About the discipline
Religion coverage tends to be downplayed in mainstream media, both in terms of front page or top-of-newscast appeal as well the percentage of content. Still, current events have revealed that religion plays a key role in many stories considered non-religious, such as the war on terror and politics. Journalists are learning that religion can be covered in a more “wholistic” way by identifying religion as a key factor in a news story, and that it does not have to be restricted to the topic of religion.
Religion brings with it a complex set of values and behaviors that affects the way the news can be viewed. It is worthwhile to see how religion can be used on the front page to help add background and depth to stories, or to tell them in new ways. Other research ideas could examine the impact of citizen media tools such as blogging and “citizen journalism” on these areas of media coverage that are sometimes seen as lacking by the readership/viewership public.
Workplace diversity: Studies sampling media workplaces have found that the makeup of American newsrooms differs greatly from that of the public in terms of religious affiliation and practice. Many newsrooms – even in markets that lean heavily toward one or two faiths – are made up of journalists who report adhering to faiths that do not match their community or to a lack of religious faith. Given the push in newsrooms toward more diversity since the late 1980s, it is worth studying the differences in coverage in religion topics when a community’s faith makeup matches that of its local news product in comparison to one that does not match its newsroom’s faith makeup. Critics might argue that the objective standard in journalism would preclude a journalist who is either of another faith or an atheist from covering a religious topic, due to concerns of bias, but the push for more racial and ideological diversity in newsrooms clearly shows that newsrooms already believe that diversifying newsrooms leads to stronger coverage.
Ethics: Many religions value truth-telling in the highest regard, and that is compatible with journalism as a craft. But what of conflicts where religious duty clashes with newsroom values? The newsroom is a team atmosphere and team players are rewarded with promotions and better beats, and so what happens if a journalist has an ethical objection to newsroom standards? In essence, do newsroom standards supersede a person’s personal ethics in an environment where people often agree on the rules that govern journalism and are expected to adhere to them? Research might also look at how to craft a personal ethic and work by that in an era in which competition and conglomerate culture is increasingly homogenizing the way newsrooms clarify their values.
History: Some would argue that religion created the information revolution. Aided by the 16th-century printing press, the desire to have and to understand the record of religious thought and theology helped create what is now a mass market for information. Author Doug Underwood suggests in his book, “From Yahweh to Yahoo!,” that religion has long been a silent partner to journalism, through “religious impulses” at work in a typical newsroom. He makes the case that American journalists are rooted in the nation’s moral and religious heritage, such as believing they are serving a cause higher than commercial goals, protesting moral corruption, advocating social justice and calling for reform.
Since the invention of print, religious leaders and dissidents have long used the method to share their views and challenge others. Among the first to adopt the technology of radio in the 1920s were Christian broadcasters, who sent sermons and hymns to the masses – later following with television and the Internet. There are opportunities to work in journalism today covering religion in both secular and religious contexts. The introduction of convergence journalism aso offers new ways to communicate religious experience.
Current Issues: Religion is playing a key role in many of today’s news-making events. Understanding Islam, for example, is critical for the reporter attempting to do international coverage of the war on terror as well as coverage of home-front issues. Politics is another area where religion often mixes freely with the people involved, and a depth of understanding of the values and beliefs guiding those in power is a critical tool for providing good coverage. Research also might look at readership in terms of self-reported religious faith and examine how patterns of coverage might be altered in a way that serves that audience better.
The Center on Religion & the Professions is working on projects to improve the religious literacy of reporters by strengthening journalistic coverage of religion in the United States, as well as planning significant research about how the public views religion news coverage.
- “Writing the news: A comparison of objective, religious, and political opinion presses” by Jennifer Young Abbott. Journalism. Vol. 12, No. 4 (April 26, 2011).
- “Faith and Values: Journalism and the Critique of Religion Coverage of the 1990s”by Fred Vultee, Stephanie Craft, and Matthew Velker. Journal of Media and Religion. 9, no. 3 (2010): 150-64.
- “’Misunderestimating’ Religion in the 2004 Presidential Campaign” by C. Danielle Vinson and James L. Guth. Blind Spot: When Journalists Don’t Get Religion, 2008.
- “Keeping the faith and other issues journalists face outside the newsroom” by Debra L. Mason. Quill, a publication of the Society of Professional Journalists, May 2008.
