One of the biggest stories in the world of American media in recent years has been the stunning decline of trust that Americans express in (wait for it) the mainstream American news media. There is some substance behind all the "fake news" screams.
The headline grabber, of course, was the Gallup Poll in September, 2016 that indicated public "trust and confidence" in journalists to "report the news fully, accurately and fairly" had fallen to its lowest level in the history of polling by that brand-name institution. Go ahead, click here and look those numbers over.
What, you ask, does this have to do with religion news coverage? If you have read GetReligion over the years, you know that issues linked to religion, morality and culture have been at the heart of many, if not most, debates about media bias and warped news coverage.
However, there is clearly another factor at play here -- one linked to the technology that journalists are using to deliver the news and how it shapes the "news" (intentional scare quotes) people are consuming.
To get to the point: When I talk to people who are mad at mainstream journalists, I usually discover that these citizens confuse opinion pieces and news reports. They don't know, to be specific, the difference between a news story and an op-ed piece, or between talking-head opinion shows and programs that are, to some degree, trying to do straightforward, hard news. They see no difference between a "Christmas Wars" feature on a talk show and a mainstream newsroom report about a holiday church-state case.
Stop and think about this from a graphics and design perspective. When you encounter a story on Twitter or, as millions of heartland Americans do, on Facebook, how would you know that it is a "news" piece, as opposed to a work of analysis or opinion?
This brings me to a must-read NiemanLab.org essay by digital journalist Rachel Schallom, which ran with this headline: "Better design helps differentiate opinion and news."
You can see several big ideas in her overture: