Media needs to improve religious coverage, study finds

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People around the world yearn for better coverage of religious issues and events, but many obstacles stand in the way of journalists trying to provide it, according to a new global study, the first of its kind, on the relationship of the media to religion.

The Global Faith and Media Index, released on Tuesday, found newsrooms lack the resources, connections and, in some cases, the confidence to report key faith-related developments in thoughtful and nuanced ways. .

“Journalists we spoke to believe that faith and religious coverage are increasingly marginalized due to everything from the economics of the newsroom to the fear of ‘getting it wrong,'” Dritan Nesho said. , CEO of HarrisX, the global research consultancy that conducted the survey, in a report.

The new index is based on in-depth interviews with 30 English-speaking journalists from 17 countries and an online survey of more than 9,300 news consumers from 18 countries. It revealed a gap between the types of religious stories currently being produced and the interests of actual or potential readers and viewers.

“Ultimately, the research points to a clear global deficit in the coverage, treatment and quality of understanding of faith and religion in modern media,” Nesho said.

Some respondents said today’s religious coverage creates “unease and anxiety” about religious groups rather than building understanding. Many feared that the media often “perpetuates faith-based stereotypes” rather than correcting them.

Most respondents believe the press should pay at least as much attention to religious stereotypes as to stereotypes based on race and gender, according to a press release highlighting key takeaways from the study.

“Fifty-three percent of people globally believe that media coverage actively ignores religion as an aspect of today’s society and culture,” the press release noted.

However, the study also found that although people of many different faiths from many different countries hold critical views about the media’s current approach to religious news, most believe that religious groups are partly responsible.

Religious organizations should connect journalists with sources who have had the experiences in question, respondents said.

One of the goals of the Faith and Media Initiative, the new coalition responsible for the survey, is to facilitate the kinds of relationships that can lead to broader religious coverage that meets readers’ needs, said Brooke Zaugg, vice – president of the organization. , in a report.

“Ultimately, we believe promoting fluidity of faith, building resources and establishing two-way relationships between these sectors will reduce polarization and increase global stability,” she said. “We are excited about the work we are undertaking and hope to grow our community.”

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