- “Cartoon Crisis: Islam and Danish Liberalism” by Robert Cane. Society. 44, no. 1 (2006): 80-8.
- “‘A Dozen Best’: Top Books on the History of Media and Religion” by John P. Ferre.American Journalism. 23, no. 4 (2006): 135-43.
- “Religion and Freedom of Speech: Portraits of Muhammad” by Robert Post.Constellations: An International Journal of Critical & Democratic Theory. 14, no. 1 (2007): 72-90.
- “Fatwa on the Bunny” by Fred. Vultee. Journal of Communication Inquiry. 30, no. 4 (2006): 319-36.
- “Frameworks for studying media and religion” by Paul A. Soukup. Communication Research Trends, June 22, 2002.
- “The study of religion and the education of journalists” by Eric Kevin Gormly.Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, July 1, 1999.
- “Belief in the Media: Cultural Perspectives on Media and Christianity” by Peter Horsfield, Mary E. Hess and Adan M. Medrano. Journal of Religion and Popular Culture. Ashgate, 2004.
- “The Media Gets Religion, The only problem is that, according to a new study, they get it wrong” by Fred Barnes. The Weekly Standard, May 6, 2003.
- “Faith and Values: Journalism and the Critique of Religion Coverage of the 1990s” by Frederick Vultee, Matthew Velker and Stephanie Craft. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, TBA, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, May 21, 2008
- “Judge chastises papers; Sun Media; Stories on Raelians were abusive.” The Gazette (Montreal), May 8, 2009.
- “Journalistic Ethics and Responsibility in Relation to Freedom of Expression: An Islamic Perspective” by Ali Mohamed. Media ethics beyond borders: a global perspective. Stephen J.A. Ward (ed.). Taylor & Francis, 2010: 142-54.
- “Hamas says reprinting of Prophet cartoons ‘transgression’ against Islam.” BBC Worldwide Monitoring, Feb. 14, 2008.
- “Public interest in religion remains strong” by David Ward. PR Week (U.S.), April 28, 2008.
- “The Chronicles of Me: Understanding Blogging as a Religious Practice” by Pauline Hope Cheong, Alexander Halavais, and Kyounghee Kwon. Journal of Media and Religion. 7:3 (2008): 107-131.
- “New Labor, new censorship? Politics, religion and internet filtering in Australia” by Brian Simpson. Information & Communications Technology Law, 17:3 (2008): 167-183.
- A Guide to Religion Reporting in the Secular Media: Frequently Asked Questionsby Debra L Mason and Cecile S. Holmes (editors) (Westerville, Ohio: Religion Newswriters Foundation, 2002).
- About Arab Americans: A Journalists Guide by the Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan: Knight Ridder, 2003).
- Bridging the Gap: Religion and the News Media by John Dart and Jimmy Allen (Nashville, Tennessee, First Amendment Center, 2000).
- Religion in the Media Age by Stewart M. Hoover (New York: New York: Routledge, 2006).
- Reporting on Religion: A Primer on Journalism’s Best Beat by Debra L. Mason and Diane Connolly (Westerville, Ohio: Religion Newswriters, 2006).
- Reporting on Religion 2: A Stylebook on Journalism’s Best Beat by Debra L. Mason, Diane Connolly and Mary Gladstone (editors) (Westerville, Ohio: Religion Newswriters, 2007).
- Religion in the News: Faith and Journalism in American Public Discourse by Steward M Hoover (Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications, 1998).
- Reporting News about Religion: An Introduction for Journalists by Judith M. Buddenbaum (Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 1998).
- Religious Liberty in America: Navigating the First Amendment in the Newsroom and Beyond by Bruce T. Murray (Pasadena, California: Foundation for American Communications, 2005).
- A Journalist’s Guide to Islam (Canada: Islamic Social Services Association, 2003).
- A Journalist’s Guide to Judaism by Ron Csillag (Alberta, Canada: Centre for Faith & the Media).
- A Journalist’s Guide to Christianity (Alberta, Canada: Centre for Faith & the Media).
- A Journalist’s Guide to Sikhism (Alberta, Canada: Centre for Faith & the Media).
- A Reporter’s Guide to Buddhism in America by Bill Aiken and Clark Strand (Santa Monica, California: Soka Gakkai International, 2005).
- A Journalist’s Guide to Hinduism (Alberta, Canada: Centre for Faith & the Media).
