mix, as well) in terms of its reach and ambitions?
Anyone who ignores the high quality of work done at The Times is, well, ignoring the facts.
Yet it is clear, as the newspaper's own editor has stated, that the great Gray Lady struggles when it comes to grasping many basic facts about life in ordinary America -- starting with the role of religious faith in the life of millions of ordinary people (including in New York City).