Reporting religion

Journalists don’t have an easy time with religion.

Religion and religious topics are not particularly welcomed in a newsroom. That is why years such as 2004, when religion is a big part of some of the year’s biggest stories (gay marriage, the presidential election, Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion of Christ,” etc.) are tough for journalists. Why then are editors and news directors eliminating their religion beats or assigning untrained reporters to them?

That’s the question that Julia Duin, religion reporter for the Washington Times, poses in an excellent centerpiece article for Poynter.org. Duin says that if religion beat reporters are hired at all, they come with little experience, and the situation does not seem to be getting better. Duin’s article contains a link to the web site for the Religion Newswriters Association. If you have a student interested in this area, this web site would be a good place to keep up with the latest developments.

(Posted Jan. 6, 2005)
Update: Since the posting of Duin’s article, a couple of other journalists have chimed in with their thoughts, and they’re worth reading too. Steve Buttry, national correspondent for the Omaha World-Herald, offers a counterpoint to some of Duin’s ideas about improving religion coverage, and Diane Conolly discusses her assignment as a novice to the religion beat. Conolly is the editor for ReligionLink.org, a excellent resouce for reporters and others interested in coverage of religion. A number of other people have posted comments about all of these articles on the Poynter site. (Posted Jan. 12, 2005)

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About Jim Stovall

Jim Stovall, a retired journalism prof, is now a novelist, self publisher, watercolorist, gardener, woodworker and beekeeper -- among others things.

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