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Media, ethics, and journalism. What works. What doesn't.


Jeffrey Dvorkin

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Religion and Journalism

Well, it is Easter...

Seems to me that covering religion is one of the most fraught beats in any news organization. That may be why is so often gets off-loaded to ex-nuns, secularists of all stripes and ghettoized (as it were) in the weekend pages or line up.

If it's done properly as journalism, there has to be skepticism. If there's skepticism, there's the risk of being offensive to somebody. That's why editors avoid covering it, or if they do allow for it, it often has no real insights or bite. One exception is Sam Freedman a friend and a Columbia prof who writes clearly about all religions for the New York Times.

Peggy Noonan has written recently in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that non-Catholic journalists are running away from the sex abuse story: "An irony: Non-Catholic members of the media were, in my observation, the least likely to want to go after the story, because they didn't want to look like they were Catholic-bashing."

Yet, the Vatican continues to refer obliquely (or not so obliquely) to a "New York media conspiracy" - aka the New York Times (which is owned by the Sulzberger family).

Newsroom politics add to this complexity. When it comes to religion and journalism, journalists will try to avoid being cast as "second class citizens," having to prove their primary allegiance is to their employer and not to their religious affiliation.

The same thing happened during the Second Intifada in many newsrooms in the US, when a number of Jewish journalists felt that the coverage was poor - even biased, yet they frequently felt constrained from speaking out in editorial meetings because of this dilemma.

1 comment:

  1. Reading, as well as listening and watching, as the Roman Catholic church struggles with the world-wide meltdown on child abuse, the one key question is: who is in charge at the Vatican?
    To have a priest only feet from the Pope make the remarks he made about Jews is obscene. The Pope did and said nothing. OK, he's perceived as a stop-gap Pope, but it's an organization of which he is the "president" and "CEO". But he's ignoring the business and giving the running to his staff. And the staff are speaking with a dozen different voices. Without a strong leader, the Roman Catholic church is headed for the same end as Lehman Brothers.

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