Issues for reporters and editors

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Political journalists who switch to the religion beat express surprise when sources start asking them about their religious beliefs. If they weren’t asked how they voted, why should they be asked where – or whether – they worship? Religion is an intimate, emotional and revealing topic, which is one reason it makes for such great stories. It’s also the reason that sources and media audiences will be interested in what you believe. After all, journalists report on facts, but religions are based on beliefs that can’t be proven or disproven. People’s religious beliefs affect the way they vote, raise their children and spend their time and money. Why shouldn’t they also affect their work as a journalist? People who report on religion can be sure of two things: Sources will ask about your own beliefs, and you will have to report about people whose beliefs you disagree with. While ethics and conflicts of interest are important topics for all journalists, religion journalists will find there are special considerations on the religion beat. Here is some guidance on how to handle questions when they arise.