- Dieties and Deadlines: A Primer on News Coverage by John Dart (Nashville, Tennessee: First Amendment Center, 1998).
- Blind Spot: When Journalists Don’t Get Religion by Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert, and Roberta Green-Ahmanson (United States: Oxford University Press, 2008).
- Islam: Reporting in Context and With Complexity. The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. Vol. 61 No. 2. Summer 2007.
- Encyclopedia of Religion, Communication, and Media. Daniel Stout (ed.). Routledge, 2006.
- Religion and Media (Cultural Memory in the Present) Hent de Vries and Samuel Weber. Stanford University Press, 2001.
- Journalism in Good Faith: Issues and Practices in Religion Reporting by Eric G. Loo and Mustafa K. Anuar. Marshall Cavendish Corp., 2009.
- Media, religion and democratic participation: community communication in Zimbabwe and Norway. Knut Lundby. Sage Publications, Inc. 1997.
- Religion, Media, and the Public Sphere. Birgit Meyer and Annelies Moors (eds.). Indiana University Press, 2005.
- Quoting God: How Media Shape Ideas about Religion and Culture. Claire H. Badaracco. Baylor University Press, 2004.
- Readings on Religion as News. Judith M. Buddenbaum and Debra L. Mason (eds.). Wiley-Blackwell, 2000.
- Religion, Media, and the Marketplace. Lynn Schofield Clark (ed.). Rutgers University Press, 2007.
- Jews, God, and Videotape: Religion and Media in America. Jeffrey Shandler. New York University Press, 2009.
- From Yahweh to Yahoo!: The Religious Roots of the Secular Press. Doug Underwood. University of Illinois Press, 2008.
- Islam: Reporting in Context and With Complexity. The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. Vol. 61 No. 2. Summer 2007
- “Popular religion in the media age: An Israeli case study” by Michele Rosenthal. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the NCA 93rd Annual Convention, TBA, Chicago, IL, Nov 14, 2007.
- Belief in media. Peter G. Horsfield, Mary E. Hess and Adán M. Medrano. Chapter, “The U.S. Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Scandal: A Media/Religion Case Study” by Frances Forde Plude. Ashgate Publishing, 2004.
- MacGregor, Phil. “Blame and the messengers: journalists as a puritan prism for cultural policies in Britian.” International Journal of Cultural Policy. Vol. 17, No. 2 (March 2011): 244-61.
Codes of ethics
- Society of Professional Journalists – Code of Ethics
- Committee of Concerned Journalists – Online Journalism Ethics
- American Society of News Editors – Codes of Ethics
- Project for Excellence in Journalism – Codes of Ethics
- The Association of Electronic Journalists – Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct
- Associated Press Managing Editors’ Ethics
- American Society for Journalists and Authors – Vision/Ethics(.pdf)
- MU School of Journalism – Walter Williams’ Journalist’s Creed
- Association for Education in Journalism & Mass Communication – Code of Ethics
- Association of Health Care Journalists – Statement of Principles
- Journal of Media & Religion
- Religion & American Culture
- First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion & Public Life
- Journal of Contemporary Religion
- Journal of Religion & Society
- Studia Islamica
- Journal of Religion and Communication
- Journal of Mass Media Ethics
- Best Practices for Reporting on Islam from the Michigan State University School of Journalism
- ReligionLink, contacts, ideas and source guides for covering religion
- Religion Newswriters Association, resources and training to help journalists cover religion with balance, accuracy and insight
- Reporting on Religion: A Primer on Journalism’s Best Beat (can download)
- Visiting Places of Worship (Reporting on Religion: A Primer on Journalism’s Best Beat)
- Reporting on Religion 2: A Stylebook on Journalism’s Best Beat (A service of Religion Newswriters)
- Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life
- First Amendment Center
- The Pluralism Project
- Religion Watch
- Center for Religion and Media
- USC Knight Chair in Media and Religion
- Islam: Reporting in Context and With Complexity (pdf)
- Center for Media, Religion and Culture
- “How does the media report religion? How neutral is the Indian media when reporting on religion-inspired communal violence?” by Ratna Appnendar. Online edition of India’s National Newspaper, The Hindu, June 14, 2009
Media websites and blogs
- On Faith/Washington Post Newsweek
- Religion News Service
- The Revealer
- AEJMC Religion and Media blog
Professional associations and faith groups
- American Jewish Press Association
- Associated Church Press
- Association of Christian Writers UK
- Catholic Writers Online
- Christian Writers’ Group
- Christians in Photojournalism
- Evangelical Press Association
- Gegrapha – Fellowship of Christian Journalists
- Islamic Media Foundation
- Media Fellowship International
- Muslim American Journalists Association
- Odyssey Networks
- Religion Newswriters Association
- Religious Communication Association
- Religion Communicators Council
- Women in Christian Media
- World Association for Christian Communication
- World Journalism Institute
- Cane, Robert. “Cartoon Crisis: Islam and Danish Liberalism.” Society. 44, no. 1 (2006): 80-8.
