BBC veteran: You know, the press just doesn’t get religion

Well, here is a gift to a GetReligionista who is on vacation.

I mean, what kind of headline would YOU write on a Press Gazette (over in U.K.) report that opens with the following:

BBC journalist Edward Stourton has said Britain’s lack of appreciation for the importance of religion across the world damages its news coverage.

Stourton, presenter on Radio 4′s religious programme Sunday, believes British journalists have a “blind spot” when it comes to religion, meaning coverage can be “skewed”. He highlighted coverage of the Ukraine crisis, the Middle East and Boko Haram in Nigeria as examples of stories which would be covered better with more understanding of religion.

“I do think that there is a problem with British culture … in the way that we treat religion as a sort of curious ‘ghetto’-like thing,” he told Press Gazette.

“And I don’t say that from the point of view of arguing that religion is a good thing — because very often it’s not. But it does damage our understanding and our ability to perceive stories accurately.”

A blind spot?

You don’t mean a blind spot as in “Blind Spot: When Journalists Don’t Get Religion,” maybe? What do you think?

Basically, this whole interview sounds like a best of global GetReligion re-mix (although I am not claiming that it is a LITERAL echo of work here). But, honestly, you have heard this before, right?

(Stourton) suggested that British news organisations have not considered the importance of the growth of churches in Russia and what Russian nationalism means in coverage of Ukraine. And on Middle East stories, he said “we continually misread the story because we don’t think what a powerful force religion is”.

A consistent theme is that the icy elites that define big media simply do not understand how the rest of the world works. This has always been a problem, when it comes to the facts of journalism, but this chasm between journalists and reality has become a crisis in the past decade or two.

Why is that?

“When you travel abroad you realise that religion for most people on this planet remains important, and we don’t reflect that. …

He added: “But it’s been perhaps made more apparent than ever by events since 9/11, because a whole area of quite complex religion has become very essential to the understanding of mainstream news,” he said. “Most people, I suspect, before 9/11, in most newsrooms, would be quite pushed to name the difference between Sunni and Shia Islam. [They] would have had a pretty hazy grasp of where people belonging to those two bits of Islam live, mostly, in the Middle East.”

And now there is the Meriam Ibrahim story in Sudan and the Boko Haram reign of terror in Nigeria and …

You get the point. As we say here at GetReligion, if journalists want to cover real news events in the lives of real people who are living in the real world, then reporters and editors and publishers will need to take religion seriously.

Thanks to Stourton for this courageous stand in favor of journalism.

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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.

  • Julia B

    You should get royalties.


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