September 18, 2010

ROSS DOUTHAT: Do Reporters Know How To Write About Religion? Not so much.

Journalists are more skeptical — and often less religious — than the average American, Douthat said in a conversation with Diane Winston, the Knight Chair in Media and Religion at Annenberg. That skepticism helps reporters cover politics, business and local government. But that same skepticism hinders them from understanding, let alone covering, the religion beat.

“It would be odd for business reporters to think that balance sheets are silly, or to not believe in Wall Street,” Douthat said. “But in religion, you get that all the time.”

This may be too charitable to business reporters, but he has a point. Plus this:

Journalistic ignorance about religion is only matched by religious institutions’ distrust of the American media, he said. And the result is a gaping divide between two main American institutions. Douthat’s suggestion: get educated. Treat the beat the same you would any other. Pick up a book or five, read different viewpoints, learn about religious organizations and how they work. Come prepared.

Good advice on any subject, but all too often ignored.

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