Whither religion reporting?

Ten years ago or so major daily newspapers were in the process of beefing up their religion reporting. The role of the Moral Majority and the newly activist religious voices in everyday politics meant that what religious voices were saying was important to cover. That was then. Now, not so much.

It’s probably not because the religious voices are becoming marginalized or less politically important. Look at the effect that Rev. Wright’s sermons had on the election process a year ago for instance. More likely the decline in news coverage of religion stories is the decline in revenue for all traditional media. When you’re letting folks go, you’re probably going to let the religion beat folks go before you think about firing the business beat.

Michael Paulson write about this trend in a column in the Boston Globe over the weekend.

“What exactly this means for the future of religion coverage in the United States is unclear. The beat is not likely to disappear entirely from the mainstream media, and there is still a lot of great work being done. There is a huge amount of writing about religion in new media – blogs and other online publications – some of which break news, and some of which comment on news broken by others. But much of the online work is focused on individual faith groups and is written from a particular ideological or theological perspective, which differentiates it from traditional religion journalism. At the most recent denominational conventions I have attended, bloggers and reporters for religious publications have easily outnumbered reporters for secular publications.

A final, and related, trend that I see is an increase in religious denominations reporting about themselves. I participated in a conference at Utah State University earlier this year and attended a presentation about how, in light of the decline of the religion beat, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is more aggressively telling its own story, through blogging and Facebook and Twitter. It now seems clear that the Catholic bishops’ conference is doing the same thing, and the Episcopal Church appears to be moving in a similar direction.”

Read the full article here.

There’s a helpful list of panel observations from a discussion on this topic at the Religion Newswriters Association meeting recently as part of the article as well.

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