Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Journalism and Faith

In class we learned about how a journalist balances their work with their religion. This is very important to me because I consider myself an active, religious member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as Mormons). My religion has been in the news a lot lately since Mitt Romney started running for president, and journalists have had to look at the religious side of the campaign. The problem comes, however, when journalists look too much at religion in a story or too little.

Terry Mattingly, editor of www.GetReligion.org, says, “People read stories that are important to their lives, yet they seem to catch fleeting glimpses of other characters or other plots between the lines.” About these stories that are important to people, he says, “Religion often provides a context for these issues.” I agree with this. Someone’s religion affects how they act, think, talk, etc. Religion forms core values that define human behavior, but often journalists ignore the religious context of a story.

However, sometimes a journalist can focus too much on religion. I think religion can provide context but it can also be like commenting on the race of an attacker – extra detail unnecessary to the story but there to make the story juicy. An example is the presidential campaign. I don't think religion is all that relevant; I think voters should focus more on leadership qualities and policy in deciding who would make a good president.

Religion is a tricky subject to write about, worse I think than race or gender because of the way it does influence thinking. Religionwriters.com has guidelines and aids to journalists covering a religious beat.

I think good journalism is when a journalist is honest, accurate, and looks at all relevant sides of a story. That may or may not include religion. It is up to the journalist to decide how to most objectively include faith in his or her writing, and it should be included more than it is.

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