MEXICO CITY – People all over the world are recognizing the need for strong coverage of faith and religion in the media.
In other words, “There are very important and interesting stories that need to be told about people of faith,” said Deseret Magazine editor Hal Boyd on Saturday. “And we have to be good reporters and seek them out.”
The comments came during a series of workshops for members of the media and other communications professionals titled “Exploring Best Practices: Journalism and Faith in Today’s Media Reality.” The series of workshops, held in Mexico City, was co-hosted by Deseret Management Corp., the parent company of Deseret News, alongside the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Google News Lab, Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute and the Industry Affairs Council.
“Our goal today is to show how these two sectors — religion and journalism — can work together,” Aaron Sherinian, senior vice president of global reach at Deseret Management Corp., told a group of Mexican reporters. gathered at the Casa Lamm cultural center. in the Colonia Roma neighborhood of Mexico City.
All workshop sessions were conducted in Spanish. Comments from presenters have been translated into English.
Valentina Almeida, Director of Strategy at Boncom, presented the findings of a recent study on representations of faith in the media. The survey, conducted by HarrisX in conjunction with the Faith & Media Initiative, analyzed global perspectives on religious representation in the media. It included online interviews with almost 10,000 respondents in 18 countries.
The investigation suggests that media organizations have some way to go to adequately respond to the public’s desire for coverage on faith and related issues. A majority of respondents – 53% – said the media “actively ignores” the role of religion in today’s society and culture, and 61% said the media perpetuates stereotypes about religious groups in the world. instead of protecting them. More than three-quarters of those polled expressed a wish for more vigorous action against negative religious stereotypes. Some 63% of survey respondents said there is a need for more high-quality content about faith and religion in their respective countries.
Journalists and other members of the media describe the “newsroom economy” as another major factor hampering religious coverage, as financial constraints and shrinking newsrooms limit the range of issues a publication can cover adequately. Additionally, some respondents explained a “fear” journalists sometimes have of writing about a sensitive topic like religion that requires nuance and attention.
“I want to invite you to join our initiative,” Almeida told reporters. “I hope these insights can strengthen our efforts to bring about meaningful change in the media.”
Faith and Media in Mexico
The panel of Mexican journalists discussed the complexities of covering faith and religion in Mexico in particular. Verónica Basurto Gamero, a journalist with nearly three decades of experience, moderated the panel.
José Alberto Villasana Munguía, winner of the National Journalism Award, explained how his interest in faith parallels his interest in understanding the truth. Faith, he said, is a process of seeking truth, and he views journalism as the same job.
“Since I was very young, I have been anxious to seek the truth in everything,” Villasana said. “That, in many ways, led to my journalism training.”
Carlos Villa Roiz, a longtime journalist and television columnist, suggested that the influence of the Catholic Church in particular plays a monumental role in Mexican society, including in the media, politics and government. Moreover, since many journalists in Mexico are believers, they should not ignore their beliefs when covering the events around them. Instead, journalists should be more open about their faith, he said.
Basurto said efforts to cover journalism should not be attributed to a single effort to expand representation. Instead, as newsrooms pride themselves on quality and timely journalism, accurately covering religious issues should be seen as a point of pride.
“Better faith relationships are more than about representation,” she said. “It’s a question of the quality of journalism.”
Journalism and mental health
The final session of the workshop focused on mental health in journalism. Titled “How to take care of our mental health and avoid stress”, Araceli Ramírez García spoke about the unique challenges facing the media today and the approaches that can be taken to combat the negative repercussions on physical and mental health. .
“We have been through a number of recent crises: social crises, political crises and health crises, like the pandemic,” said Ramírez García. “All of this has brought a lot of grief and fear.”
Journalists have a unique responsibility in covering and studying these crises, but the work can also impact their own physical and mental health, explained Ramírez García. “Even though we all went through that same time, we all handled it differently,” she said. “Some people have turned to alcohol. Others, unfortunately, died by suicide. Others have stopped sleeping. Why? This is the question we want to answer today.
In addition to stress and fatigue, Mexican journalists are among the most dangerous in the world. In 2022, at least 13 journalists were killed, according to data from Committee to Protect Journalists. A CNN History earlier this year claimed it had “never been more dangerous” to work in the media in Mexico, and non-profit groups expressed concern about the lack of investigations into crimes committed against journalists.
According to Ramírez García, perhaps the most common mental illness among journalists is the “burnout” syndrome, an illness that has been increasingly recognized in the scientific community in recent years. Burnout has three main characteristics: excessive emotional exhaustion, derealization, and ineffectiveness at work.
Ramírez García encouraged journalists to frequently take the time to analyze their mental state and ask themselves, “How am I feeling? and why?”
“There are not enough resources for journalists struggling with this,” said Ramírez García. “We seek to change that.”
“A Sacred Work”
To wrap up the workshop, Basurto interviewed Hal Boyd, Editor of Deseret Magazine, about the different dynamics of religion coverage in Mexico and the United States.
“It’s not just interesting to learn more about the situation in Mexico, it’s important to us,” Boyd said. “It helps us improve our work.”
Boyd explained that faith coverage is important for people in the United States and Mexico because the majority of people in both countries are religious.
“Faith is interesting. People of faith are interesting,” Boyd said. “And when we don’t listen and learn from these people, we lose something.”
Boyd gave the example of the Middle East – while much of the media coverage dealing with this region deals with the economic, social and political climate, having a better understanding of faith is necessary to understand the dynamics there. . Even so, too much of the global media industry overlooks the role of faith in this region as well as in the United States and Mexico.
Boyd also commented on the difficulties of journalism and its effects on mental health. “It’s a dangerous job. It’s difficult. It takes a lot of time and money, and it doesn’t pay off much,” he said.
“It is an act of love, just as faith is an act of love. They can help each other. »
Boyd said journalism, done right, is key to fighting corruption and standing up for the truth.
“It’s important work. It is sacred work,” he said.