This could be controversial, but I think it’s a positive move.
The Stiefel Freethought Foundation has just given a $50,000 grant to Religion News LLC (which owns Religion News Service) in order to expand coverage of the “growing community of atheists, agnostics, humanists and freethinkers.”
Considering that RNS stories appear in a lot of popular online (and print) publications, like Huffington Post, USA Today, and the Washington Post, that’s a huge boost.
…The Stiefel Foundation grant allows RNS to expand its reporting staff to cover the movement, which tends to be portrayed selectively or sensationalized in other media accounts.
“Numerous studies have shown that non-believers are growing faster than many traditional religious groups,” said Kevin Eckstrom, editor-in-chief of Religion News Service. “If we want to better understand the values and beliefs of the American public we need to pay more attention to this group. We are grateful this grant allows us to do that.”
So what’s the controversy? It might look to a casual observer like someone is paying for favorable coverage of atheists. That’s not the case — it would certainly be unethical — but I wonder if that’s how this story will be spun.
Todd Stiefel wrote on SFF’s Facebook page: “Normally, we invest in getting the attention of the media. This is an investment in the media itself.”
Considering how many newspapers are laying off religion reporters and how few opportunities we have to get mainstream media coverage (outside of doing something controversial), this is one way to see more stories about positive atheism. There are so many individual atheists and groups doing wonderful things… but they tend to be ignored by the press. It’s easy to write about contentious billboards and public battles over religious displays, but very few people write about the Humanist actions of our community. Maybe we’ll see that change a bit now.