- Ferre, John P. “‘A Dozen Best’: Top Books on the History of Media and Religion.” American Journalism. 23, no. 4 (2006): 135-43.
- Post, Robert. “Religion and Freedom of Speech: Portraits of Muhammad.” Constellations: An International Journal of Critical & Democratic Theory. 14, no. 1 (2007): 72-90.
- Steele, Janet. “Justice and journalism: Islam and journalistic values in Indonesia and Malaysia.” Journalism. Vol. 12, No. 5 (July 2011): 533-49.
- Vultee, Fred. “Fatwa on the Bunny.” Journal of Communication Inquiry. 30, no. 4 (2006): 319-36.
- Yao, Qingjiang, Daniel A. Stout and Zhaoxi Liu. “China’s Official Media Portrayal of Religion (1996–2005): Policy Change in a Desecularizing Society.” Journal of Media and Religion. Vol. 10, No. 1 (2011): 39-50.
Surveys and polls
- Religion Newswriters Association
- Center on Religion & the Professions
- Association of Religion Data Archives
- Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life surveys
- The Barna Group
- Gallup religion polls
- Ellison Research
- Lifeway Research
- Spirituality in Higher Education
- FACT Faith Communities Today
- National Study of Youth and Religion
- Additional Youth Survey Data
- Religion/Ethnicity in Media and the Arts(.doc). Myna German, Delaware State University
- Religion News Media and American Culture. Warren G. Frisina, Hofstra University
- Religion and the Media. University of Georgia
- Religion and/as Media(.pdf). Arvind Rajagopal. NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development
- Religion, Media and Culture(.doc). Joanne Jung and Michael Loginow, Biola University
- Religion, Logic, and the Media(.pdf). Mary Jane O’Donnell, California State University
- Covering Religion in Italy(.doc). Ari L. Goldman and Alexander Stille, Columbia University
- Covering the Religions of India(.pdf). Ari L. Goldman and Sree Srinivasan, Columbia University
- Reporting Religion and Spirituality(.doc). Margaret Ramirez, DePaul University
- Religion, the Media, and Contemporary Culture(.pdf). Benjamin J. Hubbard, California State University, Fullerton
- Religion and Media(.pdf). Stephen Brent Rodriguez Plate, Hamilton College
- Religion News Media and American Culture(.doc). Warren G. Frisina, Hofstra University
- Perspectives on Religion and Media(.doc). John P. Ferré, University of Louisville
- Reporting on Islam. Geri Alumit Zeldes, Michigan State University
- Religion, Media, and Popular Culture(.doc). John Schmalzbauer, Missouri State University
- God and the City Covering Religion Post 9-11 in New York(.doc). Jill Hamburg, New York University
- Religion & News Seminar(.doc). Terry Mattingly, Palm Beach Atlantic University
- Writing about Religion and Spirituality(.doc). Point Loma Nazarene University
- Media & Religion(.doc). Joseph A. Morris, Santa Clara University
- Religion, Media and International Relations(.pdf). Gustav Niebuhr, Syracuse University
- Religion & the Media(.doc). Mark Silk, Trinity College
- Religion and Media(.doc). Sean McCloud, University of North Carolina
- Religion and the Media(.doc). University of Georgia
- Religion, Politics and the Media(.pdf). University of Manchester
- Media and Religion in India(.pdf). Christian Lee Novetzke, University of Pennsylvania
- Mass Media and Religion in the United States(.doc). Robert Donayre, Universitatea de Stat din Tiraspol
- Religion and Media(.doc). Nabil Echchaibi, University of Colorado, Boulder
- Faith Values and the Mass Media(.doc). Cecile S. Holmes, University of South Carolina
- “What is an Evangelical? A Short Course for Media Professionals” (2005)
- “Religion and the Media” (2005)