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The Religion Beat

Back in 1993, a front-page story in The Washington Post reenforced the notion that journalists are, at best, Godless skeptics when it referred to conservative Christians as "poor, uneducated and easily led."


What better phrase to dismiss a theology by which millions of U.S. citizens live their lives? And what better phrase could a reporter choose to prove that the world he (it was a "he") lives in is galaxies apart from this important constituency.


The fact is that the United States is a country driven in many ways by religion. While that has become abundantly clear during recent political campaigns, it has been true for a long time. Nearly eight in 10 American say they believe in God. And, while regular church attendance appears to be on the decline, we are still very much a church-going society.


That said, serious coverage of religion in most U.S. media is relegated to church, mosque, synagogue and temple announcements, superficial articles about holidays -- "Tonight at sundown, Jews throughout the world will celebrate the [fill in blank] and the occasional inspirational article by a [fill in blank]


The challenge for reporters covering religion, some of whom may rank among the "un-churched," is the same as it is for reporters covering ethnicities unlike their own: To set aside their own notions of what's logical and to try to see the world through the eyes of those they're covering.


Not to mention learning enough to avoid thinking that the "gifts" at a Catholic mass refers to presents.


Religion in (or Out of) the News
Are there ANY major stories not related to religion?


Help for the Religion Beat: A Novice who Blossomed
Improving coverage isn't just about hiring. t's also about making religion coverage a priority.


Help Wanted on the Religion Beat
A veteran religion reporter argues that bad hires -- or no hires -- are diminishing coverage.


Help Wanted on Religion Beat: Don't Limit the Talent Pool
A veteran journalist (and religion reporter) responds to Julia Duin's call for better hires.


Most Americans Believe in God

But only 36 percent attend a religious service at least once a month. Results of a 1998 survey by the Harris Poll.


MegaChurches are Growing

The number of Protestant Churches with weekly attendance greater than 2000 has reached 1,210, nearly five years ago, according to this survey.


So the Torah is a Parenting Guide?

This piece from the New York Times is an example of what religion writing can be: a story with roots in religion that of interest to people regardless of their religion. A far cry from the clichés


Religion News Service

Religion News Service is a secular source of news about religion, ethics, spirituality and moral issues. Based in Washington, D.C., RNS provides  news and information on all faiths and religious movements to the nation's leading newspapers, news magazines, broadcast organizations and religious publications.



Web site of the Religion Newswriters Foundation, providing resources on religion for journalists. Of particular interest is the site's Resource Library and, in the library, the section on Denominations & Faith Groups.

Sister sites include the Religion Newswriters Association, the ReligionLink newsletter and ReligionHeadlines.org.



Finding accurate statistics on religion is difficult because the U.S. government doesn't collect them, denominations may overstate them and individuals tend to say they are more religious than they are. Adherents.com gathers what's available from non-U.S. census reports, statistical surveys and organizational reporting, as well as citations from secondary literature which mention adherent statistics.



Beliefnet aims to help people "find, and walk, a spiritual path that will bring comfort, hope, clarity, strength, and happiness." A source of information and a source of sources.





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