Sarah Pulliam Bailey gives us the good news and the bad after plowing through a recent Pew Research Center Study. The surprisingly good: Mainstream media religion coverage doubled from 2009 to 2010. The predictably bad: it was a leap from one to two percent of all the news deemed fit to print and broadcast.
Wow. Like, scrape me off the ceiling and everything.
So lemme get this straight: Everyone knows religion plays key roles in our elections and in the various issues chasing people to the voting booths. Think abortion. Think school prayer. Think “traditional family values.” Think feeding the poor and creation care and parenting and morality and whether-Mitt-Romney-is-a-Mormon and just about everything under the sun – including those four yachters killed by Somali pirates. They were distributing Bibles.
America, unlike Western Europe, is predominantly religious and thinks religiously. But we reporters will skip that inconvenient fact so we can chase the explosions – unless crazy Pat Robertson drops a juicy quote or a rascal priest goes rogue. Great stuff. Sexy story.
I now see why many are floored when they meet Evangelical Christians who dole out unconditional love like party pretzels. No one is told how they were the first to hurry to Mississippi and Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. The Southern Baptists fed the kids while FEMA spread its red tape. Few know that World Vision, which evangelicals support, rushes in where only fools dare in the wake of catastrophes. And then there are all those laughing nuns, joking Quakers, and smiling Amish.
Huh? Does not compute. People of faith are invisible to the eyes of the press unless they’re ranting or planting bombs.
Okay, fine. Many reporters aren’t exactly religious themselves. But that shouldn’t matter. There’s a story out there, people. Be the first at the scene. Get the scoop. Do your job. You might start by reading Bailey’s report, posted at GetReligion.org, which got its name from a William Schneider quote: “The press … just doesn’t get religion.” And think on this as you read it: Religion actually beat out coverage of science and technology, education, immigration, and race and gender issues.
Just what are you doing all day?
But that’s for later. Start here.