When is religion news “religion” news?

iraqi firefighter baghdad 11704The 2005 end of the year wrap-up stories are starting to bloom. With New Year’s Day falling on a Sunday — massive newspapers — look for tons then.

You will see top 10 lists for news stories and top 10 lists for “religion” news stories. Here at GetReligion, we are interested in both and, especially, in the overlap between these lists. This was the subject of my Scripps Howard News Service column this week. Veteran GetReligion writers will, I confess, hear an echo of the blog in the main theme. Click here if you want to see that.

I started with the Palestinian suicide bomber at the sandwich stand in Hadera, Israel.

Are events such as this “religion” news?

This question matters because, week after week, journalists struggle to describe conflicts of this kind between the extremists many now call Islamists and other believers — Jews, Christians, moderate Muslims, skeptics and others. These events are haunted by religion, yet it is faith mixed with politics, history, ethnicity, economics, blood feuds and many other factors.

I am not sure it would help readers if the press called these events “religion” news. If might stir even hotter emotions. Do we need to know the religious identity of every victim or have we reached the point where journalists can assume that we know? When are rioting thugs merely rioting thugs? When are police just police?

I asked these questions again because events related to terror, Iraq (photo), Israel, etc., were missing in the Religion Newswriters Association’s top 10 list of religion news stories in 2005. Click here to get to the RNA home page, which appears to be crashed at the moment. I will try to post the direct link to 2005 RNA list later.

Meanwhile, it is interesting to see the role that faith plays in this Peggy Noonan column about the top five news events of the year. It’s from the Wall Street Journal, of course.

Seen any other interesting Godbeat lists you want to point out?

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Herb

    I’m not seeing the Pakistan earthquake in all of these headlines. 2.5 million homeless, endless medical needs, etc. — is this being forgotten? Just wondering, as I it seems this event is on few people’s horizon.


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