The conservative orientated Media Research Center (MRC) has released findings from a new study of how network television news covers religion. The study found growing interest in religious coverage, with significant increases since the MRC’s first religion study was conducted ten years ago.
The study however suggested that the tone of the coverage was often negative and that most stories were aired in the context of political issues.
“Religious stories are more prevalent but the prevailing attitude at the networks seems to be it’s only a good story if it casts faith in a negative light, or if it evokes a political controversy,” said Brent Bozell, president of the Media Research Center.
MRC analysts surveyed every religion news story on ABC, CBS, and NBC news programs from March 1, 2003 to February 29, 2004. They then compared the figures with MRC’s first religion news study of 1993.
The survey found that religion coverage more than doubled when compared to ten years ago and that amongst the major faiths the Catholic Church received the most coverage. The 25th anniversary of the rise of Pope John Paul II drew significant coverage and media outlets continued to press stories on Catholic clergy sexual abuse and other ministerial failings.
Perhaps to be expected with the advent of a “War on Terror”, coverage of Islam was also up dramatically. Stories mainly featured Iraq, although a handful of stories did address Islam in America, particularly focusing on discrimination issues.
The report suggest that reporters often approach religious issues from a secular and political perspective. When the Episcopalian Church USA appointed openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson, reporters focused relentlessly on the political, not scriptural or theological matters say the MRC.
© 2004 Ekklesia. Posted on Religioscope with permission. An initiative of the Anvil Trust, Ekklesia is a not-for-profit think-tank which works to promote theological ideas in the public square. Website: www.ekklesia.co.uk