Religion is interesting and important, but media organizations should also cover religion because it’s a good business move. We now have better data than ever regarding what audiences want and need, but listener/reader/viewer surveys on religion coverage are relatively scarce. There is a persuasive case to be made that a disconnect exists between what audiences think and what journalists say about religion news quality.
- Religion is one of the most complex subjects journalists cover, requiring precision in wording, attention to nuance and knowledge of a wide range of religious traditions.
- Religion stories connect with readers and viewers. Connecting with audiences is a universal goal of media organizations. Many religion journalists say they get more audience feedback than any other types of stories they’ve covered.
- Many issues around religion are related to scripture. Religion news specialists must become knowledgeable about scripture and which experts they can rely on to interpret debates over it.
- Journalists are expert at reporting facts, but religion reporters also become skilled at reporting about beliefs that cannot be proved. They learn to ask questions in a respectful manner while maintaining the skepticism necessary to report the news.
- Public records and open meeting laws don’t apply to most religious groups in the U.S. and other countries, so religion reporting depends heavily on interviews. To get great stories, it helps immensely to have a reporter who has cultivated sources.
- Religion journalists’ expertise is invaluable for breaking news coverage of shootings at houses of worship, terrorism attacks committed in the name of faiths, hate crimes, court rulings and legislation involving religion.