mardi, mars 18, 2008

Article from February IJ

Be passionate about religion coverage
Intelligencer Journal

By Elizabeth
If you are a citizen who votes their conscience and their faith, you may justifiably feel misunderstood and often ignored by the mainstream media — whatever your brand of belief.
Not that the "religious" or "values" voters are being ignored in this election season — far from it.
Because it is almost a truism in our political life that faith plays a large part in decisions made in the voting booth, religious voters, particularly Christians, are being courted by the major presidential candidates with Scripture references and personal anecdotes.
That seems logical in a country in which, in a 2006 Gallup poll, 84 percent of respondents said religion was either very important or fairly important in their own lives.
But attempts to apply a mirror to the roiling American religious scene, to take the pulse of the American electorate are hampered, both by strained media resources and by a tendency in the media to split voters into mutually opposing camps.
Take the media descriptions of those who describe themselves as "evangelical."
Are they conservative lions like Focus on the Family's James Dobson, a go-to voice on the right wing of the Republican Party?
Do they have a lot in common with best-selling author and megachurch pastor Rick Warren, traditionalist in his theology but also a prominent spokesman in the battle against AIDS?
Or do they sound like the D.C.-based author and anti-poverty activist Jim Wallis or Palmer Seminary scholar Ron Sider, long a friendly critic of conservative Christianity?
A recent poll commissioned by the social justice advocacy group Faith in Public Life and the Center for American Progress Action Fund found that majorities of both Republican and Democratic evangelical voters favor addressing social problems that include not only abortion and same-sex marriage but poverty, HIV/AIDS and the environment.
Thanks in part to the effort of thoughtful writers like New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, reporting on this subset of American believers is more sensitive and less stereotyped — but there's still a lot of work to be done.
And let's not even talk about mainstream Protestants, Catholics, Jews or liberals — let alone Muslims.
A 2007 report by the left-leaning press watchdog group Media Matters analyzed how often conservative and "progressive" religious leaders were interviewed in newspapers and on television. The group found that, over a two-year period from 2004 to 2006, conservatives were quoted 2.8 more times often than their colleagues to the left.
On many social issues with religious implications, abortion among them, Americans show a penchant for nuance that defeats easy categorization.
Although one element of frustratingly superficial reporting is a natural tendency for reporters to seek opposing points of view and create "news drama," there are many other factors shaping religion coverage well beyond an individual writer's control.
One is the economic conundrums facing many print newspapers as buyouts and hemorrhaging advertising revenues impel management to shut down religion sections and let religion reporters go.
Another is the fact that, for better or for worse (and it can be argued both ways), many religion writers have no formal religious training.
After a career on the business or the fashion beat, they must scramble to get up to speed on thousands of years of religious tradition and a religious landscape that is constantly evolving.
American denominations have historically been sensitive to changes in culture.
The advent of electronic media has allowed for increased and more democratic dialogue about religion.
But the town-square atmosphere of many blogs has made it even easier for unfounded rumors, like those about Democratic candidate Barack Obama's secret Muslim faith, to spread like pesky weeds.
So what can you do to hold our media accountable for greater accuracy and more in-depth reporting of the values you hold dear?
Be persistent. Send letters to the editor, write to your columnists and reporters and let them know that you are paying attention to how they cover religion.
Be passionate.
Such a complex and personal topic deserves the best coverage a newspaper can give it.
Most of all be well informed. As the old Syms (department store) slogan put it "An educated consumer is our best customer."

Aucun commentaire: