No room for God in the sensational?

Puck112188cThe East Valley Tribune, the daily newspaper that covers the Pheonix, Arizona’s East Valley, has a very interesting profile about a month ago about a former reporter for the National Enquirer who was told often to be careful about using the word “God” in his articles and to “steer clear of ‘any way endorsing religion or faith.’” The Tribune rightly put this information in the lead of the profile of this ex-tabloid reporter Chris Benguhe but does little to follow up for why this is the case in tabloid journalism land.

We don’t talk about the tabloids here at GetReligion that often, if ever, but now’s a good time to start. I think most Americans see at least the covers of the tabloids when they are in the supermarket checkout with few admitting to actually reading them. But their prevalence means someone is buying and reading them.

Why would tabloids have this view regarding religion? Mentioning religion is not an endorsement of religion. Asking questions about religion isn’t endorsing religion.

Rather than asking these questions, most of the article focuses on what the tabloids did to this reporter’s faith and personal life:

He will share stories from his prowling through the canyons of celebrity-land and try to point out what really are authentic examples of lives of purpose.

“Just being out of that industry, out of that world, had made me feel alive again,” said Benguhe, who since 2001 has written A Better View, a column in the Catholic Sun, the biweekly newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Phoenix. During a decade of mostly living and working in Southern California, Benguhe said he had strayed far from his faith. “I was just numb … I thought I had lost faith,” he said. Even his mother in Phoenix would call him and say she hoped he wasn’t involved in reporting on unsavory stories she had heard about.

“I was working 16-hour days, no time for anything else. I wasn’t going to church. I wasn’t involved in my faith,” he said, noting that his own reading was strictly the “scandal sheets” and newspapers and keeping the TV on while he slept just in case big news broke.

I don’t doubt that working as a reporter for the tabs is difficult but so are many journalism jobs for publications with large weekly circulations. Benguhe’s story about how he was able to move over from supermarket tabloid land to writing books about people’s inspirational lives is interesting, but I’d like to know more about why religion was discouraged by the tabloids and how his faith was effected beyond the journalistic grinds of the job.

Image of nasty little printer’s devils spewing forth from the Hoe press in a Puck magazine cartoon dated November 21, 1888, used under a Wikimedia Commons license.

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  • Brian Walden

    My completely uneducated guess is money. The tabloids’ product is scandal and gossip. Religion probably clashes with that and divides their readership. I’d be willing to bet they don’t get into politics either – at least until the next politician or religious leader gets caught with his pants down.

  • http://suburbanbanshee.wordpress.com Maureen

    Buuuuut the Weekly World News mentioned religion a lot. So did the old-school National Enquirer. Heck, I knew Hispanic stuff had gone mainstream when all of a sudden Our Lady of Guadelupe joined the usual cast of announcers of apocalypse.

  • FW Ken

    Personally, I’d just as soon the tabloids stay as far away from religion as possible. Can you say “caricature”?


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