No religion angle here: Think (piece) talk about drawing lines between news and opinion

No religion angle here: Think (piece) talk about drawing lines between news and opinion

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 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:

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So the New York Times executive editor said, 'We don't get religion" ... So what? Now what?

So the New York Times executive editor said, 'We don't get religion" ... So what? Now what?

People keep asking me a predictable question: "Did you and the whole GetReligion team feel vindicated (or words to that effect) when New York Times editor Dean Baquet admitted (or "confessed," or words to that effect) that elite newsrooms, including his own, just "don't get religion"?

What do you think, Einstein?

Sure enough, this was the first question that Crossroads host Todd Wilken asked this week when we were on the air, recording the basics for the podcast. Click right here to tune that in.

For those of you who have been on another cyber-planet, or missed my earlier post on this topic ("New York Times editor: We just don't get (a) religion, (b) the alt-right or (c) whatever"), here is the most quoted piece of Baquet's interview with Terry Gross on National Public Radio's Fresh Air program, during a discussion of the alt-right and Donald Trump:

I think that the New York-based and Washington-based too probably, media powerhouses don't quite get religion. We have a fabulous religion writer, but she's all alone. We don't get religion. We don't get the role of religion in people's lives.

My reaction? Of course I thought this was nice, in a laugh to keep from crying kind of way. I mean, your GetReligionistas have published about 10 million words over the past 12-plus years making that argument. Sure, it's nice to hear the Times editor say those words.

But what about it? That was Wilken's next question: If I could say three things to Baquet about the implications of that statement, what would they be?

You'll have to listen to the podcast to hear the answer. So there.

But as a hint, check out this short commentary about the Baquet statement -- "Dog bites man: New York Times editor admits ‘We don’t get religion’ " -- written by Deacon Greg "Headlines and Homilies" Kandra.

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