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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

Religion in American Newspapers

University of Rochester

April 30, 2003

A Critique and Challenge

purpose
Purpose:
  • To analyze what Americans learn about religion from reading the newspaper.
newspapers
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:
religion is mentioned far more often than it is the subject of a story
Religion is Mentioned Far More Often Than it is the Subject of a Story.
  • Religion Stories: 1,402
  • Religion Mentions: 4,918
religion is widely used as a criterion of identity
Religion is Widely Used as a Criterion of Identity.
  • To add important information to the article
  • Superfluous identity markers
  • Negative stereotype identity markers
religion stories most frequently describe religion in political and legal terms
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
coverage of the religious lives of african americans hispanics and women is disproportionately low
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
slide8

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
slide9
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
coverage of protestantism judaism and other religions is more balanced than coverage of catholicism
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
coverage of religion in response to tragedy and death was more generic than particular
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
coverage of the iraqi war presented religious anti war views more prominently than pro war views
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
slide13
Print Popularization of Some Religious Terms is Widespread. However, These Terms are Often Used Incorrectly.
  • “Sporting messiah”
  • “Zen Master”
  • “Ad gurus”
  • “Tao of Yao”
slide14

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
slide15
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
recommendations
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.
directed by professors william scott green and curt smith
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