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Religion in American Newspapers

Religion Sections Appear in a Minority of Newspapers. ... Some Newspapers Reflect Better Than Others Their Community, Nation, and ...

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Religion in American Newspapers

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  1. Religion in American Newspapers University of Rochester April 30, 2003 A Critique and Challenge

  2. Purpose: • To analyze what Americans learn about religion from reading the newspaper.

  3. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution The Boston Globe The Chicago Tribune The Dallas Morning News The Denver Post The Los Angeles Times The New York Times The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle The Seattle Post-Intelligencer USA Today The Wall Street Journal The Washington Post Newspapers:

  4. Religion is Mentioned Far More Often Than it is the Subject of a Story. • Religion Stories: 1,402 • Religion Mentions: 4,918

  5. Religion is Widely Used as a Criterion of Identity. • To add important information to the article • Superfluous identity markers • Negative stereotype identity markers

  6. Religion Stories Most Frequently Describe Religion in Political and Legal Terms. • 49% included references to political, legal, and criminal activities • 20% were exclusively political or legal • 28% discussed religious beliefs and values • 10% were exclusively beliefs and values

  7. Coverage of the Religious Lives of African-Americans, Hispanics, and Women is Disproportionately Low. • 51% of Americans are women • 12% are African-American • 14% are Hispanic • Cities with high minority populations still contained few religious references to these communities

  8. Coverage of Islam is Disproportionate to the Percentage of Muslims in the U.S. Its Coverage is Predominantly Associated With Criminality and Bad Deeds. • 1% of Americans are Muslim • 74% of Americans are Christian • Islam appears in 2,231 mentions vs. Christianity’s 3,822 • Islam appears in 331 stories vs. Christianity’s 960

  9. Roman Catholicism is More Often Linked With Bad Deeds and Criminality Than With Catholic Beliefs and Values. • 31% of stories about Catholicism referenced bad deeds and criminality • In The Boston Globe, 47% of stories about Catholicism referenced bad deeds and criminality

  10. Coverage of Protestantism, Judaism, and Other Religions is More Balanced Than Coverage of Catholicism. • Protestantism and Judaism stories generally included good deeds, practices, beliefs and values • Protestantism is underrepresented in terms of the percentage of the American population

  11. Coverage of Religion in Response to Tragedy and Death was More Generic Than Particular. • Several tragedies gained national attention: Columbia space shuttle, Providence and Chicago nightclub disasters • News coverage focused on general religion rather than discrete rituals and teachings

  12. Coverage of the Iraqi War Presented Religious Anti-war Views More Prominently Than Pro-war Views. • Anti-war coverage principally invoked religion to justify opposition • Pro-war coverage cited politics, safety, and public opinion to support its position

  13. Print Popularization of Some Religious Terms is Widespread. However, These Terms are Often Used Incorrectly. • “Sporting messiah” • “Zen Master” • “Ad gurus” • “Tao of Yao”

  14. Religion Sections Appear in a Minority of Newspapers. These Sections Treat Religions in Depth, and Show How Beliefs, Values, and Practices Relate to and Influence Their Readers’ Lives. • Two papers with self-contained religion sections: Dallas Morning News, Atlanta Journal-Constitution • Three papers with 1-2 “religious pages”: Chicago Tribune, L.A. Times, Washington Post • Religion sections are a model for the coverage of religion

  15. Some Newspapers Reflect Better Than Others Their Community, Nation, and Religions’ Beliefs, Values, and Practices. • Coverage of religion does not necessarily reflect regional demography • There are important regional differences in the balance between the coverage of religion in terms of beliefs and values and political/legal issues • However, in all papers, the quantity of coverage devoted to bad deeds outweighs that of good deeds

  16. Recommendations: • Remember that context is key to the complete reporting of a story. • Distinguish between the group – and the action. • Consider Religion Sections. • Accentuate religion close to home. • Be balanced in terms of coverage. • Reflect a newspaper’s region and country. • Develop a means of obtaining advice and expertise about religion.

  17. Aaron Anderson Meghan Barritt* Stacey Rae Benner Corinne Carpenter Gregg Chesney Maxwell Cooper* Melissa Dupere* Jonathan Ferland* Melissa Gonzalez Bryan Gross Talia Guttin* Rebecca Kanengieter Shahrzad Kardonni* Amy Kuenzi Meghna Kumar* Jessica Maglietto* Ryan Montgomery* Hannah Newborn Joseph Ortunno Valerie Palermo Jonathan Rettinger Andrew Rosenthal Brian Scharfenberg Adam Sherman Theresa Spaulding* Nicole Strait Jessica Torrence Teresa Tygert Matthew Willyard Directed by Professors William Scott Green and Curt Smith Research Assistant and Teaching Fellow: Todd Hildebrandt* Research Team Participants: * WRITING TEAM

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