May 15, 2008
The dangerous world of religion reporting
I’ve been there, attacked by fellow Christians for critical articles I’ve written about them.
Religion reporting has proven not only challenging but humorous for a Christian named Greenberg. Christians blame negative stories on my Jewish byline; Jews offer guilt-laden responses to articles that buck the corporate line (or what they wish were); and Muslims, I think, don’t know what to expect.
Once considered a backwater of journalism, the God beat feels to me quite chosen, home to immensely important and interesting news. Religion, after all, is the rubric through which each person uniquely sees the world. Science, education, politics, entertainment—it regularly serves as an undercurrent in these fields. (That was, in fact, part of my pitch at The Sun three years ago when they were looking for a reporter for the newly created position and I was eager to get out of Rialto.) The religion angle also is occasionally relevant when trying to understand peoples’ beliefs in God, their perspectives on the life hereafter and that which gives every day meaning.
Think of the God beat as the Jerusalem of journalism. Seriously.
On this topic, Tim Townsend, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch‘s excellent religion reporter, has an amazing piece in the current Columbia Journalism Review. He discusses the religious origins of the United States, the Dover monkey trial in 2005 and the challenges of sensitively reporting on other peoples’ religious beliefs.
The portion I found most fascinating, however, was the ugly description of what happened when Townsend wrote an article that was considered too favorable to CAIR and got on the bad side of the Little Green Footballs blog community. Here it is (and was):